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General News of Monday, 10 March 2003

Source: R.I. ALHASSAN (Ambassador)

Allegations About Ghana Embassy Berlin -Rejoinder



The attention of the Ghana Embassy in Berlin has been drawn to an article with the above caption that appeared in the Wednesday, 26 February, 2003 issue of the Daily Graphic.

2. The article by one Michael Donkor purports to report the proceedings of a News Conference during which one Anthony Rau who renounced his Ghanaian citizenship and is now a German and styles himself as a Human Rights Activist made allegations of impropriety against the Embassy and its officials.

3. We wish to note that this is not the first time that Mr. Rau has launched a tirade against this Embassy. In the Daily Guide issue of 30 March, 2001 he made completely false allegations against some of the then members of staff at this Mission. Again in the 17 September, 2001 issue of the same Daily Guide he narrated a completely distorted account of an incident at the Mission and again leveled false allegations against staff of the Mission. These happened at a time when most of the current Officers and the present Ambassador were not at post. We would have preferred to ignore his ridiculous comments with the contempt that it deserves, but for the fact that this time a reputable newspaper like the Daily Graphic has repeated his libelous statements on its pages without first cross checking the facts or contacting this Embassy for its side of the story.

4. We wish categorically to state that all the allegations of corruption leveled against the Embassy by Mr. Rau are false, malicious and intended to attack the integrity of the Embassy and the Government of Ghana that it represents. No Ghanaian national approaching the Embassy for assistance is made to pay any monies apart from the legitimate charges for consular services as approved by the Government of Ghana, and in all cases, the appropriate official receipts are issued for such payments. For example, the € 35,- that Mr. Rau mentioned is a legitimate charge levied for endorsements and attestations, long approved by the Government of Ghana. We challenge Mr. Rau to prove a single case where a Ghanaian paid any amount of money at the Embassy and was not issued with an official receipt, as he claims.

5. Even more serious and malicious are his allegations that Ghanaians were made to pay € 100,- before being allowed to attend a forum organized in honour of his Excellency President J.A. Kufuor during the latter’s state visit to Germany last year. It may interest readers to note that the palpable falsity of the allegation has caused so much anger and uproar in Hamburg, Germany that sections of the Ghanaian Community are threatening to take matters into their own hands and deal with Mr. Rau on his return to Germany. This Embassy is now faced with the most difficult task of urging our compatriots to exercise restraint over the issue.

6. During the President’s visit, one public forum each was organised in Berlin and Hamburg for him and his delegation to interact with the Ghanaian Community. Over one thousand (1,000) Ghanaians attended each of these functions, and at no time was any Ghanaian asked to pay € 100,- or any amount whatsoever as contribution towards the cost of the events. It is therefore wholly false that such payments were demanded or that any Ghanaian was excluded from the forum for failing to pay the amount.

7. The only Officer who went to Hamburg to liase with the Ghanaian Union which arranged for the President’s reception was the then Head of Consular Section, Mr. S. T. Okantey who is now on retirement and is resident in Accra. Contact with him will clearly disprove the allegation that any monies were collected from persons who attended the forum. Indeed over one thousand (1,000 ) Ghanaians attended the function which was at a big hall with no Officer and no person manning the gate to exclude anybody. The Ghanaian Press and Television were present and they covered the event. A playback of the T.V coverage will easily disprove his allegation.

8. The Mission is however aware that during the President’s visit, the Afrika Verein, a German Business Group with interest in Africa, organized a business meeting with the President, for which its members were asked to make a contribution. We must stress that this meeting was a purely German Business Meeting with the President. This Embassy had no role whatsoever in the organization of that meeting, and, to the best of our knowledge, attendance at that meeting was strictly for its members and by invitation only. Indeed a delegation of Afrika Verein was in Ghana recently to discuss investment opportunities with their counterparts and the Government of Ghana. The visit was covered by the Ghanaian Press.

9. Mr. Rau’s allegation that the Embassy issues travel documents for the deportation of any black person presented to the Embassy flies in the face of the truth and policy of the Embassy. On the contrary, some German Authorities are not happy with the Embassy because of our strict requirements that both the nationality and identity of prospective deportees must be conclusively established as Ghanaians before consideration can be given to the issuing of a Travel Document to facilitate deportation. Indeed, the Embassy has not issued a single deportation document since November, 2002. One therefore wonders why Mr. Rau should resort to palpable lies and distortions of the truth in his attempt to malign the Embassy for reasons best known to himself.

10. Our attention has also been drawn to another article captioned “Ghanaians Levied To See President Kufuor” published in the Wednesday, 26 February to Tuesday, 4 March, 2003 issue of the Voice, reported by one Owusu Tawiah and again attributed to Anthony Rau. The said article, apart from repeating the above spurious allegations, went on to add that Ghana’s Ambassador to Germany had deserted his residence in Bonn to rent a house in Berlin at the cost of € 500,- to stay in and work.

11. Another article in the 27 February – 2 March issue of the Voice by one George Azirigo and also citing Mr. Rau, alleged further that the supporting staff of the Embassy are staying in hotels in Berlin paid for by the taxpayer’s money, whilst the Bonn Complex is not in use. It argued that the Government would have saved more money if only the Ambassador had moved to Berlin, with the supporting staff commuting by air daily from Bonn to Berlin at the alleged cost of € 100 – 120,- per person.

12. Ridiculous as these allegations are, we are compelled to explain that the Ghana Embassy in Germany relocated from Bonn to Berlin in December, last year, after the German Government moved its capital from Bonn to Berlin in 2000. Most Embassies are now located in Berlin, and indeed Ghana was one of the last Embassies in Bonn to complete its relocation to Berlin.

13. One wonders whether Mr. Rau expects the Ambassador to continue to live in Bonn whilst the Embassy operates from Berlin. In any case, it is completely false that the Ambassador lives in a rented house, whatever the rent payable.

14. It may interest readers to know that prior to the relocation to Berlin, the Government of Ghana procured a modest house to serve as the Ambassador’s residence in Berlin, and in which the Ambassador is currently residing. Following the appropriate authorization, the former residence of the Ambassador in Bonn, which is the only Government-owned building, has been put on the market for sale, and the Embassy is actively working to secure the best possible price for its sale.

15. There is nothing like the “Bonn Complex” in existence in Germany. The Chancery and Consular officers in Bonn were rented properties and the leases have been terminated. The only Ghana Government owned property in Bonn was the Ambassador’s residence, which, as explained, has been put up for sale since late last year. What that “Bonn Complex” is, happens to come straight out of Mr. Rau’s imagination, fertile as it is. It is also not correct that the supporting staff are living in hotels in Berlin. The staff, like in all Missions obtained appropriate residential accommodation in Berlin, prior to the relocation, and are all happily settled in Berlin. Nobody, we repeat, nobody ever lived in a hotel following the relocation of the Embassy to Berlin.

16. Mr. Rau’s calculation with respect to the cost associated with staff commuting by air from Bonn to Berlin five times a week appears ridiculously twisted and dangerously wasteful of the taxpayer’s money that he claims to be so concerned about. If his ideas were to be implemented, apart from the loss of scores of man-hours a week shuttling between Bonn and Berlin, the transportation cost alone would exceed € 2100,- a week (approximately 20 million Cedis).

17. Besides, it would be most unwise, all other circumstances considered, for such an insane arrangement to be even seriously considered. We are most mindful of the need to judiciously use the hard-earned resources of the country, and would accordingly advise the likes of Rau to refrain from offering views purporting to save money but intended to do the reverse and make Ghana the laughing stock of the German official and diplomatic community.

18. Finally, in the spirit of equity and fairness, we wish to appeal to the Daily Graphic, the Ghanaian Voice and indeed all press houses in Ghana, as well as internet operators, to cross-check the authenticity of stories peddled out by mischief makers like Mr. Rau before they rush into print. Mr. Rau has been waging a personal vendetta against this Embassy and its staff for some years now. Previous allegations and the Mission’s reports have unfortunately not been refuted in the papers hence his bravado in repeating and making fresh ones against the Mission. We will like to suggest that his lies be now exposed. To give credence to his lies and distortions will only detract from the good name and image of the government and its agencies like this Embassy, and we hope the press will not encourage such conduct by its failure to cross-check such allegations.