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17.12.2007 General News

The problem of Hajj pilgrims in Africa

By Accra Mail



“Thousands of African pilgrims heading for this week's annual Muslim pilgrimage, the Hajj in Saudi Arabia, are stranded across the continent.

Around 3,000 are in Ghana, where a plane arrived on Thursday but was unable to take off.

Nearly 6,000 Nigerians have also found it impossible to make the journey, despite having airline tickets for Saudi Arabia.

However, some 1,100 pilgrims have now been able to travel from Tanzania. African pilgrims have frequently complained about the difficulties of attending the Hajj, one of the duties of every Muslim, if they can afford it and are physically able.

Some 1,500 pilgrims from Tanzania, the Comoros and Democratic Republic of Congo had feared they would miss the Hajj after spending 10 days at Dar es Salaam airport.”

Since the above was reported by the BBC over the weekend, some Ghanaian pilgrims have made it to the holy land. It must be clear now to all who have been trying to politicize the “plight” of Ghanaian Hajj pilgrims that the problem goes beyond cheap political point-scoring.

And to those in the NPP presidential race who thought they could also use it against the Vice President, well, now they should know it is not peculiar to Ghana. Even Nigeria, which is a member of the Organization of The Islamic Conference has been grappling with this perennial Hajj problem for years. Saudi Arabia, the spiritual host of the Hajj is on constant revision of safety, organizational, consular and logistical infrastructure.

Two years ago when a stampede resulted in several deaths, the Saudi authorities had to spend millions of US dollars to strengthen facilities. Indeed, an Afghan Deputy Minister of Transport was beaten to death a few years ago when it looked as though there would be no flight for the would-be pilgrims. We could go on and on…

Our advice is that the government must now play a central role in the organization. Last week we recommended the formation of a Hajj Commission under the Ministry of Culture. We still stand by it.

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