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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Land: The New International Strategic Asset. How Africa is losing big time

By Lord Aikins Adusei 

There are credible reports that big multinational corporations like Biofuel Africa Ltd in cahoots with corrupt politicians and traditional leaders and with the backing of global financial institutions are buying large tracts of land in parts of Africa, under bizarre circumstances, displacing rural farmers, destabilising rural communities and slowly building up chaos that is further aggravating the poverty situation in Africa.

The international craze for a reduction of carbon dioxide emission from fossil fuel guzzling cars and industries has led to an intense focus on biofuel as the solution to the pollution and associated global warming. But the production of biofuel is not taking place in the sky, it is taking place on land and is leading to a new social cancer that is slowly beginning to emerge. The focus on biofuel as alternative to oil, gas and coal has put new and unrealistic demand on land, and it is on record to make land the most strategic commodity in the 21st Century. The history of land as a strategic asset dates back to the 18th Century. During that period Physiocrats considered land the ultimate source value and all attempt was made to secure it. However, in the 19th Century labour became the most important factor of production as new factories competed aggressively for that resource. Then the importance of labour as the most important factor  of production was replaced by capital in the 20th Century. Access to money was considered the ultimate source of value in production. However, in the 21st Century land is coming back as the most strategic asset.Evidence of this can be seen in the scramble for land not only in Africa but also in Latin America and Russia [1]

Driven largely by a global cartel of land speculators, many energy and agro-multinational corporations are strategically acquiring agricultural lands in poor countries of the global south particularly Africa at a rate never anticipated by land economists. The 2007 and 2008 food crisis and its associated price hikes have forced rich but food insecure countries in the Middle East and the Gulf Region to scrounge for lands in Africa further complicating matters. Meanwhile the belief in some countries in Africa like Sudan and Ethiopia that heavy injections of foreign capital will enhance agricultural technology, boost local employment, revitalize sagging agricultural sectors, and ultimately improve agricultural yields has given the corporations a field day with serious social, economic, political and environmental consequences, [2]

The land grabbing statistics worldwide and Africa in particular is not only overwhelming but is also extraordinary shocking. According to International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) a US-based policy think thank, since 2006 between 15 million and 20 million hectares of farmland around the world have been secured for biofuel and grain production, while between US$20bn and US$30bn has gone investment [3]. 

In Africa the past five years has seen more rich agricultural lands being taken over by food insecure but rich countries in the Middle East and rich multinational firms in Europe, US, and Asia particularly China, Korea and India. Some of the land acquisitions have occurred under bizarre and non-transparent circumstances making experts to warn of the consequences if the practice is not stopped. In Mozambique for example China has US$800 million investment to expand 100,000 to 500,000 metric tons of rice production in the country and Skebab (Sweden) and Sun Biofuels (UK) have acquired more than 100, 000 hectares of land for biofuel production in the country. In Ethiopia, a country noted internationally for its food insecurity and its dependence on handout from the World Food Programme, the government has set aside around three million hectares of farm land to be used to produce grain and biofuel for export. Flora EcoPower (Germany) has acquired 13,000 hectares for bio-crop production while India is investing US$4 billion in agriculture, flower growing and sugar estates in that country. In Tanzania Sun Biofuels (UK) has acquired 5,500 hectares of land for sorghum (biofuel) production while the Chinese firm Chongqing See Corp has secured 300 hectares of farm lands for rice production. In the same Tanzania the Gulf State of Saudi Arabia has requested a lease of 500,000 hectares of land. In Southern Sudan Jarch Capital (USA) has signed a 400, 000 hectare deal with a local army commander while the Middle East and Gulf States of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Kuwait and Egypt together have about 1.045m hectares under their thumb in that country. In the same Sudan, South Korea is running away with 690,000 hectares of farmland secured for wheat production. In Nigeria, Trans4mation Agrictech Ltd (UK) has secured 10,000 hectares of land. In Angola, Lornho (UK) has 25,000 hectares leased to her for rice cultivation and is negotiating for a further 125,000 hectares in Malawi and Mali. China has requested 2 million hectares for jatropha production in Zambia; and in Democratic Republic of Congo the Chinese firm ZTE International has secured 2.8 million hectares for biofuel oil palm plantation [4].

These figures do not only reflect the unequal power relations between rich multinational corporations and governments of rich countries on one hand and poor African countries on the other, but it also reflects the vulnerability of African countries to the predatory activities of rich multinational corporations and governments of these rich countries. This global assault on Africa has the tendency to produce the same negative effects that colonialism has had on the continent.

A major problem is that many of the corruption-ridden governments in Africa are rushing to make land deals with multinationals without proper consultation with the people and without proper studies as to the economic, social and environmental cost of such deals. Another issue is that the lands being giving to corporations by the nonchalance governments in Africa are not empty lands. They are lands that rural farmers farm on and depend on for their livelihoods. That means the farmers whose lands have been taken over by the multinationals are being denied the opportunity to make a living. They are being robbed of the only asset that helps put food on their tables.The lands of the poor farmers are being handed over to rich multinationals to meet the needs of populations elsewhere to the detriment of the local farmers. They are being pushed away by multinationals that are increasingly seeing land as strategic asset that must be acquired at all cost to meet their own greedy, selfish and opportunistic ambitions. 

Many who support corporate land grab efforts in Africa point to Asian-style Green Revolution. Their argument is that allowing land grabbing to go will allow benefits such as revenue, employment, and technology transfer to be bequeathed to countries in Africa. But there are many unanswered questions regarding the so called benefits of land investments in Africa. For example what happens to displaced farmers whose lands are taken for food production to feed populations abroad? What happens to food production and food security in countries where agriculture lands are auctioned to produce biofuel and food to feed economies elsewhere? In some of the countries where land is being taken for food and energy production people already spend between 60-75% of their income on food so what per cent of income of these poor people will be spent on food when it becomes unavailable in the local market? Most importantly what happens to communities when scarce water and other scarce resources that they depend on and which are currently being channeled into food and energy production for export abroad are depleted? What happens to farmlands that are degraded after the food is produced and exported? What happens to the polluted environment after the food and biofuels have been shipped abroad? Little is known of the environmental implications of committing hundreds of thousands of hectares of farm lands into jatropha production. New pests and diseases may emerge to confront poor farmers, who may not have benefited from the jatropha production with serious consequences. For example the use of chemicals to process the jatropha into biofuel may not only lead to contamination of soil, but also the poisoning of shallow groundwater with serious health repercussions for both humans and animals.

As Hornborg (2009) notes: "Generally speaking, social scientists will probably not get too involved in discussions about ethanol with all those engineers, agronomists, and economists who are committed to keeping the global technomass going by feeding it with corn or sugar cane. But we can listen attentively to the debate. We are told, for instance, that the conditions of people harvesting sugar cane for ethanol production in Brazil are appalling. We are told that ethanol production might in fact generate more greenhouse gases than the combustion of fossil fuels. We are told that it will accelerate tropical deforestation and loss of biodiversity. We are told that it will probably yield less horsepower per hectare than just simply growing fodder for horses. And what undoubtedly worries us the most, we are told that it is making food more expensive and contributing to malnutrition and starvation among the global poor" [5].

In Ghana for instance while the Ministry of Agriculture has allowed over 20 companies from around the world, including Brazil, China, Germany, Italy, Norway and The Netherlands, to acquire land to produce biofuels, the ministry has not conducted any study to establish the social, economic and food insecurity implications of such land deals to Ghana as a whole and the affected farmers and the communities in particular.

Current estimates by the World Food Programme (WFP) put the number of people in Ghana who are food insecure to 1.2 million; almost half are people living in the Northern Region of the country where the corporate land grabbing is taking place. In a paper presented during the World Bank Annual Bank conference on Land Policy and Administration in Washington, DC, April 26 and 27, 2010,Kwesi Ahoi, Ghana's Minister of Food and Agriculture admitted that on the whole Ghana remain food insecure. He stated that "Ghana is self-sufficient only in roots and tubers but deficient in cereals where it produces 51% of its needs, fish, 60% of its requirements, meat 50% of requirements and less than 30% of the raw materials needed for agro-based industries. The output of vegetables such as tomatoes and onions, the most widely used, is rather erratic and vacillates between scarcity, sufficiency and glut depending on the vagaries of the weather". [6] Yet, in spite of the food insecurity in the country, Kwesi Ahoi and his ministry are busy supervising the handing over of the same land that could make Ghana food sufficient to non-food producing multinationals.

The acquisition of 23,700 hectares of Ghanaian land by Biofuel Africa Ltd in the northern part of the country has already forced the inhabitants of seven villages that depend on the land for their livelihoods to move to Tamale, the regional capital in search of non existing jobs. These 23,700 hectares of land were taken away from the people without adequate compensation and without viable alternatives. For example Steinar Kolnes, Biofeul Africa Ltd chief executive officer (CEO) in Ghana admitted that the company offered the farmers just options and not compensation: "We don't pay compensation...We gave the farmers two options: To stay and farm their crops alongside the jetropha or leave to other more fertile lands we had provided for them" [7] The question is if there are fertile lands as the chief executive claims why doesn't he use it for his jatropha business? Why is he seizing the poor farmers' land and not use his so called rich land for his jatropha business?

The findings of an in-depth study sponsored by the World Bank on the impact of corporate land grabbing in Ghana have implicated the biofuel corporations in the country. According to the World Bank study published in 2010 [8] "The most direct and immediate impact of biofuels relates to land loss… Some 70 households from three communities were involuntarily vacated from their lands, without any form of restitution, following the harvest of yam (the primary cash crop) from the 2008 growing season. For two of the villages this equated to between 40 and 50 percent of households. Of those households that lost land, on average nearly 60 percent of their total landholdings were acquired by the company. Only 20 percent of households were able to obtain some replacement land, with most households unsuccessful in recovering both the quantity and quality of land lost to the plantation. These households cited increasing land scarcity and land quality concerns as key obstacles."

The World Bank study concluded "In all the plantations assessed households were required to relinquish landholdings for the purpose of plantation development. At the majority of plantations, directly affected households were not consulted by the company, nor did they formally acquiesce to transferring their land. With the exception of one company that promised to pay approximately US$ 1 per acre per year to those losing land, no formal compensation measures have been proposed by other companies or by the relevant Traditional Authorities" [9]. These findings which corroborate Steinar Kolnes' statement that his company does not pay compensation show that the corporations are paying close to nothing for their robbery. The question is how many Europeans, Americans, and Koreans will accept approximately US$ 1 per acre per year as compensation for not farming on a land that acts as the source of livelihood?

Meanwhile similar reports of people loosing their livelihoods are being reported in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Mali, Zambia and war ravaged Sudan. Thus the commodification of land is threatening rural farmers whose lands are being seized by these greedy multinationals acting in cahoots with local politicians and traditional leaders. The consequence of such blind land grabbing by bio-multinationals is that food security efforts of a continent frequently scarred by food shortages, hunger and starvation is being compromised. Such acts are creating unnecessary tension and chaos in many farming societies and helping to destabilise the cohesiveness of rural communities. The peace and stability that many communities have enjoyed for decades are being breached as a result of the land grabs especially in communities where farmers have been left without compensation and without alternatives. The danger is that the carving up of rich arable farmlands for production of non-food commodities such as biofuel if not checked will worsen the continent's food security efforts and force already poor people into hunger and starvation. That warning has been issued already in the GRAIN Report of 2008.

The Report by the Spain based NGO-GRAIN states that: "Food corporations and private investors, hungry for profits in the midst of the deepening financial crisis, see investment in foreign farmland as an important new source of revenue. As a result, fertile agricultural land is becoming increasingly privatised and concentrated. If left unchecked, this global land grab could spell the end of small-scale farming, and rural livelihoods, in numerous places around the world". [10]

The true value of that warning cannot be underestimated because the danger is already appearing. That is the leasing of these lands to multinationals under circumstances that leave much to be desired, as indicated by Ghana's example is forcing many rural farmers to move into the cities and towns in search of non-existing jobs. That is the commodification of land is pushing already poor farmers out of farming and into cities that have little to offer them. These cities are already overburdened with populations and face major problems as discussed by Mike Davis in his book the "Planet of Slums" [11]. In effect the seizing of the poor farmers' land is destroying their only hope of survival on earth. 

Governments in Africa that think major agro-multinationals securing large tracts of land under dubious means could help initiate Asian-style Green Revolution in Africa must know and understand that in Asia the Green Revolution was largely successful because of the role played by smallholders [12]. These smallholders who played pivotal role in making Asia economies food sufficient are the very people being displaced by the multinationals and the rich countries and their hedge fund managers. Such displacements will produce nothing but a backlash with serious economic and political consequences. 

Dangerous consequences are always in the pipeline when corporate interests coincide with that of corrupt and insensitive governments as we have seen between oil giant Shell and the corrupt federal government in Nigeria. Niger Delta crisis was largely created when the interest of Royal Shell Corporation coincided with that of the corrupt regimes that ruled the country since 1966. Thus the accumulation by dispossession currently underway in Africa will definitely produce its consequences not only for people being robbed of their lands but also the corporations acting in cahoots with the indifference governments in Africa. Rich governments securing lands in Africa may altogether lose their investments when landless farmers and hungry communities begin to make claims to what has been unjustly taken away from them. 

The political ramifications of outsourcing lands to multinational have had its first casualty in Madagascar. The toppling of the government in Madagascar after 1.3 million hectares of land was sold to the Korean firm Daewoo and another 465,000 hectares to Varun International of India demonstrates the political cost such non-transparent land arrangement poses to the security and stability of governments in Africa. Lesson should be learnt from that and it must serve as an eye opener to all those scrounging for lands in Africa and in the process helping to destabilise the people and their communities.

When foods being produced by the multinationals and rich governments are exported the shortages that will be created and the associated price hikes will produce devastating and undesirable effects. Avoiding the shortages and its undesirable effects through the implementation of policies that give first priority to smallholders and local farmers producing food for local consumption must be the objective of governments in Africa.


[1] Hornborg, A. 2009. Zero-Sum World Challenges in Conceptualizing Environmental Load Displacement and Ecologically Unequal Exchange in the World-System. International Journal of Comparative Sociology. SAGE Publications.

[2] Kugelman, M. and Levenstein, S. L (eds).2009. LAND GRAB? The Race for the World's Farmland. Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington, D.C.

[3] IFPRI 2009 cited in the Economist "Outsourcing's Third Wave," Economist, May 21, 2009, available from

[4] Hornborg, A. 2009. Zero-Sum World Challenges in Conceptualizing Environmental Load Displacement and Ecologically Unequal Exchange in the World-System. International Journal of Comparative Sociology. SAGE Publications.

[5] Von Braun, J. and Meinzen-Dick, R. 2009. "Land Grabbing" by Foreign Investors in Developing countries: Risks and Opportunities. IFPRI Policy Brief. April 2009.

[6]World Bank, 2010 Annual Bank conference on land policy and administration Washington, DC April 26 and 27, 2010. Government's Role in Attracting Viable Agricultural Investment: Experiences from Ghana

[7] IRIN, 2009. Ghana: Land grabs force hundreds off farms, growers say.

[8] Schoneveld, G. C. et al. 2010. Towards Sustainable Biofuel Development: Assessing the Local Impacts of Large-Scale Foreign Land Acquisitions in Ghana. World Bank.

[9] Schoneveld, G. C. et al. 2010. Towards Sustainable Biofuel Development: Assessing the Local Impacts of Large-Scale Foreign Land Acquisitions in Ghana. World Bank.

[10] GRAIN, 2008 Seized: The 2008 land grab for food and financial

[11] Davis, M.2006. Planet of Slums. Published by Verso.

[12] Jirström et al. 2006. Addressing Food Crisis in Africa - What Can Sub-Saharan Africa learn from Asian experiences in Addressing Food Crisis ITS? CIDA Report

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Power sharing: An ugly Paradigm shift in African Politics

   Gbagbo must be removed by force

Lord Aikins Adusei
*By Lord Aikins Adusei

Dangerous precedents
The year was 2008. The countries: Kenya and Zimbabwe. The subject matter was presidential elections between the then incumbents Mwai Kibaki of Kenya and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and their challengers Raila Odinga and Morgan Tsvangirai respectively. Both elections had similar things in common. The opposition candidates in the respective countries won the elections but the incumbents refused to go, called on their supporters to inflict harm on their opponents and stole the verdict under the watchful eye of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and East Africa Community, the Africa Union and the international community.

First was Mwai Kibaki who came to power after Arap Moi's two decades of corrupt dictatorship came to an end. Kibaki during the campaign promised to weed corruption and put Kenya back as East Africa's economic powerhouse. After using state machinery including the media (electronic and print) he could not win the people's heart and mind. He failed to deliver on his promises and the people punished him for failing. But he refused to go and made diabolical calculations that earned him the presidency of the country under a sham arrangement called 'power sharing'. His refusal to accept the choice of the people led to a senseless bloodbath which resulted in more than 1200 people losing their life. Raila Odinga who had won the election was given the position of Prime Minister.

Then came Zimbabwe. Mugabe too lost to Morgan Tsvangirai after the first round and went about employing all manner of tactics that finally forced Tsvangirai to withdraw from the election effectively handing over the presidency to Mugabe. Kenya's power sharing was imported and imposed on the people of Zimbabwe against their will.

Thus in both Zimbabwe and Kenya power sharing was considered the solution to the debacle in those countries. The Zimbabwe's power sharing deal sponsored by SADC, retained Mugabe as president, while Tsvangirai got the less important Prime Minister position with Arthur Mutambara as Deputy Prime Minister. To add insults to injury Mugabe and his Zanu-PF were given key portfolios, and sweeping powers that placed them in charge of the country. Meanwhile Mugabe has refused to abide by the terms of their agreement that stipulate that both the Prime Minister and the President must consult each other for major appointments. In October 2010, Tsvangirai wrote to the United Nations protesting at Mugabe's unilateral appointment of officials without consultation as stipulated by the agreement.

Thus in Zimbabwe since the government of unity was sworn in more than eighteen months ago nothing seems to have worked. Mugabe and his supporters have done everything in their power to make sure that the unity government does not work. Mr. Mugabe has totally hijacked the implementation and twisted it in his favour. He and his Zanu-PF agents continue to frustrate the unity government forcing Tsvangirai to threaten to pull out many times. As The Economist magazine put it "Mr Mugabe still treats the agreement and his prime minister with contempt. Mr Tsvangirai recently announced that journalists were now free to report on Zimbabwe without government approval, yet he was promptly contradicted by the information minister, a Zanu-PF man, who said that journalists without proper accreditation could face up to two years in jail. After months of negotiations, Mr Tsvangirai at last secured the release of human-rights activists and MDC sympathisers who had been detained, and many tortured, on treason charges. But a few weeks later they were rearrested."

Although better than Zimbabwe in terms of the implementation of the power sharing agreement, Kenya's power sharing implementation is also beset with the same problems despite the rhetoric by the politicians that they would let it work. The negative impact on the disagreements are manifold but the most serious of them all is that in Zimbabwe as it is in Kenya the people who voted for change continue to suffer under the same leaders they rejected. Their economic, social and political conditions have not improved a bit.

It is clear that the concept of power sharing as it has been practiced in both Kenya and Zimbabwe has been flawed and has been a sham that ought not to have been considered in African politics at all. But this appears to be what Laurent Gbagbo is hopping for when he refused to accept the people's verdict. His call for Mr. Ouattara to meet him to dialogue is intended to ensure that he remained president. Gbagbo appears to be towing the same line as Kibaki and Mugabe hopping that by refusing to relinquish power and using the military to terrorise the population he would be able to force Quattara into a power sharing deal. He was also hopping that the regional leaders will support his move for a possible power sharing arrangement. But it is clear from the outpouring of support for Mr. Quattara that Gbagbo hugely miscalculated and underestimated the intelligence of the West Africa and the AU leadership.

Show of Support for Ouattara
Unlike Zimbabwe and Kenya where regional leaders were divided and could not speak with one voice, thereby allowing the stolen verdicts to stand, the leadership in West Africa is speaking with one voice asking Gbagbo to step down and allow the legitimately elected leader to take the mantle of leadership. The support expressed by the leadership in West Africa has not only isolated Gbagbo regionally and continentally but has also reduced his influence in the region to only his southern controlled part of the country.

Reacting to calls by Gbagbo to accept defeat the President of ECOWAS James Victor Gbeho said ""There is nothing to negotiate as far as ECOWAS is concerned. From now on, ECOWAS will deal with Ouattara, not Gbagbo." The UN Secretary General also made it clear to Gbagbo that Mr. Ouattara's nominee for the post of UN Ambassador will be recognised. President Khama Ian Khama's government in Botswana also condemned Gbagbo's power grab efforts in Ivory Coast. "The Government of the Republic of Botswana is deeply concerned about African leaders who reject election results that are not in their favour. Such actions not only deny people the right to have leaders of their choice, but also thwart efforts to maintain peace and security on the African continent". Morgan Moseki, Botswana Congress Party's Secretary for International Affairs released statement saying "We urge the AU not to allow the Kenyan and Zimbabwean style Government of National Unity in Ivory Coast as this creates good precedence for losers who remain heads of state with full privileges despite the outcome".

The strongest show of support came from Kenya's Prime Minister Raila Odinga who has called for Gbagbo to be removed by force. Odinga (himself a victim of electoral short-change) said in a news conference in Cancun-Mexico that "Mr Gbagbo must be forced even if it means using military means to get rid of him because he is just now relying on military power not people power to intimidate the people. He thinks that he can basically intimidate the people to submission so that he can continue to rule in undemocratic fashion. This will only spell doom and destruction for Ivory Coast." "What is building up in Ivory Coast now is a tragedy Africa cannot afford this time and one that the international community must not allow at any cost."

The message from West African leaders and the Africa Union leadership has been loud and clear: Africa will not accept such blatant abuse and entrenchment of power. They will no more tolerate or support autocratic regimes that are hell bent on controlling power at all cost.

Meanwhile the Central Bank in West Africa Chaired by Mali's President seem to have pulled the plug denying Gbagbo access to funds that could help him sustain his illegitimate regime. According to the Reuters News Agency a statement issued by the West African Central Bank stated "The council of ministers has taken note of the decisions of the U.N, the African Union, and of (West African regional body) ECOWAS, to recognize Alassane Ouattara as the legitimate elected president of Ivory Coast," and that only appointed members of the "legitimate government" would be allowed to access funds held in the central bank's accounts.

The blow to deny Gbagbo funds was made heavier after the World Bank also announced that it was cutting all financial help (loans and grant) to the country. The European Union led by France, (former colonial power) has been threatening sanctions. The United States has also proposed sanctions threatening to freeze assets of Gbagbo and his key allies held in the US.

Defiance and acts of violence
But so far Gbagbo has stood his grounds and has remained stubbornly defiant urged on by the country's military. At the same time he and his supporters appear to be adopting the crude tactics Mugabe adopted: arrest, torture and killing of those suspected to have voted for his opponent. Kyung-wha Kang, the U.N. deputy high commissioner for human rights, said "Between 16 and 21 December, human rights officers have substantiated allegations of 173 killings, 90 instances of torture and ill treatment, 471 arrests and detentions and 24 cases of enforced or involuntary disappearances,". "We have credible reports that almost 200 people may have already been killed, with dozens more tortured or mistreated, and others may have been snatched from their homes in the middle of the night," U.S. ambassador Betty E. King said during the Human Rights Council's meeting in Geneva.

Y. J. Choi, the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative in Ivory Coast, said he was personally prevented from visiting a site suspected to be a mass grave. "I went there and we were about to enter into negotiations then reinforcement came with young men mounted on pick-up trucks […] with rocket launchers directly aiming at us… Finally, because of our rules of engagement we returned but we will continue to try to reach this site to verify the facts." "I met him several times to deliver two messages: that he lost and must accept it; the second message was if his action to change the results of the election results in serious violations of human rights then there would be no turning back. He will be dragging […] people into tragedy."

Gbagbo must be removed by force
The overwhelming support Mr. Ouattara has received internationally suggests that no matter how hard Gbagbo tries to remain in power he will only be doing damage to his reputation as a statesman and ruin his country's economy as Mugabe has done. This will be too obvious if the threats of sanctions against him and his government are implemented. The logic of the sanctions is that it will make it difficult for him to govern his country. The soldiers who are backing him may switch side or may turn and remove him after the sanctions begin to hit them. There is a clear similarity between Gbagbo's cling on power and what happened to Mamadou Tandja of Niger when he took a similar path.

Although the condemnation and isolation and threat of sanctions by the ECOWAS, AU, EU, US and UN is a welcoming development I believe the whole idea to use sanctions to cripple him cannot be a viable option; it cannot bring the change in leadership that Ivorians voted for. It has not worked in Zimbabwe and will not work in Ivory Coast. Gbagbo as stubborn as he is will want to cling on to power at all cost, even if it means totally collapsing the country. Let us not forget that Gbagbo became president by default and has ruled Cote D'Ivoire in the last ten years without the mandate of the people. He deliberately thwarted all effort to hold credible, transparent free and fair elections adopting tactics that enabled him to postpone the elections several times.

I must admit that I am not a big fun of military intervention and I have spoken against it in some quarters especially when Paul Collier suggested it as way of getting failed states like Somalia back on their feet. But when a leader like Laurent Gbagbo fails to do what is reasonably acceptable in human society and tries to plunge his country into a senseless blood bath and deny Ivorians the hope of a better future then the only hope to restore that hope is to use force. This is why I strongly agree with Raila Odinga that all options must remain on the table as dialogue continues. However, it must also be made loud and clear to Gbagbo that Africa and the international community will only accept Ouattara leadership as president and nothing less. The message must be made loud and clear to Gbagbo that Africa and the international community will use force to bring about the change that Ivorians hope for should the need arises. That message must also include the warning that he Gbagbo and his backers will join Charles Taylor in The Hague to answer for any crime they commit in the country. We cannot be serious about regional security, stability and development if we cannot implement military intervention to bring about that security and stability. It is the actions of persons like Gbagbo that continue to insulate Africa from the global economy and force investors to go elsewhere despite the huge resources found on the continent. Africa should not accept Kenya and Zimbabwe style power-sharing arrangement that so far has not delivered any tangible results to the ordinary people living in those countries. Gbagbo must not be allowed to ruin his country as Mugabe has done to Zimbabwe. It must be understood that Gbagbo does not command the support of the people as the election results indicate; neither does he have any valuable options. The only option available to him is to accept defeat.

If the wish of Gbagbo and the military leaders in the country is to plunge Ivory Coast into another senseless bloodbath, then that wish must be denied of them. Therefore any attempt to legitimise Gbagbo's rule through power sharing arrangement will set a dangerous precedent in West Africa, a region already noted for its instability and political upheavals. Those who want to take Africa back to the Stone Age like Gbagbo must be stopped at all cost.

Part of the Article 20 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights states that "Colonized or oppressed peoples shall have the right to free themselves from the bonds of domination by resorting to any means recognized by the international community." This article enjoins Ivorians to resist any form of domination by any entity including their own leaders who want to rule them without their mandate. In this instance it is clear that the people of Cote D'Ivoire are under Gbagbo's bonds of domination and must be helped to free themselves from his oppressive regime. We will do a great injustice to the people of Ivory Coast if Gbagbo is allowed to rule as president.

Therefore if he refuses to accept defeat and allow Ouattara to govern then he must be removed by force. The removal of Gbagbo by force will send a powerful message to current and would be tyrants that their corrupt and autocratic style of governance will no more be tolerated on the continent. Therefore, Nigeria, Kenya, Botswana, South Africa, Ghana, Senegal, Tanzania, Malawi and all countries in Africa that believe in democracy and freedom of the people to choose who should lead them should get prepared to contribute soldiers to unseat Gbagbo should the current efforts to persuade him to go peacefully fail.

West Africa and Africa military planners must begin to put a force together. The peace, stability and hope that ECOMOG brought to Liberia must also be brought to Cote D'Ivoire. The campaign must be shock and awe and decisive. Securing the airport and the harbour in Abidjan as well security and energy installations and borders must be a priority so at to cut Gbagbo's supply line and force him and his backers to capitulate. If the shock and awe strategy fails to bring him down then he must be fought to the end captured dead or alive. That means ECOMOG must be prepared to dig in for a long battle and be prepared to take casualties for it is only when they are prepared to take casualties can they also bring the illegitimate government down. The UN 10,000 strong peacekeeping force in the country must be given the mandate to fight along side ECOMOG because as the situation stands today there is no peace for them to keep in the country.

To get the support needed the campaign must be African led; and civilian casualties must be avoided as much as possible. Neighbouring countries must secure their borders and also get ready to accept people fleeing the country and provide them with food and shelter until such a time that peace returns to the troubled country.

The precedents set by Mugabe and Kibaki and encouraged by regional power brokers seem to have informed Gbagbo that he too could have his way. Perhaps if EAC and SADC regional leaders and Thabo Mbeki in particular had been more vocal and supportive of Morgan Tsvangirai and Odinga as the West Africans are doing the debacle and the dysfunctional unity governments in Zimbabwe and Kenya as we have them today would have been averted including the dangerous precedents set by Kibaki and Mugabe and being followed by Laurent Gbagbo.

The actions of West African leaders, as well as those of AU, UN, EU and the US in the coming days and perhaps weeks will be crucial to what happens to the change and hope that Ivorians voted for. For now the options for Gbagbo is to admit defeat, leave office peacefully or be prepared to be removed by force.

*The author is an anti-corruption campaigner and the author of "Switzerland: A parasite feeding on the economies of poor African and Third World Countries?"

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Africa: The past decade, and The next decade

Another decade is about to end and as usual we will be discussing Africa: the economy, the politics, social achievements, progress, development, failures, and what the next decade can offer Africa. To begin with Ghana established itself as the doyen of African politics after two successful power transfers between opposition and incumbent parties. South Africa emerged as the economic powerhouse of Africa becoming the only African country to be made a member of the G-20. South Africa successfully hosted the 2010 Fifa World Cup after been written off by western media commentators. Ghana surprised everyone in the 2010 world cup by reaching the quarter finals. Angola is poised to overtake Nigeria as Africa's largest oil exporter in the coming decade. But thanks to the greed in Wall Street and Capitol Hill many of the successes chalked had been eroded.

African leaders strongly rejected the US imposed AFRICOM but other countries are still secretly negotiating with the Americans. 

Goodluck Jonathan assumed the mantle of leadership in Nigeria he appears to be doing a marvelous job for Nigerians and Nigerians seem to approve the work done so far. But challenges remain. 

William Kamkwamba, a Malawian boy established himself as one of the best brains on earth after harnessing wind in his village to produce electricity.

Most of the corporate financed wars that plagued West Africa in the 1990s have ended especially those in Liberia, Sierra Leone. Rwanda is peaceful now. But Ivory Coast is spoiling the party for everyone due to the resumption of hostilities in that country. 

The International Criminal Court continues to target Africans using Africa as a test case. Ocampo indicted only Africans for trial living Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Tony Blair and the hawks in Washington who invaded and killed Iraqis.

The dictators refused to go except those struck by death. Dictators like Omar Bongo and Lansana Conte died and left their loots behind. Mugabe is still firmly in control after the 2008 carnage against opposition members and supporters. Many of the countries have shown real economic progress. 

Monday, September 6, 2010

Mills' boy stops Nana Addo

It is this childish behaviour on the part of traditional and political leaders that has made central region one of the poorest in the country despite all the good schools in that region. Is Osabarima Kwesi Atta really Osabarima? I doubt it. If he is why did he have to pretend as if he is not a man for all his people but only for NDC?

As for Mills I am beginning to doubt his ability to take decisions not based on the crazy and childish NDC ideas. What did Mills gain personally and politically for sidelining the opposition? Did it put money in the pockets of Ghanaians? Did it supply water and electricity to the impoverish people of the central region? Did it reduce the high cost of energy and fuel prices or improve the shortage of gas in the country? The behaviour of Mills and his lieutenants show that they have still not grown up so far as politics, national unity  and national development are concerned.

I wish Mills could put his professorial skills into use and refuse to dance to the tune of the little minds that surround him.

The decision of Osabarima Kwesi Atta and Mills to sideline the opposition was very immature.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Ghana:24th February--A Dark Day In Our National History

February is here hence it is not surprising that important news items of our historical past have started dominating the news items both at home and on the web. First this month is declared across the globe as African heritage month, it is the month in which a holiday in memory of Martin Luther king is observed, it is the month in which the death of J. B Danquah is commemorated but sad of all it is the month in which Kwame Nkrumah was overthrown in the first coup d' tat in our country.

Since the Overthrow of Kwame, we have been treated with various theories to justify his removal from office; Kwame was accused of abusing human rights and undermining civil liberties of every Ghanaian. His economic and social policies were undoubtedly the best our country ever had yet every effort is made to discredit the man whose fame and popularity grows with every generation of Africans.

Ironically, the more Kwame opponents dead and alive try to discredit him, the more they endear him to young and growing Africans. For those of us who knew not this world at the times of Nkrumah but have come to admire him, it is because we have gone beyond the conspiracy theories in Ghana crafted purposely to undermine him in history, to search for alternative answers. Thankfully the real truth is now emerging. Gradually American declassification secret documents would lead to names being mentioned for our objective judgement.

Given that abuse of civil liberties is often cited as the main reason for the overthrow of Nkrumah as seen in among other documents, General Ankrah?s declassified letter to Lyndon Johnson, it is proper to ask, why is Kwame Nkrumah who began as a democrat took such draconic measures to silence opposition to his government? To begin, we must acknowledge that abuse of civil liberties in whatever form is wrong and condemnable, however, it is equally important to understand the events in Ghana at the time, against the background that several attempts were made at Kwame Nkrumah's life by some power hungry individuals who eventually became the beneficiaries of his downfall. It cannot be denied that bombs were thrown at Nkrumah on more than one occasion, and there were both covert and overt plans to undermine his regime and national stability by forces within aided by forces without from the very moment Richard Nixon asked the famous question 'will it work'. Those who cherish their civil liberties as granted by the state, must know that national leaders who protect ours, also deserve to have their rights and liberties, which when threatened, the response could be catastrophic; this fact is often forgotten when the story of Kwame is told.

One is yet to see any government who failed to responds in like manner or who acted differently, when threatened. In the world today, George Bush who prides himself as the leader of the free world is going down in history as the American President who presided over the worse human right and civil liberty abuses in the world. Thousands of human beings are being held in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guatanamo bay near Cuba and in fact in the US itself, without any lawful trial as a response to the threats posed by Osama Bin Ladin and his cohorts. The patriot Act passed in the US in response to 9/11 is more draconic and dangerous than Kwame Nkrumah?s Preventive Detention Act (PDA); both are simply unacceptable and inhuman.

The Americans who masterminded the overthrow of Nkrumah certainly had motives other that Nkrumah?s perceived or real dictatorship. Their motive was to destroy our young and industrialising nation, as well as demoralise the visions of all independent African states. This they succeeded in doing with the assistance of what Kwame himself called ?certain unpatriotic sons of Africa.? Reading the declassified letter General Ankrah wrote to Lyndon Johnson, one cannot help but bow his head in shame. In fact 24th February is our national day of shame. In the face of other declassified documents, it is apparent now that, that letter was written by CIA agent-- Howard Banes in Ghana for General Ankrah to sign in order to insulate America against future consequences of the coup.

In view of the publication of Ankrah?s letter; president John Kufour's second inaugural comments on Richard Nixon?s question to his British counterpart; continuing attempts to vilify Nkrumah by certain individuals and groups for political reasons; and calculated steps to project his opponents to near sainthood, it is proper that Ghanaians and Africans are told what other US declassified documents about the overthrow of Nkrumah contained. Much of this is published by the New African** which posited that ?Ghana's attempt to lift itself from agrarian poverty to a shinning example of African industrialisation was frustrated and finally killed off. Nkrumah inaugurated the Akosombo Dam on 26 January 1966. A month later 'on 24 February 1966' he was overthrown in a military coup masterminded by America in collaboration with Britain and France (according to former CIA officers who have written books about it, and recent declassified American government documents). The documents, declassified at the end of 1999 but recently made public, show that the American government started talking about Nkrumah's overthrow as far back as 6 February 1964 ' two full years before the actual event' when the then secretary of state Dean Rusk and the CIA Director John McCone met and picked the Ghanaian general, J.A. Ankrah, as the man to take over from Nkrumah.

From that meeting, the action snowballed into America recruiting Britain and France to help break the back of Ghana's economy by manipulating it from afar, in order to create disaffection among the Ghanaian people and hasten Nkrumah's downfall. The declassified American documents show that on 6 February 1964, William C. Trimble, the then director of the State Department's West African desk, wrote a memo entitled 'Proposed Action Programme for Ghana' to the assistant secretary of state for African affairs, G. Mennen Williams, saying: Although Nkrumah's leftward progress cannot be checked or reversed, it could be slowed down by a well conceived and executed action programme. Measures which we might take against Nkrumah would have to be carefully selected in order not to weaken pro-Western elements in Ghana or adversely affect our prestige and influence elsewhere on the continent.' Trimble continued: 'US pressure, if appropriately applied, could induce a chain reaction, eventually leading to Nkrumah's downfall. Chances of success would be greatly enhanced if the British could be induced to act in concert with us.

?Intensive efforts should be made through psychological warfare and other means to diminish support for Nkrumah within Ghana and nurture the conviction among the Ghanaian people that their country's welfare and independence necessitate his removal.' On 12 February 1964, a high-powered American-British meeting on Nkrumah was held at the White House, attended by (on the American side) President Lynden Johnson, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Under-Secretary of State Harriman, and Special Assistant to the President on National Security Affairs, McGeorge Bundy. On the British side were Prime Minister Douglas-Home and Foreign Secretary Butler. 'One could not be sure how long Nkrumah would last,' Butler said at the meeting, according to the minutes recently released with the declassified American documents. On 26 February 1964, another meeting on Nkrumah was held at the White House. Present this time were the CIA director McCone, his close friend Edgar Kaiser (the same man working with Nkrumah on the Volta River Project), and William P. Mahoney, the US ambassador in Accra. The declassified documents record McCone as saying at the meeting: ?I asked Ambassador Mahoney if he felt that the CIA was operating independently of his office [in Accra]? Mahoney answered absolutely and positively no.'

Mahoney returned to Accra after the meeting and went to see Nkrumah on 2 March 1964. According to the declassified documents, he reported back to Washington, thus: 'I said [told Nkrumah] that I am in full control of all US government activities in Ghana. I could assure him without hesitation that during my incumbency absolutely nothing has been done by any US agency, which could be construed in any way as being directed against him or his government. Nkrumah replied with words to the effect: 'I will take your word for it' Mahoney continued: 'I repeated that there had been no conceivable activity on our part to subvert or overthrow him. I pointed out how inconsistent our entire aid effort, aimed at assisting and strengthening his government is, with wild accusations in [the] Ghanaian press that the US [is] acting against him. 'I added that, speaking frankly, our main intelligence effort is to keep an eye on his Soviet and Chinese friends, whose activities are really large scale? [Al beginning has been made in effort to dispel some of Nkrumah's misconstructions on [the] role of CIA, [but] pressure should be kept up.? On 23 March 1964, Mahoney again sent a telegram to Washington, saying: 'I believe someone has to keep hammering him [meaning Nkrumah].? On 9 April 1964, acting on Mahoney's advice, the assistant secretary of state for African affairs, G. Mennem Williams, wrote an action memo to the under-secretary of state, Harriman, saying the US should ?keep continuing pressure on [Nkrumah] to maintain his relations with the US on a tolerable basis' We shall consult with the British in the next few days to discuss what contribution they may be able to make in this area.'

On 11 March 1965, the CIA director McCone and others, including Ambassador Mahoney met in McCone's office to take the 'Nkrumah project' a step further. According to the declassified documents, the topic was: ?Coup d'etat plot, Ghana?. The minutes of that meeting show Mahoney telling McCone that Western pressure was working against Nkrumah. 'Popular opinion was running strongly against Nkrumah,' Mahoney said, ?and the economy of the country was in a precarious state.' However, Mahoney was ?not convinced that the coup d'?tat now being planned by Acting Police Commissioner J.W.K. Harlley, and Generals Otu and Ankrah would necessarily take place?. Yet, he (Mahoney) was sure that 'one way or another, Nkrumah would be out within a year'. According to the minutes, McCone asked Mahoney: 'Who would most likely succeed Nkrumah in the event of a coup?? The answer: ?Ambassador Mahoney stated that initially, at least, a military junta would take over.'

Mahoney was supported by Robert W. Komer who had replaced McGeorge Bundy as President Johnson's assistant for national security affairs. An old CIA hand, Komer, according to the declassified documents, advised his bosses, thus: ?We may have a pro-Western coup in Ghana soon. Certain key military and police figures have been planning one for some time, and Ghana's deteriorating economic condition may provide the spark. ?The plotters are keeping us briefed, and State [Department] thinks we're more on the inside than the British. While we're not directly involved, (I'm told) we and other Western countries (including France) have been helping to set up the situation by ignoring Nkrumah's pleas for economic aid' All in all, looks good.' Soon after the New Year 1966, having finished his job of softening the ground, Ambassador William Mahoney was recalled home. In his place, Washington sent an African-American: Ambassador Franklin H. Williams, who was Nkrumah's mate at Lincoln University (the Class of 1941).

Williams was barely two months in Accra when the coup happened, on 24 February 1966 while Nkrumah was en route to Hanoi via Beijing on a peace mission (sanctioned by President Lynden Johnson himself) to stop the Vietnam War. Nkrumah never forgave Ambassador Williams ? his mate at university and a fellow black man. In his book, Dark Days In Ghana, Nkrumah said Ambassador Williams' ?treachery provides a sharp reminder of the insidious ways in which the enemies of Africa can operate. In the US, the ?Uncle Tom? figure is well known. We have mercifully seen less of him in Africa.' On 21 July 1969, Dr Marvin Wachmann who was about to leave as president of Lincoln University, wrote to Nkrumah then in exile in Guinea, saying: ?As I prepare to leave, I would like to write a word on behalf of Franklin H. Williams of the Class of 1941? Mr Williams is a very bouncy and vigorous individual, and I have never seen him so crushed as he has been, concerning your feelings that he was involved in some way in the episodes in Ghana. He has assured me, personally, that he had no knowledge of the coup.' Not very amused, Nkrumah told June Milne, his research assistant for 15 years and later publisher: 'It is extremely unlikely that Williams did not know what was going on in the embassy with CIA officers operating from there.'

Nkrumah's viewpoint was supported by the former Ivorian president, Felix Houphouet Boigny, in an interview with Paris-based magazine, Jeune Afrique, published on 4 February 1981. He told the magazine: ?Destablisation is not a new thing. Did you know why Idi Amin made his coup in 1972? It was not he who did it, but the British. He did not even know what he wanted himself. It was the same in Ghana when the military overthrew Nkrumah. They [the Ghanaian coupmakers] came to see me. I asked them why. They replied: ?All is not well any more.? Is that all? [I asked them]. I also asked them what they were going to do; they did not know. People outside knew it for them.? On 12 March 1966, less then three weeks after the Ghana coup, Robert W. Komer, the then special assistant to President Johnson on national security, wrote a congratulatory assessment to the president, saying: 'The coup in Ghana is another example of a fortuitous windfall. Nkrumah was doing more to undermine our interests than any other black African. In reaction to his strongly pro-Communist leanings, the new military regime [in Accra] is almost pathetically pro-Western.'

After the coup, Western journalists descended on Accra to mock Nkrumah. The BBC 'Black Power' documentary picks up the story from here? Howard Banes who was the CIA station chief in Accra engineered the overthrow of Kwame Nkrumah. Now, obviously, you can look at it in different ways. A Ghanaian might say I thought we did it. Inside the CIA, though, it was quite clear. Howard Banes had a double promotion and an Intelligence Star for having overthrown Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana. The magic of it, what made it so exciting for the CIA, was that Howard Banes had had enough imagination and drive to run the operation without ever documenting what he was doing, and to sweep along his bosses in such a way, that they never knew what he was doing, tacitly they approved, but there wasn't one shred of paper that he generated that would nail the CIA hierarchy as being responsible. In the late 1960s, Western journalists travelled to Ghana to pick up the bones of Nkrumah's industrial experiment. Their contentious reports seemed to confirm to the West a new myth of Africa, a continent unable to handle the complex pressures of industrialisation. Immediately following the coup both western journalist and their local agents treated Ghanaians and the world to various theories explaining the Nkrumah?s overthrow. Ghanaians and the world was made to understand that the Kwame wasted our national resources and money on irrelevant national projects like the 12 miles Accra-Tema motorway, the Black Star Square, the Akosombo Dam and the State House among others. Unfortunately, many Ghanaians including our own president, J A. Kufour bought into this theory.

It is ironic and sad to see President Kufour stand on the grounds of the very Black Star Square considered as one of Nkrumah?s waste projects, and repeat his adherence to the Nkrumah-Waste Theory; when he claimed Ghana was rich at independence but all the money was wasted. Mr. President, I beg to defer, as New African** puts it, ?even the most strident opponent of Nkrumah agrees that the Tema Motorway, the State House (or Job 600), and the Black Star Square were no 'white elephants'. They were a necessary part of the national infrastructure that had to be built at one point or another. Today, all parades, big national events and presidential inaugurations, including those of Presidents Hilla Limann (1979), Jerry Rawlings (1992 & 1996), and John Kufuor (2001), are held at the Black Star Square. The Tema Motorway, serving the country's main in-bound port, is still the best piece of road in the country. Without it, the Tema port will be useless. Today, Kaiser's smelter at Tema still operates on cheap electricity from the Akosombo Dam. Almost all the 68 state-owned factories in existence at Nkrumah's overthrow have now been sold off to private operators, mostly Westerners and Asians from the Far-East, as part of the IMF/World Bank structural adjustment programme. And the country has been declared an HIPC ' Highly Indebted Poor Country' Perhaps Nkrumah would also divest these state-owned institutions to private hands under today's circumstances but certainly not to foreign hands. His believe in the Ghanaian and African people; would have given our privatization an indigenous outlook.

Ankrah sounded in his letter dated 24 March 1966, (exactly one month after the Kotoka Coup) to Lynden Johnson, as if Johnson knew nothing about Ghana?s coup. As you can deduce from this piece, Ankrah is not only a hypocrite here, but was also used to serve American interest. In any case why did Ankrah find it necessary to write and explain the circumstances to Johnson? Who do they think they were fooling? But Ankrah is only a small fish among bigger ones. With time, the names of those individuals who were on the CIA payroll to subvert our national pride, would all be made public, then we shall examine the sincerity of all those who claim to be acting on our behalf when they helped throw bombs at Kwame. It was naive for General Ankrah and his men to think that US was helping them fight a just cause when at the time the US itself was paying lip-services to the civil liberties and rights of African-Americans, segregating against blacks in public places. When shall we learn? When shall we allow the common good of all to supersede individual interest? Didn't the US assassinate or if you like stage a coup to topple John F. Kennedy (JFK) for his overt desire to grant civil liberties to African-Americans? It is not surprising that Lynden Johnson, who succeeded JFK, after the American coup, presided over the overthrow of Kwame Nkrumah as can be deduced from Ankrah?s letter published earlier by Ghanaweb:

It is already established that nothing can erase the memory of Kwame Nkrumah from the annals of Ghana and Africa. At the close of last millennium, then almost 30 years after his death, he was voted the greatest African of the melinninum by a BBC survey and opinon poll. At the moment he is not surpassed as the most prolific writer and author of all African leaders past and present. In addition, no African leader has as yet matched the continuing research and publications devoted to studying the visions, ideas and philosophy of Nkrumah. There are thousands of websites devoted to studying and spreading the ideals of Nkrumah by scholars and students of various persuasions cross the globe. It is about time Ghanaians are treated with the truth about Nkrumah; for the more remnants of his detractors try to vilify him, the more he is deified by present generations of Africa. If Kwame Nkrumah continues to receive such great admiration and reverence from people of all walks of life against the background that when he was overthrown, his statues were demolished, his party was banned, and his books and other publications were removed from shelves in libraries and bookstores and destroyed, then, we must ask; what has endeared him to growing generations of Ghanaians like myself and other Africans? We must acknowledge Kwame as our hero, and the symbol of our national unity and nationhood. Many colleague African students I have met in North America have always wished that Kwame was of their nationality. Jama Mohamed Ghalib, a Kenyan commenting on Kwame Nkrumah as the greatest son of Africa in September 2004 No. 19 edition of the New African had this to say ?most Africans acknowledged Nkrumah as unequalled inspiring genius and political thinker. He deserves to be remembered as the true son of Africa?the only country where opinion may still be divided about him is Ghana itself.'*** Isn't it sad that others perceive us this way'

Certainly not every Ghanaian would have the opportunity to do as much as Nkrumah did for our part of the world. By the dictates of our democratic system, only few will chance upon that moment. Currently president Kufour has that opportunity to prove to all Ghanaians that given eight years, he can do more than Kwame did in nine years. Instead of spending your good time on casting insinuation at Nkrumah, Mr. President, focus on what is most important to the Ghanaian people and never forget that history will also judge you. If you have any concerns about Nkrumah, it must be how to surpass his great achievements and not casting slur on his personality and period. Irrespective of what you think of Kwame, you cannot change his place is history. And please be remaindered that those who live in glass houses must not through stones. If you are happy to be the Ghanaian president that will preside over the 50 years independence celebrations in Ghana, you must be thankful to Kwame. Mr. President, your comments in more recent times at certain public gatherings are unlike you. Power could sometimes make you forget your true self and the principles you aspire to in life. Just never lose your consciousness and sense of good judgment. In additional you must learn a few lessons from events of the 1966 coup and let your actions, and particularly your dealing with the Americans be guided by the interest of Ghanaians. America is capable of undermining your good intentions and influencing your government even against our national interest. Above all, know that thirty years from now, America will declassify all your communications and dealing with them, then we and our children and their children will pass a historical judgment of your government. You have a lot to learn from the on-going declassification of secret American documents on events relating to our country's past. Now that Eyadema is also dead, let us hope France will begin to declassify, then we shall put all the pieces together to form the whole. Ankrah?s hypocrisy, Kotoka?s naivety are stabs in our hearts; let us resolve never again to allow deceit, lies and self interest override our collective good.
** New African, Feb2002 Issue 404, p20, 6p, 5bw 
*** New African, September 2004 No. 19

Friday, August 6, 2010

Ghana: Making Sense of our Democracy

The status of Ghana as an emerging democracy has been acknowledged the world over. The opposition New Patriotic Party’s unprecedented flagbearership election on August 7, 2010 that saw the re-election of Nana Akuffo Addo as the party’s candidate for the 2012 elections has added a new and positive dimension to the credentials of Ghana as the pacesetter of Africa politics.  It is fair to say that Ghana’s current democracy which begun in 1992 has come with peace and stability that has made Ghana the darling of her neighbours and the international community. The recent outstanding performance of the Black Stars in the 2010 Fifa world cup in South Africa has added momentum to the worldwide view that Ghana is on the path of greatness.

The essence of democracy is to elect leaders who will manage the country to provide security, energy, housing, education, transport, health and telecommunication infrastructures that the citizens can take advantage of to improve their living conditions. Many who have engaged in the democratic process in Ghana have done so with the hope that democracy will usher in not only liberty, rule of law, political stability, freedom of speech and assembly but also economic prosperity. But the people who have been ruling Ghana since the day the Fourth Republican Constitution came into force seem to have forgotten this simple meaning of democracy.

More than seventeen years since the first ballot was cast and 53 years after independence the life of many Ghanaians has stagnated if not retrogressed to pre-independence levels. A critical look at the economic situation of the people suggests that the stability and peace that democracy has brought the nation has not translated into economic and social development. The various governments that have governed Ghana since 1992 have not been able to take advantage of the peace and stability to formulate and implement the necessary policies needed to transform Ghana’s economy to enable Ghanaians benefit directly. A critical look at the country’s sectors: education, energy, transportation, health and waste management reveal a state of organised disorder.

The CIA’s 2010 world ranking of countries with higher life expectancy puts Ghana at 186th position (60.55 years) out of the 224 countries polled. Today two-thirds of the population still live on two dollars a day. The inequality and the poverty gap between those who govern and the governed is widening every year. This is evidenced in the number of people working as street vendors including children who work as head potters in our cities instead of going to school and the high number of children being trafficked to work in various parts of the country. There is a sense of anger and frustration among the populace as is indicated by the growing number of unruly behaviour of the so called foot soldiers of the NDC youth with their incessant seizing of public toilets, locking up National Health Insurance Service and National Youth Employment Programme offices and constant calling of District Chief Executives to be fired. These activities suggest that the people are not benefiting from our democracy and are getting increasingly disillusioned, a situation that can easily be nurtured to cause political instability in the country. 

The only people who seem to have benefited from our democracy are the politicians who go home every four years with fat ex-gratia payments while majority of the people live in squalid conditions. Take E. T. Mensah for example. Since 1992 he has been representing Ningo Prampram as an MP and going home with ex-gratia every four years while many people in his constituency can neither read nor write and lack the basic necessities of life including water, electricity and housing.

The expensive and cosy sport utility vehicles (Land Cruisers etc) that has come to represent the taste of NDC and NPP politicians do not reflect the harsh economic life being experienced by majority of the people especially those in the rural areas who live in mud houses roofed with raffia and bamboo leafs and without water and electricity. This is unacceptable and is very dangerous for the continuous existence of democracy itself. People cannot continue to cast their votes every four years and continue to live in the same pre-independence conditions without jobs, proper housing, electricity, roads, farming equipments and access to water and sanitation. People cannot vote every four years while they continue to live on two dollars a day. That is slavery, not democracy. Democracy must come with liberty, economic empowerment, social development and improvement in the overall quality of life of the people. This has not happened in Ghana more than seventeen years of democratic governance and over fifty years of self rule.

Slowly we are missing the opportunity to develop as a nation and to add quality and value to the lives of our people. Despite promises of a better Ghana and jobs for the youth nothing seems to have changed, courtesy the politicians who are trapped in their narrow view of state management and who are going round the circle unable to work out a solution for the nation’s many problems. Slowly many of the people who have placed so much hope in democracy are being betrayed not by democracy as a system but by those elected to lead them to economic freedom. This cannot continue forever.

The people who vote must have something to live up to if they can continue to support the democratic efforts of the state. Therefore, the promises and pledges that characterise our elections must be transformed into actions and deeds. The broken promises and the politics of the same on the part of those who govern must stop before apathy sets in. Those who rule Ghana must recognise that their performance is not measured by what they say but what they do. Therefore we must act now and make good use of our peace, stability and democracy if we want to avoid any cataclysmic political upheaval in future.

In light of the abysmal economic performance of the nation and her inability to reduce poverty, I strongly believe Ghana needs strategic counselling and I want to offer my suggestions here.

First of all, Ghanaians need strategic leaders with the ability to vision and ability to bring the vision into reality; leaders who can turn aspiration into reality and inspire the people to great heights and help build a new Ghana that all of us can be proud of. Those who manage state institutions must be strategic thinkers who can formulate good policies and implement them to bring positive change. The begging mentality (i.e. the focus on aid as a development model) that continues to permeate those who live in the Osu Castle must give way to a more ingenious ways of state management that has as its focus the attraction of foreign investment, promotion of trade, support for indigenous producers, farmers, the promotion of local entrepreneurial development and the building, renovating and expanding the economic and social infrastructures in the country i.e. energy, roads, rail lines, harbours, telecommunication, silos, canals, schools and hospitals. It is unacceptable that while other nations are going outer-space to discover new planets we are still struggling to feed ourselves. Therefore the politics that has come to define our education (3 years for NDC, 4 year for NPP) must give way to a non-partisan approach to problem solving.

Secondly, evidence from Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan and China has shown that a country’s economic growth, human development and her ability to reduce poverty are dependent on her technological development. Therefore, if we are to make sense of our 53 years of independence and over seventeen years of democracy; if we are to take advantage of the current favourable political climate and make it a force for good and a force for development, then a ground work for export-driven industrial economy must be laid through the adoption of a comprehensive export-driven industrial strategy. Such a strategy must make the development and acquisition of advanced technologies a priority so as to take advantage of the huge unexploited natural resources in the country, to increase production, and create wealth for the people. Why should our child-bearing women continue to carry their children on their back in this African heat when we can adopt technology to build pushchairs/prams for them? Why should we continue to wash our cloths with our hands when we could adopt the technology to build washers to save us precious time? Why should we continue to sleep in darkness when we could adopt the technology to convert solar energy into electricity? Why should our farmers continue to farm with cutlasses and hoes when we could adopt advanced farming technologies to increase yield and reduce hunger and poverty in the country? And why should we continue to carry things on our head when we could use technology to do it?

China and India’s development of their own technologies and their acquisition of technologies from the West has shown that it is possible to move hundreds of millions of people from poverty through technology acquisition. I believe that nations that turn away from the development and use of science and technology are bound to remain primitive and face extinction, and even if those nations survive extinction they will probably remain slave to others with superior technologies. Ghana cannot afford to remain technologically backward while our independence peers in Asia are moving forward scientifically and technologically and the earlier the policy-makers in Ghana look into technology acquisition the better.

Added to the above point is the fact that Ghana cannot continue to depend on the export of some few raw materials while the population continues to increase almost exponentially. Ghana cannot remain agrarian if we are to solve the teeming unemployment problem, eradicate poverty, hunger, malnutrition, malaria and improve the overall quality of life in the country. The policymakers must device ingenious schemes and work assiduously to diversify Ghana’s economy by shifting emphasis from the current reliance on raw material export to manufacturing, service, and knowledge based economy. The diversification of the economy will not only help the nation expand her revenue base but will also lead to increased production, create more jobs and protect the country from the shocks that always threaten the vivacity of our economy.

Lastly, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning must be told in plain language that lowering inflation alone will not meet the aspirations of unemployed Ghanaians who are looking for jobs. The National Development Planning Commission and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning must live up to their names and build some credibility for themselves as institutions tasked with planning the nation’s development. Ghana deserves better fiscal policies/financial management than it has been offered by Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning. These institutions must think strategically and device strategies with inbuilt policy priorities to stabilise the nation’s financial market, revive the defunct firms, create jobs and put money in the pockets of the people.

I want to conclude by saying that if Ghanaians are to make sense of democracy, cherish its values and ideals; if indeed democracy is to thrive in Ghana, and if Ghana is to continue to serve as the guiding light for the rest of Africa, then more must be done to improve the economic well-being of the people, for democracy without economic and social development is a catalyst for chaos.

By Lord Aikins Adusei*

*The author is a political activist and anti corruption campaigner. His e-mail is