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26.02.2007 Feature Article

Independence indeed!

Let me start by establishing the fact that I do believe in celebrations. I believe like others that once in a while we need to celebrate something whether we are a poverty stricken populace or not. And that is why I am looking forward to dailyEXPRESS celebrating its anniversary with a beautiful launch of this publication.

I know for a fact that no matter the human condition, it is the nature of man to celebrate. Based on this premise, I wish to say that, Ghanaians have every right to celebrate fifty years of 'independence' and as much as our organizers have proved how unorganized they are, I have sensitized myself to get caught up in the non-existent euphoria… like it or not it is the truth.

But did we (Ghana) really achieve independence? Let me bore you with the definition of the word (independence) that every Ghanaian child learnt to spell in lower primary. I have to do that to prove to you that Ghana and Africa for that matter has been deceiving themselves that they have acquired independence. Wikipedea defines independence as:
“The state or quality of being free from subjection or from the influence, control, or guidance of individuals, things, or situations.”

The MacMillan dictionary says independence is:
“Freedom from control by another country or organisation”

When Dr. Kwame Nkrumah proclaimed Ghana as an independent country, it clearly meant that freedom from colonial rule. Ghana can now take control of its economy, politics, social and governance in its totality without a pink-skinned person issuing instructions to her. When Nkrumah declared “Ghana is free forever” it meant that the people of Ghana could govern themselves, make their own decisions, take control of their economy and will be recognized as a citizen of an independent nation the world over.

Freedom means that one can decide without external compellation. Nkrumah understood what independence meant when the mantle was being handed over on 6th march 1957. His early policies for the country concentrated on total economic freedom by tapping expertise and skills from foreigners. Changing from the pound sterling to our own currency, the cedi, proved to the world how much Nkrumah wanted Ghana to attain true independence.

On one level, we have a lot to celebrate as a self governing nation but on another level we are still as enslaved as any group of people in the world can be. Do you remember Osagyefo's famous words "The Independence of Ghana is meaningless unless it is linked up to the total liberation of Africa…" well, it is unfortunate to say that Ghana has voluntarily entered into slavery and as such the independence of Ghana to Africa is proving meaningless! Before you really dehydrate from fury at my words, please hear me out.

The debtor is always exposed to the whims of the creditor
Soon after freedom, Ghana's external debts started escalating. This was a result of mismanagement by the various governments that took over after independence. With so many coups, instability and borrowing from European powers, Ghana soon became a victim of manipulation by these creditors.

From a simplistic view, when you borrow money from a friend, you may be exempted from maybe high interest rates. But should you borrow from a professional or even an enemy, the conditions attached to it is bound to benefit the creditor as well but in the case of developing nations versus developed countries, the latter is bound to benefit more because of their dictative conditions. Do you know the popular saying about the 'whiteness of a white man's love for Africa? It is a mere whitewash.'

Now this is not to say that I am racist but truth is that European countries always have a hidden agenda when it comes to dealing with African countries. Do you possibly think that there's nothing attached to the money coming in from the Millennium Challenge Account? We grinned from ear to ear when we lent that Ghana is to benefit from the MCA. Yes, it has some benefits for us but it still punches a hole in our independent balloon.

At the Inter-American Development Bank on March 14, 2002 President Bush called for “a new compact for global development, defined by new accountability for both rich and poor nations alike. Greater contributions from developed nations must be linked to greater responsibility from developing nations.”

The President pledged that the United States would lead by example and increase its core development assistance by 50 percent over the next three years, resulting in an annual increase of $5 billion by FY 2006. These funds will go into a new Millennium Challenge Account (MCA). Because sound policies are an essential condition of development, the President announced that the Millennium Challenge Account will be “devoted to projects in nations that govern justly, invest in their people and encourage economic freedom.” www.whitehouse.gov

How very nice of Mr. Bush; if you ask I think it is another step to ensure that developing nations' independence remain a semi-illusion. There are two conditions in the MCA that caught my attention first of all once we have signed, we cannot effect changes to our constitution without approval from the MCA; imagine that!

Secondly, we are compelled to exempt taxes on US import into the country. Tell me, are we not throwing away a freedom that we fought so hard for? If the US starts dictating to us…point of correction, they have been dictating to us for many years; only that this time around we have eagerly put our hands in the handcuffs.

And do you know that being selected a beneficiary of the MCA has a lot to do with 'tied aid'? This simply means to qualify you would have to be a purchaser of US goods and services or perhaps you will have started purchasing them. With a notorious reputation for production of genetically induced foods, I can foresee health hazards should Ghana continue to purchase goods from the USA. Unfortunately, we are going to increase our imports.

Have you thought about the increasing rice imported from the US? The bad news is that, we have top level officials who are engaged in importing these US cereals and as human nature will have it, they will not take any actions against it; 'how can the cat tell the fisherman to stop fishing?'

Wherein a Trojan horse has arrived in Africa
The IMF, the World Bank? There is no doubt that these 'international creditors' have helped developing nations crawl forward on the racecourse where we have developed nations in the lead. Thanks to both the IMF, USAID, DFID, World Bank etc, third World countries building upon basic utilities like water, electricity, sanitation, health systems among others.

The hinge in the seam of these organizations' fabrics lies in their famous conditionality. Take for instance the issue of privatization of water supply which is an established and lucrative system in the Western world; with the World having succeeded in pressuring Ghana to privatize its water and electricity supply because of their large donations and grants to an unsuspecting Ghana, we should start seriously reflecting on this kind of relationship we have developed with Western interest.
By coercing Ghana to privatize the basic utilities of in a developing country like Ghana, these Western powers sought to once again exploit a lucrative business. Come on, you didn't possibly think USAID, DFID donations; HIPC and Paris Club Debt Cancellations are a demonstration of European remorse for the crimes they committed against Africa? A sure “NO.”

They care less whether we can afford these services or not without government subsidy. It is a lucrative business each of these organizations wants their countries to have a share of the cake. Is this any different from the slave trade?
The saddest aspect of the situation is the fact that our leaders do not think about the long and short term advantages and disadvantages for us, our children and our land.

Ghana at fifty years, we are still learning about national interest, national priorities. Fifty years of age, our leaders, both past and present cannot weigh the pros and cons of agreements and contracts presented by European powers before signing. Yet, we talk about being independent, celebrating independence while partying with the 'HUGE WHITE TROJAN HORSE' with its intestine of worms eating us away.

I weep, for my children have deserted me, their mother, me, their land of their birth
Brain drain has been a major disaster to African nations for years. American, British, Canadian embassies among others make thousands of dollars from Ghanaians everyday. They have no shame as these countries take advantage our voluntary slavery. We pay to exodus to their countries.

Take a trip to the French, Netherlands and Chinese embassies and you will see the queues of applicants standing under the sun. the humiliation of the average Ghanaian leaving his comfortable home to stand outside the 'Jerusalem gates' of these embassies as if he were a peddler or beggar, is too much to behold.

Speak of thousands of graduates that the country spends millions of cedis in educational subsidy; after school, not less than 70% of graduates apply for visas to travel outside the country for greener pastures. Among these migrants are nurses, doctors, engineers and young vibrant university graduates that are needed by our land!

These days, our dear American and European countries have given a given a new term to sucking in of our vital resource base; they call it BRAIN CIRCULATION instead of the “BRAIN DRAIN whereby real or virtual teams are assembled in a range of countries with UK being among the top three countries that absorb these migrants. (Harvard Business Review Feb '07)

For the time has come for Africa to build a black stallion
It is time to build our defense. It is time to negotiate with these international organizations that pretend to offer us help meanwhile they come back to colonize us in a different form. With the recent hullabaloo about Chinese interest in Africa, even Brazil, Australia, Germany and the like are picking so much that, they are racing to the “dark continent” to take part in the wooing business.

As for the US, they are in constant fright of Chinese influence in Africa thus we witness President Bush's renewed interest in Ghana.
This is the time to take advantage and set our conditions on the table after we live in an interdependent world; call it an ecosystem though in another article, I will prove to you that Africa is the only continent that can run successfully as a close system.

Wherein, a beggar has a choice
You may argue with me that a beggar has no choice but you will agree with me that USAID, IMF, World Bank and the rest will never offer aid to Africa if they did not need something from us. This means that we are in a position to negotiate with the interest of the nation as a top priority in our minds. We should simply not accept all those unfavorable conditions that they throw at us.

Esenam Dumenu
Esenam Dumenu, © 2007

This author has authored 18 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: EsenamDumenu

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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