Are Contractors Already Boots-on-Ground in Ghana?

Are Contractors Already Boots-on-Ground in Ghana?

Although the ink is hardly dry on a controversial defense pact between the United States and Ghana, contractors may already be at work in the West African nation.

The nation’s Parliament approved the pact by a lopsided vote after opposition groups staged a walkout. Per the agreement, elements of the U.S. military will take up positions near the Kotoka International Airport. These forces will also have unfettered access to a number of other Ghanaian military installations. Yet according to Former District Chief Executive (DCE) Fuseini Donkor, the agreement did not include detailed plans. Instead, a local newspaper published the information. “Bra Kwame I am telling you on authority that the Appendix A which stated the exact location of all the things given to them was not attached to the agreement that was sent to Parliament,” he insisted.

Officials from the New Patriotic Party, the majority party in Ghana, say the airport project has yet to begin.

Why is Ghana Important to the United States?

Many people consider this relatively small nation to be one of the leading countries in Africa. Economically, the country has considerable natural resources. It is particularly well-known for production of cocoa beans. Politically, Ghana was the first mostly-black nation south of the Sahara to gain independence from a European colonial master.

The country takes its name from a large empire which dominated the area until the 13th century. Europeans arrived in the 1400s. The British eventually colonized the area, calling it the Gold Coast. Independence came in 1957, but democracy was slow to follow. That background may have a lot to do with opposition over the new military assistance agreement.

A series of military dictators held sway over the country until 1992, when former military strongman Jerry Rawlings became president. The nation still has some serious problems, but Ghana has not lost its place among the leading countries on the continent.

The U.S.-Ghana Military Assistance Pact

Almost immediately after Washington and Accra signed their military agreement in March 2018, thousands of Ghanians took to the streets in protest. Many fear the loss of independence and the disconcerting shadow of military rule. The country’s leaders, however, say opposition groups stirred up the protesters to embarrass the government.

In exchange for the use of radio channels and other infrastructure, the U.S. agreed to invest some $20 million in the country and train its army. West Africa may be the latest front in the Global War on Terror. In 2017, an ISIS attack killed four American soldiers in nearby Niger and Americans launched a major drone strike against Al Qaeda terrorists in Libya.

Relationships between the United States and West Africa have been a bit strained of late. For reasons not readily apparent, the Trump Administration recently added longtime ally Chad to its travel ban. Moreover, the President has allegedly made several derogatory remarks about the area and its people.

Contractors’ Roles in Friendly Nations Like Ghana

Training and advice are major components of many agreements between the United States and its allies in lesser-developed countries. Such training serves a number of purposes. For example, a well-trained Ghanaian army could be a bulwark against expanding terrorist operations. Moreover, a well-disciplined army may be less likely to mutiny against civilian oversight.

Contractors are very low-key. They do their jobs with little fanfare. In an environment fraught with opposition to U.S. presence, a little subtlety is often a good thing.

Furthermore, contractors give military brass options in these situations. Contractors often speak the language, understand the culture, and have experience that resonates with the soldiers. The same cannot be said of many drill sergeants who are imported from their stateside posts.

Training sometimes bleeds over into operations, and that is also where contractors come in. If a training group gets ambushed in the field and a U.S. military contractor is hurt or killed, the casualty does not count as an official loss.

Injury Compensation Available

Whether they are injured in the field due to enemy action or at the base after an accident, the Defense Base Act provides needed compensation to contractors.

Part of that compensation includes money for lost wages. Most injury victims receive two-thirds of their average weekly wage. This calculation includes:

  • Regular pay,
  • Overtime pay,
  • Performance and other bonuses, and
  • Housing allowance.

Typically, these benefits last for the duration of a temporary disability.

If the victim is permanently disabled, the DBA pays alternative compensation. This money is available even if the victim can still work but must accept a lower-paying position. The amount also depends on whether the injury is a scheduled or unscheduled.

The Defense Base Act also pays for medical bills. These benefits give injured contractors the resources they need to get better. In addition to emergency care, DBA benefits also pay for physical therapy and all other reasonably necessary medical expenses.

For more information about Defense Base Act procedures, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen & Frankel, P.A.