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Opinions of Friday, 11 August 2006

Columnist: Afedo, James O. K.

Kufuor at MCA Compact Signing; is this not disgraceful?

It is much joy that Ghana has finally been granted over half a billion dollars by the United States of America. This could be nothing more than another demonstration of the apparent generosity of the American people. It is much more gratifying to note that Ghana is the only country on the African continent to be granted such a colossal amount at the first instance. This obviously would be due to the tact, deepening of democracy and fairly good governance policies of the Kufuor government.

The main objective for the setting up of the Millennium Challenge Corporation by the American president we are told is to provide development assistance to countries that rule justly, invest in their people, and encourage economic development. And for Ghana to have benefited in such a great measure signifies the confidence of the American people in the democratic process in Ghana. Specifically, this grant according to the MCA is meant to improve the lives of more than 1million Ghanaians. At this point, it is reasonable to congratulate the American government and the Ghanaian government led by His Excellency John Agyekum Kufuor.

On the other hand however, I have a number of concerns about this grant and about the president’s visit to the USA just to sign this compact. Meanwhile I must state categorically clear that this article means no mischief or political propaganda. It is simply my opinion on this development in the history of our country.

It is very devastating to forget about the past. In fact history is meant to guide the present and help us shape the future. Historically, there has never been a time where the white man gives anything for free. For everything that the white man gives to the black man, he takes back in three-folds if not five-folds. There is enough evidence to prove that the various structural adjustments programmes adopted by African countries did not help them enough. They only ended up leaving these countries at the mercy of the American, and the Europeans. Ghana for instance had received several grants as a result of SAP I & II in her history with the recent being HIPC benefits which could not come until we declared our country indebted. These have led to full cost recovery in every aspect of our lives and the attendant hardship Ghanaians are going through.

In this regard, I hasten to ask what the Americans are expecting in return for this investment. It would be very important for government to let us know what the American government will get in return. Or is it an attempt to win support from small countries in the less-developed world for the unpopular American war in Iraq, Afghanistan, and even the Middle East? Mr. Bush, we want to know. Ghanaians need an answer. What exactly is your motive Mr. Bush? Is it to divert attention from the involvement of your government in such unproductive engagements?

In as much as we celebrate this inflow of dollars into our economy and the positive impact on the fight against poverty, we must also be careful we don’t drag our tiny country into the evil wars that America is fighting either directly or remotely in the world. I must remind the government of Ghana to remain resolute and insist on our traditional position of non-alignment in matters of international disputes.

What I also find very disturbing is too much glorification of this grant. I mean I still don’t understand the relevance of the president’s visit to the United States for the signing of the Millennium Compact. For once, I think some of the president’s travels are pointless and unnecessary. What was the president of the republic doing in the States when his sector minister, the hardworking Hon Dr. Paa Kwesi Ndoum and the foreign minister Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo-Addo were there? Can’t the president value his office for one bit?

For God’s sake, the absence of President George Walker Bush at the signing ceremony is a clear enough signal to President Kufuor that he (Bush) values and respects his presidency. If you ask me, Dr. Condoleezza Rice is no much for Kufuor hence Paa Kwesi Nduom and Nana Akuffo-Addo’s presence were enough. This was a sign by Bush to tell Kufuor that his presence there is not needed. In my opinion, this is a clear disgrace and disregard for the high office of the president not by the Americans, but by our own president.

However, I would not begrudge Mr. Bush for doing that. I expect my president to know better. It is time the president understands the management principle of “delegation of authority and implement it as such. To repeat, I think Ms. Rice can only be compared to Dr. Nduom or Akuffo-Addo and not His Excellency John Agyekum Kufuor. So Mr. Kufuor should get this clear!!!

Meanwhile I want every objective minded Ghanaian to pause for a moment and take a guess into the mind of George Bush at the time the compact was being signed. I shudder to think that Bush might have had a good laugh at the black man in his White House that “what kind of black man is this that he can’t even delegate his minister who has been in the forefront of the negotiations to sign this compact on his behalf as I am doing and concentrate on working to reduce the plights of his people at home.” Or does the president lack confidence in his hardworking ministers? Mr. President, what do you think of yourself? I strongly think this is disgraceful. You are simply painting the picture that your government cannot survive without this money, which I find very demeaning.

What is worrying also is to discover from an official press statement from Ghana’s foreign affairs ministry that while the president of the republic is in the USA, the delegation would go to Chicago to invite the Mayor to visit Ghana. Isn’t this sickening? How? I mean how can we denigrate the high office of the president in this manner? I would rather think my president would visit the United States to invite President Bush to Ghana than a common mayor. Does this warrant the huge amount of money we will be paying for official per diems? I simply don’t think so. But hold on…, I am not by any stretch of imagination attempting to say that the mayor of Chicago is an insignificant person. My point is simple; that our president needs to deal with people of the same magnitude and respect as he is. Invitation to the Mayor of Chicago, not even a governor of a state could have been done by the Mayor of Accra, Hon Stanly Ejiri Blankson.

In fact these actions of the president only go to fuel the perception that our leaders (African leaders) tremble and fear their colleague white leaders. This mentality needs to be changed. It is simply a disgrace of the black man for our leaders to be acting in such manner. This is pure insult to the black race!! Our president needs to stop cheapening himself. Bush is just a common human being as everybody is. President Kufuor should have pinned his ass on his presidential chair for his ministers to do such simple and easy tasks. I do hope Mr. President and other African leaders would learn from Bush.

Finally, I would like to state that I am personally not happy the way our monies are being spent. The poverty reduction strategy of the government in not making any significant impact. I think it is time government sits down to consider alternative ways of dealing with poverty. Over the past couple of years, Ghana has received an unprecedented inflow of resources that would have significantly reduced poverty. But this is hard to find. Most people in the rural areas of Ghana still cannot afford just a meal a day. Yet they struggle to pay taxes even when going to the toilet. It is time this trend changes and the time is now.

I am therefore calling on the president to make sure that the MCA funds are invested into the right ventures to reduce poverty. Ghanaians need a change in their economic lives. The capacity of our hospitals have hardly seen any change, schools have seen just a little change in infrastructure. Every Ghanaian I speak with admits that times are hard. But my question is where are all these grants and loans going to? Even roads under construction are taking forever to be completed. It will be unpardonable for the MCA funds to be diverted as usual into the pockets of unscrupulous consultants at the expense of the rural poor in whose names the funds have been secured. For once the people would want to see a change in their lives. This could be the only legacy you, President Kufuor could leave for all Ghanaians regardless of political colorations.

Before I stop typing and thinking, I would like you, President Kufuor to give reverence to your office and avoid the unnecessary criticisms. Once again I think your visit to the United States this time was pointless and unnecessary. This is my opinion, hence I don’t care what you think.

James O.K. Afedo
(Co-founder & Vice President, AFRICAN YOUTH CENTER FOR EXCELLENCE)


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