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Opinions of Monday, 28 July 2008

Columnist: Asomaning, Hannah

Emancipation Day Celebrations - Lessons to be learnt

August 1St is just around the corner and very soon some African Americans and those from the Caribbean would join the Ministry of Tourism and Diasporan Relations in Ghana to celebrate emancipation day.

Emancipation day celebrations have been celebrated in Ghana over the last ten years annually to commemorate the final abolition of slavery in the British colonies; it marks Africans freedom from slavery.

Over the years the essence of the celebrations seems to be dwindling; now the country does not record the great numbers of African-Americans who used to troop in town to mark the celebrations.

As for Ghanaians participation in the celebrations, the less we talk about it, the better.

Mr Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey, Former Minister of Tourism and Diasporan Relations when he was in office used to call on Ghanaians to join in the celebrations which he said was so important to Africa’s total emancipation.

“The Independence of Ghana is meaningless unless it is linked with the total liberation of Africa,” Dr Nkrumah’s statement which has been repeated over and over again is always been used to stress the need for Africa’s emancipation.

Perhaps getting to understand what emancipation is and what lessons there are to be learnt from the celebration would help Ghanaians appreciate what it is. Emancipation day is celebrated in Ghana because Africans and Ghanaians as a people were taken into slavery in Britain, America and some parts of Europe. These blacks were slaves who were used for menial jobs with the whites as their slave masters.

What would make a human being take his/her fellow human being and use him as a slave? Professor Irene Odotei, President of the Historical Society of Ghana, attributes such acts to greed and exploitation.

She says the crave for people to want to have more than others and be able to be respected more in society than others could have led to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

“For people to have conceived the idea of selling human beings as slaves they must have seen others as less human being,” She said and added, “the slave trade is therefore a problem for the world”.

Prof. Odotei said factors that led to the slave trade were no different from the number of ethnic group disparities in the country and the world at large which made some people see their ethnic groups as superior to others and some people in some countries see themselves more important than others. What could have led to these conflicts in the Bawku area when we are all suppose to be one people with one destiny? She condemned greed and exploitation which is been exhibited in different forms in our country these days and pointed out that those were the very factors that might have led to the abominable Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Why is the armed robbery rate increasing? Why are people hurting their fellow humans just to get mobile phones or some little money or something? It is not just armed robbery but what happens in our homes, offices and even what make African countries still look up to the developed world for what to do in their own countries.

Again, Prof. Odotei questions: “Why would a black person who finds himself in the midst of white people travelling to perhaps Europe or America be isolated for questioning at Immigration because perhaps a black person is not supposed to be qualified to attend workshops and other academic programmes in Europe or America?”

She said emancipation was an on-going process and until we achieved a situation where human beings found themselves to be equal and thus free to operate we must continue to repeat the message of emancipation. Prof. Odotei’s concerns are not different from what Mr. Musiliu Obanikoro, Nigerian High Commissioner to Ghana, expressed at the Wreath Laying ceremony held to honour three Pan- Africanist in Ghana.

He said Emancipation day celebrations should be a time when all Africans have a sober reflection on why there was an extreme wickedness by humans to their fellow human beings.

Africans need to fight slavery in all forms, he said, and explained that there was now intellectual slavery among Africans because it seemed people were not able to think by themselves

"Now the developed world does everything for us, we are not able to do things or formulate policies for ourselves as Africans," Mr. Obanikoro said. He therefore urged the Ministry of Tourism and Diasporan Relations to involve all African countries in the celebration, noting that Emancipation Day celebration was significant to all Africans.

Mr. Obanikoro said there was still slavery on the continent, adding: "The struggle is yet to end...the challenges ahead are greater than the ones we fought and won." He further called on the sector ministry to ensure that the Ghanaian populace joined in the celebration since there was the need for them to understand the celebration.

Rabbi Kohain, a member of the Pan African festival (PANAFEST) Board, also stressed the significance of the celebration and said emancipation should be an inspiration for Africans to handle the challenges that lay ahead of the continent.

Africa is not yet emancipated economically, intellectually and socially, he said, but noted that emancipation was an on-going process and expressed the hope that we would get there as a continent.

Mrs Oboshie Sai-Cofie, Minister of Tourism and Diasporan Relations, pledging government’s commitment to celebrate Emancipation Day noted the need for Ghanaians to join hands with the entire African community to work hard to uplift the continent from poverty, mediocrity and ethnic differences. Ghana, she said, was a major exits point for slaves on the West Coast of Africa during the slave trade hence the claim to position the country as a gateway for those in the Diaspora.

Email: hans57ty@yahoo.com