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Opinions of Saturday, 6 November 2004

Columnist: Asiedu, Emmanuel K.

One Good Turn Deserves Another

For years Ghanaians and migrant workers of Sub-Saharan African origin have suffered denials of basic human rights in Lebanon, a country whose citizens enjoy the best of African hospitality in our motherland, due mostly to our color and origin. Lebanese, despite their integration into our society in Sub-Saharan Africa are highly critical and racist towards black Africans. And attempts for Ghanaian and African authorities to see to these despicable crimes and injustice being committed against their nationals and against humanity have proven futile.

This deliberate act of injustice against Ghanaians and black Africans by the people we so revered back home in our motherland, calls forth ones attention to question the long standing rhetoric of Ghanaian/Lebanese and African/Lebanese cordial relationships. How do we define cordial relationship when only one party benefits and the other pays dearly and always plead for mercy? Considering the long-standing rhetoric of African/Lebanese cordial relationship, and the privileges Lebanese enjoys in Ghana and elsewhere in Africa, it is a pity for one to know that Lebanese still considers the black African as less human and therefore treated them as such.

Former President of the International Women?s Federation for Humaneness and Peace, Katrin Acra-Amman, wrote in her letter to the editor of The Lebanese English Newspaper ?The Dairy Star? in August 2002 ?There seems to be a certain sad trend in Lebanon of maid servants falling from employers balconies these days, adding to the unfortunate rise in hit-and-run casualties on roads, which all too often involves people of African and Asian origin. It could be of course, that people from those somewhat less developed countries are not as careful when it comes to watching out for their own safety. Yet, it strikes me as odd that the simple assurance of a servant?s employers to the effect that these unfortunate incidents were accidental, should be sufficient ? if your reporting is correct ? for the Lebanese judicially to close their investigations immediately and without much ado, let alone conducting any meaningful inquiries. Hit-and-run killings involving black foreigners probably get no better judicially follow-up ? at least not to my knowledge. Apart from the fact that black people are less likely to benefit from legal rights in host countries, such as Lebanon, I would be happier if your reporting was less matter of fact about such topics. All of us at one time or another visit other countries and expect to be granted basic human rights there for all eventualities. We should take care, therefore, that we do not claim such rights for ourselves while denying them to others.?

Unless it is a crime against international law or against moral standard for one to seek employment in another?s country, then the way the Lebanese people and their government treat black Africans and other races of less privilege is really sympathetic.

While governments around the globe are wisely and skillfully maneuvering to protect the interests of their nationals both home and abroad, and to protect the heritage of their people and their culture for the dignity of their nations, we seemed to deny our brothers and sisters to please others for individual benefits and glory. As a former Ghanaian ambassador to Egypt once remarked when confronted with the ill treatment of Ghanaians and Africans in Lebanon: ?You came here to find your own fortune,? such a statement from an elite member of a nation!

To answer the unreasonable statement of this diplomat, whose nation had invested in him in order to help build the image of his nation, one should walk the streets of Sub-Saharan African capitals and other major cities around the continent - Almost all the best and much patronized shops and businesses either belong to a Lebanese or an Indian, as if there are no native businessmen who can compete in this lucrative sector of the economy, and therefore confirming Lebanese claims that the black African is uncompetitive and can?t do without them.

Ghanaians and Africans are generally very friendly, generous and lenient to foreigners, but our leniency is mistaken for our weakness and as such, we suffer in the hands of heartless people who benefits from our moderate laws and civilized constitution while denying us basic human rights.

Ghanaian migrants in Lebanon, despite the inhumane conditions and the hardship they have to go through still contribute immensely to the motherlands economic growth through their regular remittance of foreign currency to the motherland.

The acting Minister of interior, Dr. Kwame Addo-Kufour, during a launching of the Ghana Dual Nationality act at a ceremony at Ghana Immigration Service (GIS) on 03 July 2004 praised Ghanaians abroad for their annual remittance of foreign currency, which he estimated at $400. 000 twice the amount of foreign direct investment, and Ghanaian migrants workers in Lebanon are part of it and needs to be thought of.

His Excellency Mr. John Agyekum Kufour lodged a complaint about the abuse of Ghanaians in Lebanon with the former Lebanese ambassador to Ghana, His Excellency Mr. Charbel Aoun when the latter bid him farewell at the castle, Osu, at the end of his 4 years diplomatic service to Ghana, September 2003. Nevertheless, Ghanaians and black Africans face even greater hardships from both the government?s policies and more harshly from the general public especially family members of the so called respectable job providing can?t do without foreigners who held sensitive positions in the motherland for their own benefits and are exploiting the children of nations which has given them so much in the name of un-existing friendship and solidarity.

Perhaps it is high time we stop and reconsider our steps and know who our true friends really are, and to defend our honor so people do not assume we have none!

Among the countless deliberate act of cruelty Ghanaians and black Africans suffered in Lebanon are the two most recent incidents: Mr. Felix Mensah, popularly known by his fellow Ghanaians as Ghetto Boss, came to Lebanon in the early 90s to try and make ends meet for his family back home. Thirteen years latter, and nothing to count on as an achievement for all his hard work in Lebanon, he was finally sent to his grave by a man who insist he had warned him not to use the alley behind his house and beat him to death. The police as usual, did not investigate; let alone bringing the perpetrator to justice.

When Sackey Owereku was about to give birth to her son, she taught it wise to renew her legal documents which was about one month to expire, to save her from having to go through the painstaking task of renewing one?s documents in Lebanon, not to mention the thousand plus dollars involved. A month after given birth to a healthy baby boy by a cesarean operation, Mary found herself in the grip of the Lebanese law for not being in house of the employer in whose name her legal document was issued. She was detained in an underground immigration cell regardless of the fact that she was recuperating from her cesarean operation and away from her one month old baby, despite her acceptance to go back to Ghana, and a plea from the Honorary Consul of Ghana to Lebanon His Excellency Mr. Michel Haddad.

Records of Ghanaians and Africans living in Lebanon with legal documents dated more than 20 to 25 years yet we have to pay hundreds and in some cases thousands of dollars to legalize our stay yearly.

On the other hand, visit Kotoka International Airport on days that Middle East Airlines come to Ghana and verified for yourself-almost all the Lebanese coming to Ghana and other Sub-Saharan African Countries are all using African passports.

Doesn?t one good turn deserve another?

There are greater crimes being committed by these so called respectable, job providing foreigners who live among us, yet little is made known to the public or the media. On the contrary, if one black person commits a crime, there are usually collective punishments.

We are in the twenty-first century, and it is high time Ghanaian and African governments show some real concern and respect for their nationals, and defend their rights no matter what and where they may be. Only then will our nations progress.

Emmanuel K. Asiedu
Jesus and Mary School Rabweh
Antelias, Lebanon

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.