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Opinions of Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Columnist: Akoto, Akwasi A. Afrifa

Mills Must Apologize To Cameron - Part I

When British Prime Minister David Cameron said "British aid should come with MORE strings attached" on the Andrew Marr show, he was addressing only the 54 Commonwealth nations. His subject was Human Rights, specifically gay rights. Categorically, his message was geared towards the 41 out of the 54 Commonwealth countries with laws banning homosexuality. "This is one issue which we are pushing for a movement, we are prepared to but some money behind what we believe" added Cameron.

Human rights with gay rights undertones was also a major topic at the Commonwealth Heads of Government conference in Australia this year. An internal document recommended an end to laws banning homosexuality in the 41 Commonwealth nations in the near future. So how did President John Evans Atta Mills come in here?

Ghana does not fall necessarily into the aforementioned category? Was it, thus, necessary for Mills to issue a statement "talking tough" on this matter in such a manner to his peer? .

If it is Nana Addo that Mills and his speech writers and advisors don't respect - as they seek to twist everything he says- was it really necessary for them to project the same tone -and insinuations- on a foreigner, Cameron? The tone, in this case, was even worse because of its undiplomatic nature.

In the first place, of all the strings ALREADY attached - on which the President should have been talking tough already - was this the appropriate subject and the right moment to reaffirm and reassert Ghana's sovereignty and false independence? Secondly, was this threat, this "foreign threat", direct enough and immediately relevant for the president to call a press conference? In fact when I heard the nation cheering on Mills, giving him a "Triumph", I thought the country had been saved from an invasion by Ghengis Khan

But the nation, for three years and counting, has been begging the president to address the immediate and dangerous and pressing issues concerning the actions of his footsoldiers and their commanders and his ministers. Human rights have been abused by his footsoldiers in their quest to seize toll booths, lock up government buildings, burn down party structures. Human rights have been violated as his appointees have been chased out of meetings. Some ministers have ran over citizens with cars; a whole Mayor, the Kumasi Mayor, less than a week ago, mercilessly beat up a party executive; the former first lady, the wife of his party's founder and his contender in the presidential primaries was shamelessly and physically harassed in Mills' hometown with no consequences. His ministers on a daily basis, verbally abuse -mental torture is also human rights abuse-opposition leaders, civil societies and citizens on national radio, television and in the print media. The two former presidents, the PNDC Chairman and President Kufuor are not spared either. Yet not a single press conference has been called to address these combustible issues- not even the Doctors' strike, with lives at stake, could compel the president to call a press conference.

At the thanksgiving service celebrating his "stolen" victory at Sunyani, the president assured the country through the Minister-In-Charge of Sunyani Central Ebenezer Presbyterian Church of Ghana, Rev Joseph Bosoma, that he would not enact laws to ban homosexuality. So what was the rational behind this posturing vis a vis Cameron; especially when the latter was not directly and particularly addressing him nor referring to Ghana's current status on the issue? On the Marr show on BBC One, Cameron said he had spoken to a number of African nations and also through his Foreign Secretary, William Hague. If such a dialogue had occurred between the British and the Castle, it must have come through diplomatic channels so what was Mills' motive in replying Cameron through a press conference?

It is clear that the President was looking for a story to use as a tool to temporarily distract citizens attention from how bad he is running the nation. Clearly, the bad state of the country has heightened the paranoid state at Castle to such a point that Mills and his handlers treat every unwanted news, no matter how indirect, as a direct threat to their chances of wining the elections. They are even ready to hijack stories to cover their incompetence as they have done with Cameron's general statement.

In so doing, they have disgraced the nation in the eyes of the world. In fact, for the second time this year, Mills has taken his domestic political propaganda into the international arena as he did at the 66th UN General Assembly -"his free school uniform speech." And along the way, he has committed every diplomatic blunder known and has unpardonably kept quiet as his government, his party and his supporters insult Prime Minister David Cameron...all for votes. Yes Ghanaians do not want to officially recognized homosexuality -like 95% of countries in the world. Nor do we want to officially and through a political instrument ban it or redefine existing laws, especially by a Fourth Republic Parliament. We just don't want to encourage it, period. We have been doing fine with the status quo.

But President Mills must apologize to Prime Minister Cameron for his distasteful and undiplomatic grandstanding.


I call on President Mills to take Ghana out of the Commonwealth before he leaves office, if he is "tough" enough. Let him walk the "tough" talk.

Akwasi A. Afrifa Akoto.