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Opinions of Thursday, 21 May 2009

Columnist: Amponsah, John

Obama, Ghana, the Black Gold and Strategic Initiatives

by John Amponsah

This article is a response to recent articles in the world media mentioning the visit of US president Barack Obama to Ghana in July 09. The trip is bound to be a big hit, there is bound to be massive media blitz and Ghana will once again be in the limelight. Michelle Obama is likely to dazzle locals as well as international on-lookers with her fantastic fasion style and her rock-solid (exemplary) personality. Her husband wouldn't be too far behind himself, the US president is known for his warm personality, moving words and his (signature) smile. The visit to the Cape Coast Castle is bound to send a powerful (perhaps symbolic) message out about the role slavery played in shaping the history of the African continent as well as that of the United States and other countries in the world who have significant Black populations resulting from slavery.

However while the tantalizing public events go on and are covered by both local and international media, it is fair to say that there will be other less public, or should we say, closed-door meetings to occur that will affect the future of every Ghanaian. The visit by the US president is bound to have cultural, economic, historical, personal, political as well as strategic dimensions. It should be remembered that the US president not only represents the American people (his primary role and purpose) but also the business/economic and military/strategic interest groups of his country. While the international media may not likely focus as much on the real issues of close-door discussions (certainly the external events will take priority in their reporting), it should be in the mind of the aware Ghanaian citizen that two main areas of focus of US policy in Africa center round strategic initiatives (US Bases etc) and around business and economic activities relating to natural resources. In the case of Ghana, it is likely that the recent discovery of oil should be high on the closed-door discussion agenda. The set up of a military base in Ghana could also likely be on the agenda. It will not be the first time such a proposal will have been forwarded. (see [1] and [2] below for more information). Article [2] (below) also makes a link between the set up of a military base and the protection of oil business.

Certainly the US government also forwards initiatives to support African countries in the fields of business, education and health but the first two areas mentioned (natural resources and strategic positioning) hold greater sway. A recent BBC article quoted the White house as saying that the Obama visit will be geered toward "strengthening the US relationship with one of our most trusted partners in sub-Saharan Africa" [3]. It should also be pointed out that "America has permanent interests, not permanent friends", that much can be said about and a lot can be inferred from the latter statement. Ghana should cherish this partnership with the US but Ghanaian leaders should also not fail to look out for the interests of their own people.

It is for these reasons that I wish our government well in the forth-coming visit of the US president to Ghana. I hope that the best decisions possible will be made to strengthen the prospect of a future of peace and prosperity for the common Ghanaian person who does not have a say in important deliberations and discussions held at the governmental level. Certainly the visit of the US prez is going to be fun, but it's going to be 'business as usual' as well. Now that the oil discovery is ready to be harvested, it is also likely that the military base agenda will rear its head again, as it did in 2003 and in 2006. Permanent interests, brothers and sisters. How that will affect the lives of the common Ghanaian people, only time may tell. I wish that our leaders are granted with the best advisors and I wish them all the blessings and guidance needed to make the best decisions for Ghana and for Ghanaians. The Black Gold, for Ghana, will be a blessing, we will not follow down the path of other countries who are yet to turn their Black Gold into a big blessing for all of their people, instead we should follow countries like Norway and others whose oil money has been used to better the lot of the Norwegian people. This is only one example.

Why is Obama visiting Ghana and not Kenya? Once again it should be remembered that the American president does not act out his role simply out of his personal inclinations. He is, rather, the leader and representative of the American people. His actions, his agenda, are carried out in the interests of the American people. Obama is not coming to Ghana just to hang out with Prez Mills and the Ghanaian people (although that may be part of the visit). So those who ask about why Obama and his team chose to make the visit to Ghana the first official African trip should also bear this in mind. There are cultural, economic, historical, personal, political as well as strategic dimensions to this visit.

I know that the government of Ghana routinely reads through Ghanaweb.com articles so if we send Preident Mills and his team our support and goodwill, the messages are bound to eventually reach them. "What are the people talking about lately?", the president may ask his people..."well they say they are excited about Obama's visit but they also wish that the very best comes out of dealings with the Americans. They are lending you their support and best wishes." So let us lend it to them in the weeks and months to come.

For the rest of Ghana (i.e. those not in government) it should be a big cultural and political event with lots of attention on the country once again. I hope it turns out to be an enjoyable event that creates greater cultural and historical awareness for international on-lookers and one that brings Ghanaians, other Africans and Diaspora-Africans even closer to eachother. It is good for the country and it is good for us all. God bless Ghana!

[1] http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=37603

[2] http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=99811

[3] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8053983.stm

[4] http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=162207