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Opinions of Friday, 11 April 2003

Columnist: Anane, Baffuor Gyau

Politics Of Exclusion Fragments A Nation

Ghanaians do show their political maturity when they go to the pools to choose their national leaders. Their votes transcend tribal and religious affiliations. The elected leaders have also shown political maturity by getting the best-qualified people to help govern the country. The elected leaders do make sure all tribes and people of different faiths are included in the government. In other words, Ghanaians do practise the Politics of Inclusion. The NDC government and other past governments did practise the Politics of Inclusion. The NPP government is also doing very well practising the Politics of Inclusion.

Another credit to Ghana is that no Ghanaian can ever complain about where he or she resides because of his or her tribal or religious background. The Asante living at Ho has the same rights as the Ewes who do not look at the Asanteni as an alien from Mars who must be attacked or harassed. The Ewe or the Ga living at Tamale is loved and respected by the Dagombas as one of their own. The Mfanti residing at Amonokrom has all the rights as the Akuapimni. The only wrath these individuals will incur from the people is when they fall in love with the local chief?s betrothed. The same faith will befall the local men if they start having interest in the chief?s betrothed. Where is the discrimination? Muslims are loved and respected all over the country and there is no discrimination against Buddhists, Hindus, Mormons, Protestants, Catholics, Anglicans, Baptists, Adventists, Jehovah Witnesses, Pentecostals, Sikhs, and Fetish believers. Ghanaians do not discriminate against atheists and agnostics.

Though Ghana is heterogeneous comprising of the Ga/Adangbe, the Akan, the Ewe, the Mole/Dagomba and others in between, the society has evolved into ?homogeneous? Ghana. Ghanaians do not fake their love for one another because of tribal or religious differences. No Ghanaian can claim to have friends from only his or her tribe. And exogamy is commonplace. Ghanaians truly love their country. These are some of the reasons why Ghana has been a stable society. The unique Ghanaian ?thing? has contributed to this. This shows maturity. But the streaming of refugees into the country tells Ghanaians that a neighbour?s problem can be their problem too. If one country in the region is destabilized the other countries are affected. It is only the Politics of Inclusion that can bring peace to the region.

Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana?s first President, and the other Founding Fathers including opposition leaders, started the Politics of Inclusion. Nkrumah did not empower the Nzimas to dominate his government. Neither did he rebuild Nkroful to make it a ?small Paris in the jungle.? He did not build mansions and palaces for himself and his family and friends. President Nkrumah, like any human being, was not perfect. However, he had a vision. He built Ghana and contributed to liberate Africa from colonial rule. Dr. Nkrumah instilled patriotism into Ghanaians and it has helped the society to be peaceful and stable.

Unfortunately, no matter how stable and democratic one country is, chaos in neighbouring countries affects that country. Besides accommodating refugees, the spillover effect is there. Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the Ivory Coast come to mind. Why did these countries fall apart? Politics of Exclusion and warlord mentality which sprout from lack of true democracy are the obvious reasons. Coup d?etats and rebel activities have destabilized these societies.

The denunciation of the recent coup in the chaotic society of the Central African Republic by some African leaders shows that Africans are tired of: ?Today Doe, tomorrow Taylor. Today Patasse, tomorrow Bozize by the power of the gun,? quoting an African diplomat. Unfortunately, some of these African leaders seem to be endorsing a rebel movement that resulted from a failed coup attempt. Rebel movement in the Ivory Coast is now a legitimate part of the Ivorian government. The fighting goes on. And it will go on until Ivorians practise the Politics of Inclusion. The world is watching and praying that the new Government of National Reconciliation will work to end the conflict in the Ivory Coast. If France urged the African leaders to support this arrangement, that is another matter. France meant well. But as a writer says: ?Only Africans are capable of making a difference in Africa,? and for that matter there will be no peace in any African country if they depend on outsiders to tell them how to live and govern their societies. Another writer goes on to say that, ?Africa is too vast and intractable ever to be socially and politically engineered by outsiders, no matter their good intention.? True democracy and the Politics of Inclusion will wipe out the mess in Africa.

One Ivorian resident in the rebel-held city of Bouak?, in an interview with a reporter, pointed to the rag-tag rebels manning a checkpoint and asked, ?Can these people govern a country??

What about politicians who play the Politics of Exclusion and nepotism? Should such people be allowed to rule a country? Politics of Exclusion leads to fragmentation of the society. Already heavy with tribal and clan affiliations, Politics of Exclusion further divides any African country engaged in this type of governance. Politics of Exclusion has led to the break-up of most African societies. A Western author, who once lived in Africa says, ?Africa is materially more decrepit than it was when I first knew it.? He goes on to say that Africa is ?hungrier, poorer, less educated, more pessimistic, more corrupt, and you can?t tell the politicians from the witch doctors.? Politics of Exclusion is the reason why.

Is Africa declining? A columnist gave a beautiful analysis on this issue regarding Ghana, one of the few stable societies on the continent with a democratically elected government. Twenty years ago the middle class could afford at least a Volkswagen, Peugeot, Morris Minor, or a motorcycle. Some drove Volvo, Toyota, BMW, and Mercedes Benz. The per capita income was far better than today's.

In 1976 the cedi was 1.15 to one U.S dollar. What is the rate today? A one way ticket from Kotoka International Airport to Dulles Airport in the Washington, DC area and Kennedy in New York City was between 870 and 920 cedis. How much is the one way ticket today? The society is not fractured by civil war and the people are experiencing true democracy. Though the manufacturing sector is not strong, Ghana still has timber, cocoa, and gold and other minerals that bring in the needed foreign exchange. Other economic activities like tourism are adding more foreign exchange.

Ghana is one of the few countries in Africa that has not had a civil war. The only disturbances Ghana has had are chieftaincy disputes and land litigation problems. These problems can be interpreted by investors as instability in the country and drive them away. These two issues can also ignite a serious upheaval. The government should therefore take serious measures to deal with these issues.

When the right atmosphere is created and population growth is curtailed and jobs are created in the regional and district centers like Ho, Tamale, Sunyani, Koforidua and others, to stem the coming of the youth into Accra and Kumasi, the economy will boom. Accra is too congested because that is where the jobs are. If the government invests in the other areas of the country it will reduce Accra?s rapid population growth. This will help make Accra the beautiful city Ghanaians want to live in and enjoy. A neat, clean city with beautiful beaches and first class hotels will attract foreign visitors.

The government really wants to modernize Accra. That is why President J.A. Kuffuor has created the Ministry of Tourism and Modernization of the Capital City to ?focus special attention on the development of the capital city as an international showpiece.? If jobs are created in the regional centers few people will be coming to Accra for job opportunities. The city will be less congested and modernization will begin.

More than half of the labour force is in agriculture and fishing. These industries are mostly in the rural areas and coastal fishing villages. If the government encourages Ghanaians and helps them to invest in these sectors of the economy, more jobs will be created. Rural entrepreneurship will solve most of Ghana?s economic problems. Mismanagement of the economy by previous governments should not be used as an excuse when the people complain about the high cost of living. Good planning, good fiscal policies, and dedicated and well-qualified Ghanaians at the helm of the ministries and other agencies can turn the economy around. The President?s economic advisers should be well-versed in free-market and international economics. Rural entrepreneurship should be encouraged through low-interest loans and technical advice.

Ghana is not a fragmented nation with rebels and warlords having their own small domains and lording it over the people. Politics of Exclusion is not the Ghanaian ?thing.? True democracy is working. Why is it being difficult for Ghanaians to enjoy a booming economy? Over population and lack of jobs. More people are competing for few jobs. The government is doing its best but more has to be done by creating jobs in the rural areas.

Ghana is not beset with religious extremism that can also tear a society apart. Tribal animosity is not the Ghanaian ?thing.? The country adheres to the Politics of Inclusion. An elected government is in charge providing good leadership and creating the atmosphere conducive to foreign investment. From the look of things all should be well. But it is not so. And Ghana, according to an American newspaper, is one of the best-governed countries in Africa. Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Senegal, and a few others are also included. Ghana?s problem is lack of jobs. Most African countries, however, are declining. Why?

The practice of the Politics of Exclusion that polarizes a nation is definitely one of the major factors. It alienates some sections of the society. If all of Africa truly practises the Politics of Inclusion, tribal and clan ties will weaken, and whatever is ailing the continent will come to light and be tackled and be conquered because human beings give their best when they know they are legitimate part of a great whole. Africa will be stable and there will be peace and progress, and as someone said, ?Africa will cease having more aid workers than investors.?

BAFFUOR GYAU ANANE ? April 7, 2003
FREELANCE WRITER

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