President John Evans Atta Mills has confirmed his government is unable to contribute troops to any ECOWAS mission to oust incumbent president of the Ivory Coast, Laurent Gbagbo, should the regional body make do with its threat.
He said the country’s military was overstretched, engaged in many peacekeeping assignments around the world and that he was not about to risk Ghana’s internal peace to remove Mr Gbagbo.
The Ivorian president is now a political pariah, despised internationally by various assemblies and nations, but he is hanging onto power despite losing presidential elections in the West African country.
Addressing senior journalists at the Osu Castle (seat of government) on Friday to mark his second anniversary in office, President Mills said while he agrees that opposition leader Alhassane Ouattara won the elections, and fully endorsed the ECOWAS Communiqué asking Mr Gbagbo to leave office or be forcibly removed, “It is not for Ghana to choose a leader for Cote d’Ivoire.”
“As Commander in Chief,” he said, “I consulted with my Military High Command and they advised that they could not release troops to join [any ECOWAS] contingent to take military action [in Cote D’Ivoire].”
President Mills said Ghana was monitoring the situation very carefully and “will continue to pursue initiatives which will ensure there is peace in Cote d’Ivoire.”
At his diplomatic best, the president said regardless of allegations that his government was giving the embattled Ivorian President tacit support, “Ghana is not taking sides,” in the delicate political standoff, but “Ghana should support any measures to implement the democratic ideals that we all cherish.”
A Burkinabe daily newspaper two weeks ago reported the president of Ghana was backing his neighbour despite signing an ECOWAS resolution threatening to use military force against Mr Gbagbo.
The L’EVENEMENT alleged in its Christmas Day edition that Accra was being used as a base for Gbagbo’s fighters and that three Angolan fighter jets had been positioned in the Ghanaian capital to go to the aid of the embattled Ivorian president, accusations president Mills flatly denied.
“It is not true that we are helping to import arms to Cote d’Ivoire. [It is] certainly not true, we cannot do this!”
The president said he had been communicating with both Mr Ouattara and Laurent Gbagbo but stressed “it is not every detail that I can put in the public domain. Some of us believe in quiet diplomacy and that is exactly what we are doing.”
President Mills, exceptionally humurous on this occasion but blunt in a lot of his responses, said “As a person, I do not think that this military operation is going to bring peace to Cote d’Ivoire.”
For him, it would be better for Ghana ‘mind your own business’ in the crisis.