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Opinions of Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Columnist: Al-Hajj

JM trips Justified

In the face of Africa’s leadership vacuum

…He is taking Nkrumah’s Steps

As usual, the clamor has begun and is even gradually becoming widespread among the main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), their media and civil society appendages and of course some gullible Ghanaians over why President John Dramani Mahama travels more in recent days, when there are pressing national issues to handle at home.

Government officials who spoke to The aL-hAJJ on the need for President Mahama’s trips have condemned some extremists and fanatical NPP backers who have even gone to the extent of exaggerating that President Mahama has so far in his short time in power travelled more than former President Kufuor, who was nicknamed ‘Mungo Park’ due to his frequent travels, in his entire eight-year reign. They cited an NPP-inspired and planted article on Ghanaweb which even went to the extent of saying that the NDC has regretted for criticizing President Kufuor for his numerous foreign trips, saying “that article cannot be true. The aL-hAJJ’s inquiry revealed there are strong compelling arguments for President Mahama to make even more foreign trips in the future.

“There are many convincing case and argument for President Mahama to make even more foreign trips to cement the status of Ghana as the trailblazer in the continent, to project Africa’s interests across the world and to concretize his position as the Chairmen of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

“His colleagues in the sub-region and on the continent itself were mindful of influence Ghana wields in the comity of nations since the late 1950s under the charismatic leader and the nation’s founder, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, a senior member of government has told this paper

According to him “As the first country in the Sub-Sahara Africa to come out of the colonial yoke in 1957, much was expected and is still expected from Ghana and its leadership especially in this era when the African continent seems to be leaderless and buffeted by Ebola, a pandemic that is proving to be an existential threat to the continent and its people,” he added.

An astute political scientist from the nation’s premier university, the University of Ghana on his part told The aL-hAJJ that “the era of what we can call the second generation of democrats in the 1990s wave of democratization, such as Presidents Obasanjo of Nigeria, Abdulai Wade of Senegal, Kufuor of Ghana, Gaddafi of Libya, Mbeki of South Africa have faded out leaving a huge vacuum of leadership on the continent. The big question we should ask is who is ready to bail the cat out in this big vacuum?”

He said, current African leaders such as Jecob Zuma of South Africa, Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria, Alhassane Dramani Ouattara of Ivory Coast, Uhuru Kenyata of Kenya, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabawe are either shackled by the imperialist West or are facing numerous domestic economic and, or political problems. “Thus, there is no way those leaders could take the mantle of leadership in projecting and defending the interest of the continent in the international community that is becoming cynical on the very survival of the people of the continent.” He stated.

He added that, “The onus therefore falls on Ghana and its leader to take the responsibilities of marketing and defending the continent just as our first President and founder did in the 1950s and 1960s.

“Thus history is only repeating itself. President Mahama is only doing what his predecessors such as President Nkrumah and President Rawlings did to advance the interest of the continent in the international community that is so hostile to the continent and people of Africa many years after coming out of exploitation and subjugation by the colonial masters,” the political scientist said.

According to him, there is more urgent need now than ever before for any Ghanaian leader to defend and articulate the interest of Africa given the looming dangers of Ebola that is threatening to wipe out the entire people of the continent.

“Already all African countries and its people are globally stigmatized regardless of whether they are coming from the worst affected countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. The rest of the world sees any person in Africa especially the West-African sub-region as a potential carrier of the dreaded Ebola virus and therefore has to be shunned.

“There are numerous reports of Africans denied entry into some countries across the world or even if they are reluctantly allowed in, they face numerous restrictions tinged with racial abuses because of the mere suspicion that they may be carrying Ebola.

“President Mahama has to take the bull by the horn and visited those endemic countries in order to reduce the stigma and boost the morale of those countries and their leaders that they have not been abandoned by their brothers in this time of need.

He pointed out that, “there are visible good results from the President’s visits to those countries. For instance, the stigma hitherto associated with Ebola countries has drastically reduced. More countries are also coming to the aid of those affected countries after President Mahama’s visit which had highlighted the threat of Ebola to the international community.

Conversely, the benefits to Ghana have been tremendous. The country is being applauded for its courage and leadership role on Ebola by almost every global leader, including the United Nation’s General Secretary, Ban Ki-moon. The visits have also given the country enough visibility in the globe with the possibility of increased foreign investment in future.

He said, President Mahama had to quickly move into Burkina Faso to broker an agreement with the military junta that has just seized power from the disgraced former leader, President Blaise Campaore.

According to the Political Science expert, apart from being a gesture of good neighborliness, the visit will help stabilize Burkina Faso and prevent it from exploding as that will result in the flood of refugees that could destabilize this country politically and economically.

Speaking recently to the media, the African leaders have commended Ghana's President and Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) John Dramani Mahama for his strong leadership within the sub-region especially on issues related to Ebola and the political crisis in Burkina Faso.

''He is a leader who wants to succeed. Such a leader is raising high the flag of the sub-region to the rest of the world. He is proven that with available resources and the required technology, Africa could handle its own headache.''

According to some of them who spoke to the media in Accra during the Extra-Ordinary Summit on Ebola described the Ghanaian leader as a dynamic and decisive leader who took the bull by the horn to personally and collectively find solutions to the myriad of problems facing the West African Sub-Region.

Since he assumed the chairmanship of ECOWAS, President Mahama had not sat idling, but is working around the clock to find the magic wand for the progress and development of the country.

He had to travel every now and then for the progressive cause of the sub-region by extension the African Continent.

The ECOWAS chairman early in the year paid a solidarity visit to the three Ebola stricken Nations including Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea where he sympathised and donated made in Ghana products worth millions of Cedis to assuage the economic hardship being experienced by the three countries due to the Ebola epidemic.

''In fact, the president of Ghana had won the hearts and minds of the sub-region. He is determined, visionary, humble and passionate about solving problems….His visit to Liberia at a time when that country had been forgotten by the rest of the world speaks volumes. He is a good and a kind leader,'' a representative from Liberia at the ECOWAS summit said.

Speaking to Nigerian security persons, they said President Mahama's show of quality and unbiased leadership had earned him respect and trust among leaders across the globe.

''Mr. Mahama's approach and posture to dealing with issues, for me must be commended, a young and agile president who respects and gives reverence to his colleagues heads of state had made his brothers and sisters within the sub-region accord him all the support to effectively steer the affairs of the region as well as his country. He is doing very well as ECOWAS chair and our leaders are all behind him.''

On his part, the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon also commended President John Dramani Mahama for leading the fight against the spread of the deadly Ebola virus. President Mahama in his address at the 69th UN General Assembly Thursday, September 25, made a passionate appeal to the international community to see Ebola as a world problem and not just a concern pertaining to Guinea, Sierra Leone or Liberia. “Ebola is just not a Liberian problem. Ebola is not Sierra Leonean or Guinean problem. “Ebola is a problem that belongs to the world because it’s a disease that knows no boundaries…We must erase the stigma,” Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) told the world leaders. At a meeting between the two leaders, Ban Ki-Moon also hailed the decision by government of Ghana to host the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), at the Ghanaian capital, Accra. They also discussed upcoming elections in the ECOWAS region in 2015.

Another economic and governance expert working behind the scenes for the Mahama administration but who wants to remain anonymous in a chat with this paper added that, despite all these politically and diplomatically productive foreign trips, the President has kept eagle eyes on the national economy and there are clear signs that the economy is responding to the several measures implemented by the President and his economic management team. “The Ghanaian currency which was depreciating at an alarming rate in the first eight months of the fiscal year 2014 has dramatically been stabilized and even gradually appreciating against the various foreign currencies. “Investor confidence is gradually improving given the oversubscription of the nation’s third Eurobond. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) supported program is becoming a game-changer for the local economy and there is a possibility that the nation will claw-back a lot of lost economic opportunities in the coming weeks given the President’s personal efforts in managing the national economy,” he stated.

The World Bank President Jim Yong Kim also expressed his optimism that Ghana could soon reclaim its status as one of the economic giants in the West African sub-region. Jim Yong Kim explained in Washington DC at the Annual IMF/World Bank meetings that his optimism is informed by a recent engagement with President John Mahama. He told Joy Business’ George Wiafe that President Mahama’s knowledge of the challenges facing the country is a sign that the country’s difficult days will soon be over.

“He is very much aware of the kinds of structural reforms that he needs to undertake in order to get Ghana back on a much more vigorous growth path”, the World President said of President Mahama.

Saddled by rising public debts, a wobbly local currency and inflation, Ghana has lost its standing as one of the fastest growing economies in West Africa.

Although the cedi is gaining ground against major foreign currencies, analysts believe Ghana is still far from attaining economic growth and stability that resemble conditions a decade ago.

The World Bank President however maintains that President Mahama now understood the full nature of the challenge ahead. He said he was happy managers of Ghana’s economy have already begun taking the crucial steps to put the country back on track.

“He [President Mahama] is very committed to undertaking the reforms that he knows, and we [World Bank] know that he’s got to undertake”, said Jim Yong Kim.

He also praised President Mahama for his role in helping fight spread of the deadly Ebola disease in the West Africa.

“I think he is a fantastic example of how science and awareness trumped fear, and solidarity trumped any kind of temptation to turn his back”, Jim Yong Kim said.

According to the World Bank, countries in the West African region could be losing about USD32 billion in the next two years if the disease is not contained.

The World Health Organization says more than 4,000 people have died from the disease since the outbreak in March. In a related development, a senior statesman and immediate past Chief of Staff of the Kufuor administration, Mr Kwadwo Mpiani, has defended President Mahama’s frequent travels, saying if work requires that the President travels, then he must travel. He said the President’s trips, just as the NDC then in opposition criticized trips of former President Kufuor, were not unnecessary travels, which should attract such uproar, adding that he did not believe that the President would just get up and be traveling for its sake.