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Opinions of Sunday, 18 March 2007

Columnist: Adin, Kwame

Ghana's 50th Anniversary: a Response to a Racist Report

The publication in LA Times, March 11, (posted on Ghanaweb, March 16, 07), is typical of hold back racists who continue to wage a war of words against black people. These hate mongers, having lost the moral, social, and political war, persist in puerile efforts to re-write or to manufacture history.

In this case, the author of the report is not even up to date with current development on Ghana. From this lame effort, which is characteristic of intellectual laziness, the writer proceeds to draw heavy conclusions on Ghana. To recall an English writer, Alexander Pope,(since the writer grounds the report on English traditions), a little learning is a dangerous thing. This flawed write-up on Ghana reflects Pope's warning.

The analogy between British colonial imposed rule in Ghana, and Ghana's post-independence struggles is ill fitting and ill conceived. Not long ago, Senator Trent Lott recalled, with fondness, the days of segregation. In a turn around, the senator is now engaged on a full time public mea culpa. However, I am not as concerned about his public utterances as I am of the power he wields behind heavily curtained rooms. Times have changed since there is now diminishing audience for virulent racism. Racists have become the ugly weeds that suddenly appear as we strive to cultivate understanding in our societies. LA Times' report promotes racism, not objective public discourse. In the USA, racist revisionists would return to the era of segregation and oppression of blacks rather face competent and trend-setting blacks like Sen. Obama, Dr. Condi Rice, and Ms. Winfrey.

Before independence, Ghana had a university college, and a handful of secondary schools. Middle school level education was the rule. Since independence, Ghana established Universities, numerous secondary schools, built or expanded health posts, and built a dam for power supply. The number of Ghanaians with secondary school education in more than 50 years of colonial rule would be less than 1 % the number of secondary school educated Ghanaians since independence.

Much of the progress in Ghana since independence was based on the foundations of Nkrumah. Nkrumah embraced a pan-African vision when he launched Ghana's liberation as a first step in the continental struggle for self-determination. That today, all Africans have assumed the right to self-rule validates Nkrumah's goals. At the time of independence, Nkrumah linked the nation's destiny with the struggles of all black people. W.E.B. Du Bois, Dr. King, and Padmore, helped to shape the struggle in Ghana in reflection of the global black struggle.

For the sake of analysis, let us consider the history of the US, the most powerful nation in the world today. During its independence, blacks and women were excluded from the Declaration that "all men are equal". Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the draft to the Declaration, claimed (in Notes on Virginia) that blacks were ¾ the equivalent of whites. In the decades after independence, Americans were involved in a bloody civil war whose eventual outcome was the emancipation. However, blacks continued to be subject to inhuman Jim Crow laws, segregation, discrimination, and acts of violence (lynching). A couple of years before Ghana's independence, in the USA, a black teen, Emmet Till, was lynched for allegedly whispering at a white woman. America's history of racism continued in the 1960s. Today, racial segregation is illegal by law, although Americans are divided as ever, in terms of housing, schools, and, on Sundays, in places of worship.

America has pulled along despite its checkered past. Ghana can do the same. Ghanaians can learn from Americans especially, the "can-do" spirit and the determination that all voices matter. Ghanaians should develop a sense of confidence that they, collectively as well as individually, can bring about change

The occasion of the 50th anniversary should have been used to rally all Ghanaians. There is division about spending $20 million dollars when there are desperate social and structural needs all over the country. The government should have listened to the people. Ghanaians deserve to celebrate. After-all we have made it to fifty; unlike many of our neighbors, we have not had a civil war; there is relative unity among diverse tribal groups. The government should have funded the celebration with public donations. The government should have used the occasion to rally all villages, towns and cities to organize programs to be paid for by the people in such localities.

Alas, we have not been careful with the people's money. We need the 50th anniversary leaders to account publicly for their expenditure. We want the government to engage actively in cost recovery. They should publicly auction off the luxury vehicles. I assume that there were no custom duties on them and so Ghana can get more than the MSRP (manufacturer suggested retail price). These vehicles should not be used for state protocol or by state officials. The amount realized from the sale of the vehicles could be used to boost education in selected schools in every region. These schools could be designated as 50th anniversary schools. Alternatively, the money could be used to build primary schools or clinics in villages in every region.

On another note, $22 million that USA grants to Ghana is mere pittance, given the contributions of Ghanaians in the USA. Many Ghanaians who live in the USA are making valuable contributions here. We ought to campaign for significant assistance for development in Ghana. Americans of Jewish and Irish extractions have successfully made budgeting for their native countries regular line items. Trade relations, the contribution of Ghanaians in the USA, and the role of Ghana in the international arena mean we deserve much more than the pittance we receive. International finance arrangement means that such support is necessary so that America can maintain its political, social, and economic interests.

In the 50th year of independence, we need to form private agencies for Ghanaians to buy bonds etc for development. We need creative financial ventures that we can trust. We need accountability from our public officials. We need a truly independent judiciary and we need a justice department that is not tied to the government of the day. We must not engage in selective justice. We need open and transparent leadership. We need a healthy investment climate; we need to control the spate of armed robbery; and we need to prosecute corrupt public officials;

I hesitate to make this contribution since lately discussions on the web have become vitriolic. Nevertheless, I must respond to this blatantly racist reportage.



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