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Opinions of Sunday, 9 October 2011

Columnist: Adu, Kwesi

Why Care About Occupied Palestine or Jailed Cubans in Ghana?

Do You Know What Time it is?

By Kwasi Adu

A member of the NDC government communication team, Mr. Kojo Twum-Boafo, was in a “no holds barred” mood when he remembered that Mr. Kwesi Pratt Jnr. had, in the previous week, criticised the UN speech of the Ghana President. He needed to respond to both Mr. Pratt Jnr. and all the others “who have jumped on” the criticism of the President.

It was towards the tale end of an Alhaji and Alhaji programme on Radio Gold. The topic on the table was not even about the President’s speech. However, it was important to show loyalty by barking at anyone who had dared to criticise the government or the President, however well intentioned it had been. These days, NDC leaders think there is a need to demonstrate personal love, devotion and affection to the President.

These days, in Ghana, it is very difficult to conduct what, in some time past, used to be known as constructive criticism. One had thought that in a democracy, one would be able to utter a dissenting voice in the hope that it would help improve things. Unfortunately, these days, if you criticise the government, you are either being NPP or “giving ammunition to the opposition NPP”. The situation appears to be that both sins are equally grievous. And if you are found guilty, the rottweilers could be unleashed on you. That is how much the space of free speech is gradually being narrowed.

Some of us had thought (probably wrongly) that Ghana elected a President. However, perhaps unbeknown to the President himself, and against his real nature, there are people in the NDC who are impressing upon the rest of us that the President should be considered “King” rather than the people’s President. Under the feudal kingship system, you must be brave criticising the President openly even when you think you are being constructive.

President Mills himself is well known for his tolerance. On many occasions, he has been heard to say that people should feel free to point out if they thought that something was going wrong.

However, if we do not take care, we would be taken into the era of the period of the Animal Farm when any animal that uttered a whimper, which sounded like a critique, would have Napoleon’s fierce dogs set upon him or her.

On Saturday 1st October 2011, Mr. Twum-Boafo, who is also the CEO of the Free Zones Board was unleashed unto those who had criticised the President’s UN speech. He took no prisoners. As far as he was concerned, those critics do not “know what time it is”.

In typical style, he laid into the Palestinians, who had, at no time criticised the Ghana Government. “Who gives a damn whether President Mills says that Palestine should have a state?” Then came the turn of the Cubans: “Who gives a damn what President Mills thinks whether the Cuban 5 will be released or not?”. No one had criticised the President that he did not mention Cuba. I wondered what the need was to lay into the Cubans in this way.

However, it showed the extent to which those around the President had been upset that his UN speech had been commented on. As a result, they have thrown out any diplomatic courtesies and are attacking countries who have never, in our history, offended us.

What we know of the Cubans is that they provide Ghana more than 200 medical doctors a year. In the 1980s and early 1990s, they trained more than three thousand Ghanaian youth who returned to Ghana to be doctors, engineers, etc. Currently they are running an anti-malaria programme here in Ghana. What more could a poor country like Cuba have done to show their brotherliness towards us?

Of course, the Cubans are not happy that the US has jailed five of their citizens who were monitoring the terrorist activities of Cuban exiles in Florida. After all, some of those exiles had downed a Cuban civilian plane, killing more than seventy sportsmen. In the wake of this, the Cubans have embarked on an international campaign for the freedom of the five Cubans. People in Ghana who support freedom for the “Cuban 5” have not tried to force the NDC/Government Communication Team to join the campaign. Why the issue of the “Cuban 5” should have upset them so much is hard to tell. It is hoped that the outburst against the Palestinians was not reflecting the inner thoughts of anyone else who would rather not want to say it openly.

There is something in international relations called “solidarity”. That is what the Cubans have done in relation to Ghana by providing us with doctors and helping to provide higher education for our youth. If we cannot reciprocate those acts, it is a little too much to throw our ingratitude in their faces especially since they are not forcing us to do anything. It is sad when the policy is that “If you help us, we will take it, but if you are in trouble, do not expect us to “give a damn” about you. It is like the fowl, which eats and then wipes his mouth on the floor as if to say that he has not eaten.

In international relations terms, it is not a good idea to be a Robinson Crusoe, since one does not know when one’s country would need support, however tokenistic. What makes Kwame Nkrumah internationally outstanding, even after his death was awareness that you should extend a hand to a needy brother.

These days, we appear to be content with minding our own business only. However, we should sometimes remind ourselves that it is for the sake of some unforeseable future event that is why when we eat the banana, we spare the peels.