There is no doubt in my mind that our President Mr J A Kuffuor hereinafter referred to as JAK was the darling among Heads of Commonwealth Governments at the recent CHOGM in Coolum, Australia. Not merely because of his easy affability but also because of the sensible diplomatic course he negotiated through the minefield that Zimbabwe was at CHOGM 2002. JAK earned a photo-op with the Australian Prime Minister John Howard which appeared in one of the major local newspapers, with the caption "Divide? what divide?" in reference to the open divisions among Commonwealth leaders on Zimbabwe. Then in Sydney it was said that JAK was given a seven-man motorcade escort from the Sydney International Airport to the New South Wales Parliament where he dined with parliamentarians. No other Head of state at CHOGM 2002 received such warm reception and JAK acknowledged that much to the Parliamentarians. The warm reception extended to JAK cannot be attributed to JAK¹s personality and personal diplomacy alone. Equally important is the long relations between the two countries, the personal and business interests of some Australians and Australian companies in Ghana, and the long familiarity with Ghanaian residents in Australia. It would be ideal if the warmth of reception JAK received is channeled towards Ghana -Australian relations and not be seen as being channeled to Ghana doing the bidding of the white Commonwealth on Zimbabwe.
On Ghanaweb General News of Friday, 22 March 2002 under the banner of ³Ghana backs Zimbabwe's suspension² the Foreign Minister Hackman Owusu Agyemang was reported as saying that Accra totally supported a Commonwealth decision to suspend Zimbabwe for a year. As a member of the Commonwealth, Ghana should support the suspension.
But there were two aspects of the Ghanaweb report that call for caution namely ³Agyemang deplored the treason charges laid against Tsvangirai, the Movement for Democratic Change leader, who appeared in court Wednesday to face allegations he plotted to kill Mugabe² and ³Agyemang said that Ghanaian President John Kufuor was "in constant touch" with Mugabe and Nigerian head of state Olusegun Obasanjo to try and defuse the political tension in Zimbabwe.²
With regard to the charges against the MDC leaders the JAK Government must allow the judicial process in Zimbabwe to take its course. At least one thing that can be said about the Zimbabwean judiciary is that it is not at the beck and call of Mugabe.
I saw the Australian SBS documentary on the tapes that implicated the MDC leader in a plot to assassinate Mugabe, I have spoken to African and non-African barristers here who saw the original and follow up documentaries on same, and I am convinced that if Rawlings were caught in a similar compromising situation with respect to the JAK Government, the JAK Government would not hesitate to arraign Rawlings before a Ghanaian court. Similarly if some members of the NDC are proven to be planning to harass journalists critical to Rawlings as recently reported or that they actually harassed them, I again have no doubt the JAK Government would not hesitate to arraign them before a Ghanaian court.
There is a view in sections of the international community that having handed over power to the NPP, the NDC is being harassed in opposition. Certainly the JAK government is doing its best to force the NDC to get used to being in Opposition. But there's not much in what is termed harassment of the NDC to write home about. Nevertheless should that view gain wider and more respectable international currency it would be somewhat difficult to prosecute the NDC Opposition if the NDC is indeed seen and reasonably held to be destabilizing the JAK government. It would therefore seem to me that the JAK Government is charting uncertain waters, to say the least. It would appear more prudent for the JAK government to stay out of the MDC charges and in the event that the charges against the MDC leaders are proven, to call for pardon in the name of reconciliation, which all agree Zimbabwe desperately needs at the moment.
With regard to JAK being in ³constant touch² with Mugabe and Obasanjo in order ³to try and defuse the political tension in Zimbabwe.², I believe Ghana should take a back seat for following reasons:
Firstly the committee of 3 (South Africa, Nigeria and Australia) delegated by CHOGM 2002 to recommend action on Zimbabwe, solely on the recommendations of the Commonwealth Observers group on the Zimbabwean elections, committed the Commonwealth to support the Zimbabwe reconciliation as facilitated by South Africa and Nigeria.
Just as Ghana was bound by the decision of the same delegated committee to support the one year suspension of Zimbabwe, Ghana is also bound by the decision that gives direct role to Nigeria and South Africa in the reconciliation process. Ghana should confine its own initiatives through Nigeria.
Secondly Ghana must be careful not to move ahead of African public opinion, in particular SADC opinion, on Zimbabwe. Ordinarily Ghanaian relations with Zimbabwe would be conducted at the bilateral level, at the continental AU level, at the Commonwealth level and at the UN level. It is no little consequence that the Singaporean PM Goh in an attempt to diffuse tensions at CHOGM 2002 suggested that the Commonwealth defer to the SADC Commonwealth countries and the Africans in general in resolving the Zimbabwean problem.
If Ghana moves even a small step ahead of African opinion whether out of her own initiative or under pressure from Donor countries, the damage to Ghana¹s diplomatic image in Africa would suffer immensely. Then there is the view in some quarters that if the West tries to make Iraq out of Zimbabwe, there could be civil unrest in the region. I would hate to be a Ghanaian in say South Africa if that eventuates when there is perception that Ghana has been harder on Zimbabwe that she should necessarily be.
Thirdly I suspect countries outside SADC may have difficulty in grappling with the depth of feeling by Zimbabwe¹s neighbors. That depth of feeling was on display at the recently concluded CHOGM 2002. The Bostwana head, not noted for his radicalism, walked out of the pre conference meeting for consensus building and more significantly publicized his walk-out. Tanzanians Mkapa and Uganda¹s Museveni then took turns to comment on the rumpus going on behind closed door however couched in diplomatic language. Readers will note Uganda in conflict with Mugabe over Congo would not have been expected to echo a word remotely sympathetic to Mugabe. I thought Mbeki and Obasanjo were somewhat reserved till I heard they nearly came to blows with Blair, literally speaking of course. Was Prince Charles, heir to Head of the Commonwealth, alluding to that commotion when he complained about how badly Blair was treated at CHOGM 2002?
It is very likely that the link between Aid to Africa and Africa¹s response to Zimbabwe, which is now being discussed publicly, was canvassed at CHOGM 2002. What is Africa¹s likely response? Obasanjo returned to Nigeria to announce termination of IMF monitoring of Nigeria¹s economy under the IMF Aid conditions. Was Obasanjo the same who nationalized British Petroleum to force the hand of Thatcher leading to Lancashire and then Zimbabwe independence?
Finally it is my view that the matter at the heart of Zimbabwe¹s problem ie land reforms cannot easily be resolved, so much because the only reform that the White Commonwealth would accept is NO REFORM.
The destination of the emigres from South Africa and Zimbabwe in the past 3 decades has been Australia, Britain, Canada and New Zealand. This emigre group are a powerful lobby group not least because of their wealth, positions in civil service and representation in the major media outlets. It is not an exaggeration to say that they have hijacked the foreign policies of their host countries.
The named white commonwealth countries, except Britain, are psychologically grappling with their histories of dispossession of indigenous peoples. The white South African and Zimbabwean emigre groups therefore strike a sympathetic cord in their newly adopted countries when opposing land reforms in the disguise of abhorrence to the intimidation and violence in Zimbabwe.
On the African side it appears the chord Mugabe has struck with his neighbors is based on shared experiences. Apparently South Africa has four times the land problem Zimbabwe has, and Zambia, Kenya and Namibia has equal or similar land problems of the kind Zimbabwe is up in arms about. Then there is the possibility that the consciousness and radicalism Zimbabwe has aroused among peoples in the region on the land question is more potent that anyone thought or dreamt was possible. It is probably this realization by Britain, a former colonial master likely to know better, which would have wound Blair up to hyperactivity and some will say obsession on the Zimbabwean question.
The last time the Danquah-Busia tradition threatened to go out on a limb on a contentious African issue was during the Busia Government of 69 to 72. Then Busia, and if I remember correctly also Boigny of Cote D¹Ivoire, decided that dialogue with South Africa was the way to go despite the most determined opposition from South Africans themselves that only force will get the Apartheid regime to take notice. At that time then Editor of the Daily Graphic Cameron Duodu lamented the Busia policy he saw as against the force of history - ie the certain march toward total decolonization of Africa, starting with the MAU MAU movement which in his words set the fire that burnt down British colonialism in East Africa. May not the Zimbabwean question be equally incomprehensible afar but nevertheless heading the same direction? The NPP, the successor Government to Busia should take notice of Busia¹s blunder that nearly cost Ghana its unblemished image, however temporarily, in the pantheon of African nationalism.
If the NPP, t still want to be noticed in Africa I have this suggestion. The committee of 3 delegated by CHOGM 2002, in addition to committing the Commonwealth to Zimbabwe¹s suspension, committed the Commonwealth to giving urgent assistance to Zimbabwe to overcome the current food shortage. In my view Ghana can extend food Aid to Zimbabwe provided it is done in a manner that respects the pride of Zimbabweans. I was heartened to learn not long ago that Ghana gave monetary donation to Congo in time of need.
Ghana giving food Aid to Zimbabwe would be akin to a neighbor sandwiched between two warring factions on either side of his house. Ghana stays out of the conflict, gives a bunch of plantain to one side on day one, and a bunch of bananas to the other on day 2. Ghana signals neutrality and awaits when warring factions need help, or when those presently helping the warring factions fail. Ghana emerges as an honest broker. That is the role Ghana should play in the Zimbabwean problem. And should that role present itself I hope Ghana keeps faith with the AFRICAN INTEREST.
The author is a native of Ghana, and a social commentator based in Melbourne, Australia.