Uneasy Calm Hits Elephant Family as Ghana-U.S Relations Go Low

Ghana’s president Akufo-Addo and US president Trump

Accra, Ghana, February 4, 2019//-The similarity of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) of Ghana and the United States (U.S) Republican Party has never been in doubt.

Both parties which are currently in power have elephants as their emblems. They share the same political ideology in the form of capitalism.

The U.S Republican is often called “the right” or “conservatives”, while the NPP, is referred as centre-right and liberal conservative party in Ghana.

However relations between the Akufo-Addo –led government and its counterpart led by Donald Trump in the U.S have gone record low for almost a decade.

What caused the frenzy diplomatic relations?

Just recently, the U.S government sanctioned Ghana for refusing to grant travel documents to over 7,000 Ghanaians in various detention centres across the U.S to enable the Washington deport them to Accra, Ghana.

In a strong-worded press release, the U.S Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced, in coordination with the Department of State, the implementation of visa sanctions on Ghana due to lack of cooperation in accepting their nationals ordered removed from the U.S.
Pursuant to her authority under Section 243(d) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen notified Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the Government of Ghana has denied or unreasonably delayed accepting their nationals ordered removed from the United States.

As a result, Secretary of State Pompeo ordered consular officers in Ghana to implement visa restrictions on certain categories of visa applicants.

Without an appropriate response from Ghana, the scope of these sanctions may be expanded to a wider population. The sanctions will remain in place until the Secretary of Homeland Security notifies Secretary Pompeo that cooperation on removals has improved to an acceptable level.

“Ghana has failed to live up to its obligations under international law to accept the return of its nationals ordered removed from the United States,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen.

“The United States routinely cooperates with foreign governments in documenting and accepting U.S. citizens when asked, as appropriate, as do the majority of countries in the world, but Ghana has failed to do so in this case.  We hope the Ghanaian government will work with us to reconcile these deficiencies quickly”, according to the press release issued by the DHS.

Botched efforts

The U.S Ambassador to Ghana, Stephanie S. Sullivan explained that the U.S has been working with Ghana for more than two years for Ghana to issue documents for the over 7,000 Ghanaian nationals under deportation orders in the US. But Ghana keeps on dragging its feet.

Ms Sullivan told journalists in Accra that; “the Department of Homeland Security and Department of the State have been working with the Ghanaian Embassy in Washington and Foreign Affairs Ministry in Ghana to issue passports for Ghanaians who were subject to deportation orders within 30 days, in line with the UN Convention on International Civil Aviation”.

“Government of Ghana has consistently not met in a timely way this internationally mandated standard of the UN Convention on International Civil Aviation.”

The timely issuance of the passports help to facilitate deportee’s departure on commercial flights, failure of which means that the US has to arrange charter flights or in some cases, release those under final orders of removal within the US, she further explained.

U.S stops issuance of all new visas for domestic employees

As a result of Ghana’s refusal to grant travel documents to the over 7,000 Ghanaians, the U.S has paused the issuance of all new visas for domestic employees of Ghanaian Diplomats hosted in the US, effective Monday, February 4, 2019, Ms Sullivan announced.

Additionally, the Embassy in Accra would limit the normal five-year validity period and a number of entries on Tourist and Business visas for all Ghanaian Executive and Legislative branch employees, their spouses and children under age 21, to single entry visas valid for only one month.

She emphasized: “This will also apply to Ghanaians who are not government employees but hold diplomatic and official passports”.

She stressed the validity of the visas was however different from the duration of stay. Thus, the allowable duration of stay of a visa holder who enters the US, prior to the one-month visa expiration date, will not be affected.

Current visa holders, student visa applicants, Ghanaian government officials travelling for official duties as well as participants in official US government exchange programmes, are not currently affected.

“We hope to work closely together with Ghanaian authorities to resolve this issue properly. The US government will lift these limitations when the Ghanaian consulate in the US issue the required passports and demonstrate they can consistently provide timely issuance of documents for citizens going forward,” Ms Sullivan said.

She warned that the scope of these limitations would include additional categories of people or discontinue additional types of visas if there was no progress in meeting the obligations in the coming months.

Responding to concerns of some of the deportees not being Ghanaian, she said it was the sovereign right of the Government of Ghana to verify their identities as Ghanaians.

She said the US would not force Ghana to take people who were proved to be non-Ghanaians.

“Both we and government of Ghana are eager to resolve this issue that has spanned two administrations both in Accra and Washington,” Ms Sullivan stated.

Ghana reacts 

Ghana’s government has described the allegations of non-cooperation by the U.S government over the deportation of some Ghanaians leading to visa sanction on Ghana as unfounded.

Ghana has always cooperated and engaged the US authorities in processing and removal of Ghanaians from the US, according official statement from Ghana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Ministry said it has noted: “With concern and disappointment the decision of the US to implement visa sanctions on Ghana for alleged lack of adequate cooperation in accepting Ghanaian nationals who have been ordered to be removed from the US.”

It said: “As is the requirement and in accordance with international law, the Ghana Embassy in Washington DC undertakes identification and verification processes to ensure that all persons earmarked for deportation to Ghana are bonafide citizens of Ghana.”

The Ministry disclosed that as at January 8, 2019, its Washington Mission had received 28 applications from the US Authorities, out of which 19 had been interviewed by the Embassy and 11 travelling certificates issued for their travel to Ghana.

It said those outstanding are as a result of doubts on their Ghanaian nationality, ill health and pending litigation in US courts.

How to address the current stalemate

Ghana said it is assessing the situation and would institute appropriate measures within the context of international law and the bilateral relations between Ghana and the United States in due course.

A foreign policy and security analyst, Sani Adib said: “Considering the U.S power, Ghana has to make some compromises” in its bid to quell the fire.

He however admitted that the action taken by the U.S could completely strain Ghana’s long-standing diplomatic relationship with the U.S which has been major trade partners and supporter.

Ghana-U.S bilateral relations

The Ghana-U.S two-way trade is growing. Trade figures have shown that bilateral between the two countries is hovering $1.7 billion as at 2017, representing 53.61% increase over the $1.1 billion recorded in 2016.

The data published by the United States Census Bureau put the total balance of trade in favour of the U.S at $135.7 million.

The U.S exported goods valued at $885.7 million to Ghana in 2017, representing a 6.45% increase over the $832 million recorded in 2016, while Ghana more than doubled the value of exports to the U.S in 2017, raking in $750 million.
This represents a 133.50% increase as compared to the $321.2 million registered in 2016.
US exports to Ghana are mainly industrial machinery, automobile, and electronics, among others. On the other hand, exports from Ghana to US are mainly agricultural products, as well as textiles.


To address these trade imbalances, the U.S enacted the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) as Public Law 106 of the 200th Congress.

AGOA has since been renewed to 2025. AGOA makes it easier for Sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries including Ghana and Nigeria by removing U.S import duties on products covered by the AGOA legislation.

This also means that, exporters in SSA benefiting from AGOA receive a competitive advantage over exporters in other countries. Supporters of AGOA have always argued correctly that SSA countries do not need foreign aid by rather market access to stimulate trade and investment. This fits well with Ghana’s President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’ vision of “Ghana Beyond Aid”

For instance, in 2017, exports under the AGOA alone rose to some $300 million. Furthermore, “American investment remains strong, evidenced by the 37 U.S. companies that have made new investments in Ghana in the last five years. Even more exciting is the 79 new investments or trade deals that have been made over the past year, totaling $800 million”, according to information from the U.S Embassy in Accra.

U.S investment touches all sectors

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) serves as the lead U.S. government agency working to end extreme global poverty and enable resilient, democratic societies to realize their potential.

Through USAID, the American people invest more than $145 million in Ghana each year in agriculture, health, education, energy, and democracy and governance programs.

The new Millennium Challenge Compact II, which entered into force in 2016, will invest nearly $500 million to support the transformation of Ghana’s power sector and stimulate private investment.

Also in 2016, the United States contributed more than $7 million to help ensure Ghana’s peaceful, transparent and credible elections.

Ghana was the first country in the world to accept Peace Corps Volunteers, and the program remains one of the leaders in programming, training and innovation. Currently, there are approximately 150 volunteers in Ghana. Volunteers work in agriculture, education and health sectors in all 10 Regions of the country.

Finally, the United States and Ghana are close allies in addressing regional and international security issues. The U.S and Ghanaian militaries have cooperated on numerous joint training exercises designed to increase the effectiveness of U.S. and Ghanaian government entities and security forces in responding to international threats such as trafficking and terrorism.

Ghana is one of only 13 African nations selected for the State Partnership Program, which pairs a U.S. state’s National Guard with the armed forces of a partner country in a cooperative, mutually beneficial relationship.

The United States and Ghana have a close and enduring friendship rooted in their mutual commitment to freedom and democratic values. While their official bilateral relationship dates back to Ghana’s independence in 1957.

Ghana completed a five-year $547 million Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) compact in 2012 and a second, five-year $498 million MCC compact focused on the power sector entered into force on September 6, 2016.

On education, thousands of Ghanaians have been educated in the United States. Through the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) and other exchange programs, thousands more talented Ghanaians have developed their leadership skills and gotten to know America. Meanwhile, Ghana attracts hundreds of American students each year seeking to experience the rich history and culture of West Africa.

By Masahudu Ankiilu Kunateh, African Eye Report

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