US issues alert on court verdict • Govt says no cause for alarm (Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013 pg 16)

The American Embassy in Ghana is not out of place in cautioning its citizens to be wary of the political situation in Ghana, the deputy minister of the Interior, Mr James Agalga, has said.

"I don't think the American Embassy, in sending a word of caution to its citizens, is totally out of place because, as a country, we ourselves have sent warnings and cautions to the people many times not to overreact to the verdict.

"For instance, the Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference and some civil society organisations have called on Ghanaians not to over-celebrate or overreact after the declaration, so the Americans sending a word of caution to their citizens to be careful of what is likely to happen following the Supreme Court verdict on August 29, is not wrong," he said.

The deputy minister, who was reacting to a statement issued by the American Embassy ahead of the Supreme Court verdict, said, "As a ministry and a government, we have, time without number, assured Ghanaians that the security agencies are alert and taking measures so that after the declaration lives will be protected. Ghanaians should go about j their normal activities without fear or favour."

He said although it was within the right of the US Embassy to advise its citizens, there was no cause for alarm, as the security agencies were on top of issues.

Mr Agalga admitted that the fact that every Ghanaian was concerned and preaching peace was a clear indication that one could not rule our isolated cases of violence.

The US Embassy had, in a statement, warned about a potential increase in political tension and the possibility of isolated violence associated with the Supreme Court verdict on the 2012 presidential election pending before the court since December 28, 2013.

"US citizens in Ghana are reminded to maintain a high level of vigilance and to take appropriate steps to increase their security/safety awareness during this politically sensitive period. US citizens in Ghana should avoid the offices of political parties, Ghana's Supreme Court, the buildings of other institutions associated with the elections and all political rallies," it said.

"We recommend that US citizens in Ghana monitor the local news and avoid all demonstrations, as even those intended robe peaceful may suddenly turn violent" it said.

The statement from the US Embassy had inflamed passions, with critics of the embassy saying the statement had the potential to further heighten tension.

But the deputy minister said the statement was not something that should cause fear and panic.
He urged Ghanaians "to go about their normal activities without fear or favour, as nothing will happen. The security agencies are ready to deal with the situation".

Allaying the fears of Ghanaians concerning the statement, the Information Officer of the American Embassy, Ms. Jean Clarke, said the warning was not based on signals picked by the embassy pointing to violence but rather a routine message to its citizens.
"It is a routine process for us. If you remember, in December, we issued a similar statement but nothing happened. Even during the Kenyan elections this year, a similar caution was given to our citizens she said.

She said there were many US citizens in Ghana in one activity or another. Therefore, it was obligatory for the embassy to inform them about the security situation to enable them to adopt an appropriate security posture.
"We don't want Ghanaians to be alarmed. This is just routine," she added.


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