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Opinions of Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame

Senegal Does Africa Proud, Even As Ghana Vacillates

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

In the wake of the devastating earthquake that hit the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince on January 12 Instant, the President of Senegal released a statement via the Associated Press (AP) in which Mr. Abdoulaye Wade indicated, as a matter of humanitarian urgency and a poignant affirmation of kinship, the Senegalese government’s preparedness to receiving any Haitians affected by the 7.0 Richter-Scale tremor who wished to be repatriated to his/her ancestral land. In essence, not only was the Dakar government, literally, throwing an open invitation to Haitians at large, but, perhaps even more significantly, the Wade government was also prepared to offer any Haitian(s) who decided to take the Senegalese premier up on his invitation free passage to the Francophone West African nation of some 10 million people, largely of Islamic persuasion.

And almost readily coming to grips with the fact of his country’s terrain being composed largely of desert tracts, President Wade, through his spokesman, Mr. Mamadou Bemba Ndiaye, added further that if a massive number of Haitians decided to take up the offer, then sincere efforts would be made to guarantee the “repatriates” some of the choicest lands of the country. The Senegalese premier, according to the Associated Press report, monitored by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), was also poised to creating a new administrative region, altogether, for the especial benefit of the Haitians.

Meanwhile, in the Ghanaian capital of Accra, as adumbrated elsewhere earlier on, President John Evans Atta-Mills, caught flatfooted in his largely vacuous, albeit stentorian, pan-Africanist rhetoric, desperately struggled against a sputter, his throat being horribly parched and voice hoarse below the most minimal decibel-level of human hearing, and came up with a rather pathetic grunt to the effect that Ghana would chip in its proverbial widow’s mite “at the appropriate time.” The fairly notable tax-law wonk, until his recent presidential election, that is, had apparently been offered the wrongful translation vis-à-vis the horrific enormity of the Haitian apocalypse by one of his habitually besotted minions at Ghana’s information ministry.

Nonetheless, it is hardly flabbergasting that President Atta-Mills would smugly style himself as the ideological spitting image of the proverbial Nkroful Show Boy. For somewhere in one of the massive tomes authored on/by South African black liberation spearhead Nelson R. Mandela, I believe it is his The Long Walk to Freedom, the future president of a multiracial and democratic South Africa painfully details the flat refusal of President Kwame Nkrumah to meet in Accra with a wanted and underground-operating Mandela, the leader of Umkonto We Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), or the military wing of the African National Congress (ANC). Nkrumah, who had misguidedly chosen to back the Sobukwe-led splinter group, the Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC) would, for good measure, even malign the awe-inspiring Madiba as traitorous reprobate to the African liberation struggle and one shamelessly ensconced in bed with the unconscionable architects and ardent promoters of apartheid.

Thus even at a time when economically far less privileged African countries like Togo, Tanzania and Benin heartily chipped in to facilitate the ANC’s epic battle for the ultimate establishment of a non-racist, multiracial South Africa, Nkrumah’s Ghana, literally held at the throttle by the Show Boy and his so-called Convention People’s Party (CPP), would simply and smugly thumb their nose at Mr. Mandela.

Ironically, those of us who had earlier on been fanatically indoctrinated with a mega-dose of a placebo called Nkrumaism would later become disconsolately confounded when, upon his historic release from an over-served life-imprisonment term in 1990, Mr. Mandela seemed to gloriously and heartily express his profound gratitude to the leaders and citizens of almost every African country, except for Ghana. “How ungrateful this thoroughly jaded jailbird is,” some of us were even tempted to mutter.

In any case, whether the most expedient thing to do is for many an emotionally devastated and psychologically traumatized Haitian to simply jump aboard the next flight from Port-au-Prince or mount the deck of the next ship to weigh anchor at Port-au-Prince, no pun is intended here, of course, and literally abandon the virtual shipwreck that is present-day Haiti, after some three- to four-hundred years of staking up domestic existence in the erstwhile Hispaniola, is really beside the point. What matters more than all else is the prompt and timely demonstration of great and enviable leadership such as admirably exhibited by Mr. Wade at Haiti’s most vulnerable and desperate moment.

In making his landmark offer, President Abdoulaye Wade made it pointedly clear that his was not simply a humanitarian gesture for which Haitians needed to be eternally grateful but, rather, one that was logically and immutably dictated by historical reality: “Haitians are sons and daughters of Africa[,] since Haiti was founded by slaves, including some [who are] thought to [have hailed] from Senegal.”

Needless to say, Mr. Wade clearly appears to have been fully aware of the fact of the bulk of the ancestors of modern Haitians having originated largely from between Eastern Volta and Western Niger. Still, for the erudite Senegalese premier, an African identity is decidedly more of a corporate, or collective, feature than being merely a topical or geographically parochial phenomenon. Such inclusive stance is no happenstance at all, coming from a bona fide native of the land and nation that produced such intellectual and cultural giants as Messrs. Cheikh Anta Diop, Leopold Sedar Senghor, Alioune Diop and Sembene Ousman.

*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is a Governing Board Member of the Accra-based Danquah Institute (DI), the pro-democracy think tank and the author of 21 books, including “Ghanaian Politics Today” (Atumpan Publications/, 2008). He is also a former Honorary Member of the City College of New York chapter of the African National Congress (ANC). ###