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06.04.2003 Feature Article

Ghana's Efforts in ECOWAS Sub-Region and the Threat to Growth

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Ghanaians are aware of the independence message by the first president of Ghana on the need to form global Africa. An Africa as a trading or to say economic bloc to boost individual nation's quest for development and offer security to growth. Long though this was rejected on reasoning as the president's attempt to rule Africa. It is today worth noting that we have Africa Union ready to push forward the thoughts of Nkrumah and African States.

Moving along towards this dream is Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). In some period of time, ECOWAS has become very powerful politically and developing economic policies for sub-regional adoption and implementation. One cannot over look the economic benefit of this move to regional peace and development on the paper nonetheless one has to make a reason out of the path of ECOWAS and Ghana's effort. In this article the writer wishes to draw readers mind into analysing the potential threat of Ghana's 'unwarranting' speed in spearheading the policies of ECOWAS to the glaring detriment of Ghana and Ghanaians

Ghana to this writer has modest ideas and humility to see peace, human decency and sanity of life. A Ghanaian is always so much concerned of the chaos in his/her neighbour's household than her own children who are waiting for food at dinner table. Parents will often leave their food even uncovered and to be at the center of settling the marriage of another couple. Peace to Ghanaian at one source seems to transcend the entire neighbourhood. That to this writer mirrors Ghana's position and the effort in ECOWAS sub-region. Admittedly, if ECOWAS was to be implemented as it has been planned then that is the course for glory otherwise, Ghana is once again treading on the wrong side of the road in an attempt to seek peace and economic growth.

Of the fifteen or so member States of ECOWAS, 5 speak English and 10 speak French. It is true to say that Ghana and Ghanaians may be willing to have quickly smoothen relations so easily with say Gambia or Nigeria than Togo, Cote D'Ivoire and Burkina Faso, which Ghana abates. Why is this so? This is due to the fact that language is an important tool for development. For example, the ECOWAS Chairman, President Kufour may be talking deeply with Mr. Gbagbo thru an interpreter. Would their feelings be expressed, as they would have wished? Certainly not. If language will be a great factor, in secular African states with chiefs, tribes and indigenous groups who pride themselves with culture can effective understanding and planning be made? In Ghana for example, the nation has refused to adopt one local language as a national language due to the problems that may arise. In this same proportion, ECOWAS States should not see the sub-region in terms of French and English alone. However, should that be an acceptable norm what efforts have countries made towards language integration? Ghana that is surrounded by 3 French speaking country has may be less than 2% Ghanaians who can articulate themselves well in French. This means the country does not see the importance of language as a fundamental tool in development, may downplay this or has no language policy on the sub-regional front.

The world has been ushered into a technological era where everything is possible and so language may be translated using technological earphones. One should bear in mind that it is not only some few businesses that will cross boarders and trade but millions of men and women, petty traders who may not have been to school let alone articulate their national language of French or English. Would such traders be using interpreters or language earphone transmitters?

It is on record now that movement within ECOWAS should not be restricted. But shall we ask our leaders or even 3 Ministers to disguise themselves and travel by road to Nigeria and see for themselves their over-blown ambition of ECOWAS? Sadly, they fly in the comfort of 'poor' Ghanaians tax payers money along the Atlantic Ocean and think all is well, yes they are developing the country. Should you ever travel by road to Nigeria for example, the most disciplined and in-tuned boarder(s) without any trouble is Togo-Benin boarder. Trouble, real troubles at both Ghana-Togo and Benin-Nigeria boarders.

Truly, Ghanaians are diplomatic or abiding to regional principles and so wherever one comes from, crossing Aflao boarder is like crossing the only bridge to school when one is late. 10secs and you are off. Then one spends about 20 minutes not only showing passport but pay bribes at Togo-Aflao boarder. Nothing to worry between Togo-Benin boarder. Wow! You sit down comfortably, put your passport on the table and they stamp it nicely and they politely give it back to the owner. At Seme (Benin-Nigeria boarder) you have the ticket to sleep. One needs a minimum of 2hours to cross just one single building boarder. After stamping the passport, one needs to cross the first gate and the rest of the gates are legs, human legs I mean. What does that mean? One has to pay and cross one leg after the other. Then when one is done, the driver and the owners of the few luggage would have to have emergency meeting to settle out 'issues'. That requires usually over 2hours readers.

Politically, ambitious and greedy individuals are never willing to leave the corrupt system of governance they have created. They are simply afraid of behind their backs. It is in West Africa that one will find many rebels/military-turned-president in Africa and keep perpetuating their rules to the throat of civilian lives. Examples are Togo, Liberia, Burkina Faso, Gambia, Niger and in the past, Ghana, 'Nigeria' and Benin. Ironically, it is only in West Africa that one can count such a mouthful number of coup d'etats pinpointing the gross disregard for democracy and development.

With this kind of political instability, Ghana has drove the country once again into spearheading the resolve of sub-regional peace and development under the shadow of ECOWAS. For how long has ECOMOG not been in Liberia and yet peace has not showered on that country! For how long has ECOMOG not been to Sierra Leone and peace has eluded innocent civilians as the destined ruffians wave their fangs into tearing the country apart! Would another criminal not be planning an attack to usurp the government from spreading its unholy tentacles? Yet, we in Ghana have never counted the cost. The cost of human lives of our brothers and sisters in the uniform, the tax payers money, and our destitute ones walloping in hunger!

ECOWAS has not reached the stage of implementing economic policies yet. There are presently no bounding laws for sub-regional governments to abide by. If there are, they are simply for jokes. Anybody can break them. President Eyadema of Togo has already threatened of how he is poised to crash the rigmarole dissidents who will interfere his 'rulership' in Togo. Would some rebels have arisen and simply claim authority to some cities in Cote D'Ivoire and have their thoughts accepted as genuine principles by ECOWAS political leadership and offered Vice-presidential slut? See, these rebels travel all the way to Ghana and boast of causing another mayhem if the constitutionally elected president fails to put the agreed guidelines into practice. In this scenario, such systems are not being encouraged per se they are destroying the peace efforts of other countries who are committing money and recourses, attesting to the toothless by-laws of ECOWAS. With this kind of political threat how many Ghanaians and Ghanaian businesses would be willing to trade in Cote D'Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Niger, Mali, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Benin, Togo, Burkina Faso, etc?

Ghanaweb reports of an interview with the Director, Ministry of Economic Planning and Regional Co-operation, Mrs. Irene Maamah as saying in two years time, Ghana will introduce and adopt an ECOWAS passport (www.ghanaweb.com 04/04/2003).

Hmm, may I first remind readers that Ghana was not known to serious armed robbery business until ECOWAS by-laws said member countries' boarders should be opened for free movement. Then Ghana quickly opened not only the boarders but all checkpoints, weeded all the trees along the road and allowed the passers-by and commuters to enjoy the breeze as they travel along the coast of Ghana. From 1995 the police started arresting robbers only to find out that some 90% of them were foreigners. Einh, refugees and people from Nigeria (not being disrespectful or selective).

May I inform Mrs. Irene Maamah that there is no need of adopting a new ECOWAS passport. That will be expensive and extra costly. Presently, about 40% of foreigners already have Ghanaian passport. Yes! You travel out of Ghana, disguise your nationality and talk about passport. Ghana's passport will be recommended to you. Why? It is easy to get. Again, it is one of the passports from Africa being moderately accepted by other countries. Ghana has low crime record. Besides, due to the image of H.E. Mr. Kofi Annan, being a Ghanaian passport holder is of a pride. So why not get a Ghanaian passport? Many Africans have them. In this case, they go on with their drug crimes and other problems holding poor Ghanaian passport (I am saying this with real experience from Asia). Is it worthwhile printing ECOWAS passport again when that of Ghana can be adopted to reduce cost? It sounds funny, isn't it?

I will humbly but seriously encourage Ghanaians to object to this ECOWAS passport until Sub-regional States have put in place the mechanisms to secure the image we all are looking for. I will not relent on this appeal at all. I will go at long distance to advocate for support among Ghanaians wherever, on this treacherous move that our leaders are once again patting us. I honestly do not see the need for this ECOWAS passport and the real strategic plan that Ghana seems to be working by.

This writer has already complained of Ghana's attitude of being signatory to any Global law they hear about. It has taken some of these laws like free trade when we have not done our homework well but adopt such 'songs', being the bane of our faith today. Now Ghana is a country struggling to feed her citizens when its rich resources are being madly mined from Paga to Asiama through to Aflao and Wa. What a shame! But yes, Ghana has not got much of these global tricks. Our policies and strategies are built on talk, long talk and shaky democratic efforts. Even as the country has not tackled or seems not to have had the wherewithal of handling the chaos of our surroundings and its deep effects on poor lives, we stand aloof in the Sub-regional desert beating the gong-gong of ECOWAS. Beating it so hard to the total negligence of or to cover our inability to handle our inefficiencies. If Ghana can plan for ECOWAS to stand as an effective community to handle its economic potentials, why not help Ghana in that line first and have the trickle down effects bathe the member states? No, we are more concerned of ECOWAS than Ghana. So we go borrowing money from World Bank and IMF to finance our economy and claim we can help ECOWAS to survive. Mine!

This writer sees ECOWAS development as a bold attempt to strategize the sub-region for its enormous benefits. This laudable idea is indeed appreciable but Ghana needs not rush into adopting these things to kill the promise of Ghanaians to die for the nation in the national anthem. If the sub-region is not politically stable any wholesale policy is an illusion of classical and poor visionary, and I dare say this!

At the moment there is free movement of traffic in the sub-region, which is enough. The passport for example authorizes refugees running from the scourge of their wicked leaders will perch may be permanently in Ghana. The issue is not to state where one comes from in the passport. Outsiders cannot make any distinction between Africans. A Japanese Immigration Officer for example, cannot distinguish a Ghanaian from even a Sudanese/Eritrian let alone a Ghanaian and Ivorian.

Unless somebody convinces this writer of what Ghana really stands for and her sense of purpose, otherwise, this beloved country will see her patriotic children changing their nationalities in desperation. No name calling should that be the case.

I welcome criticism and comments.

Kwame Atta Kaytu
Kwame Atta Kaytu, © 2003

The author has 21 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: KwameAttaKaytu

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

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