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General News of Wednesday, 8 June 2005

Source: GNA

James Fort Prisons to be converted into a museum

Accra June 8, GNA - The James Fort Prisons in Accra would soon be closed down and converted into a museum dedicated to Africans, who were taken as slaves to the Diaspora. "We will build in this slave fort, from which our peoples were shipped out probably never to return, a museum dedicated to those African from all walks of life, who triumphed over slavery and continue to triumph over those who sought to enchain them...we will build a monument to the true Joseph," Mr Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey, Minister of Tourism and Modernization of the Capital City said.

The Minister, who was discussing the "Joseph Project" said the Fort was first used to keep slaves and then it was used as a prison, now it is a true example of an attempt to chain mankind. The "Joseph Project" is fashioned on the biblical story of Joseph, the son of Jacob who, having been sold into slavery by his brothers, became the Prime Minister of Egypt from where he eventually reconciled with his brothers, reunited with his family members, whom he saved from hunger. The "Joseph Project" is aimed at facilitating the spiritual return of the more than 30 million Africans in the Diaspora to Ghana, would be officially launched in 2007.

Mr Obetsebi-Lamptey said the museum would be used to demonstrate the African excellence, the strength of those Africans in the Diaspora, who rose and continued to rise far above their chains to display excellence. In the Fort, a state of the art exhibition of the salve trade that would showcase, the hunting of the captives, through the march to the coast, onto the plantation of the Americas and the continuing struggle for civil rights would be mounted. He said the cells and dungeons of the slave fort, which had now been turned into a prison, exhibited the life stories of the biblical Joseph, who triumphed over extreme adversity.

The Minister expressed the hope that Ghanaians and Africans living in the Diaspora would draw inspiration upon entering the fort to overcome all the life's challenges as it would not only tell the story of man's inhumanity to man but also tell the continual struggle for freedom. The "Joseph Project" would among other objectives make the 21st century, the African century by reconciling African people so that their positive spirit and strength are released in a focused manner. The project would start off with a gathering in Ghana of Africans in the Diaspora and chiefs from the West African coast whose predecessors were active in facilitating the slave trade to appease the returnees on behalf of their ancestors.

Another assembly of chiefs would follow this from places whose people were hunted as chattel slaves and the identification of "accepted" leaders of Africans in the Diaspora leading to a durbar of African peoples.

The project would be climaxed with a healing concert involving big stars in the Diaspora and Ghana in Accra on July 1 2007. The project seeks to encourage every African in the Diaspora to embark on a pilgrimage to Ghana at least once in their lifetime, then subsequently as tourists and eventually to invest in the country. Mr Obetsebi-Lamptey said all the slave forts; castles and other landmarks would be developed to offer different and unique experiences that every African in the Diaspora would be eager to experience. He announced that the Government intended to introduce a Diaspora Visa, which when granted after an initial visit would allow holders free entry to Ghana.

The African Union Diaspora Visa would be located in Ghana, he said. "The time has come for us to stand and state: "I am a proud African; proud of my land; proud of my people, committed to making the third millennium the African millennium," Mr Obetsebi-Lamptey said.