A Warm Welcome,Obama - Diaspora African Forum
The issue of an African Diaspora gained its initial prominence in June 2001, when the African Unity (AU) convened the first ever AU Civil Society Conference.
In the following month, at the 74th Ordinary Session of the AU Council of Ministers, a proposal was submitted to AU member states for them to develop strategies for utilising the scientific and technological skills of Africans in the Diaspora for the development of Africa.
Following a series of proposals, the first ever Diaspora Mission was adopted. On the 1st of July, 2007, the Diaspora African Forum (DAF) Mission was officially opened by Mr John Agyekum Kufuor, former President of the Republic of Ghana, and Mr Alpha Oumar Konare, former African Union Commission Chairman.
Shortly thereafter, DAF was given diplomatic status, making it the first Mission for Diaspora in the world.
The first Head of Mission, Ambassador Dr Erieka Bennett, has worked relentlessly towards the achievement of this dream and campaigned heavily during Obama's presidential campaign, realising this would also be an important element in the development of Africa.
In one of her statements, she remarked, “Many may not fully recognise that the African Diaspora Nation is within the top 10 richest nations in the world. We are coming home with remarkable knowledge, talent and skills.
We are absolutely abounding with top scientists, teachers and financial executives…, we now add to the language, culture, governing bodies, the civil societies, and we will make a powerful partner with our brothers and sisters.”
Since its inception, the mission has witnessed visitors from all walks of life, some of which include Ambassadors Andrew Young and Dudley Thompson, Carl Masters, Professor Wangari Maathai, Professor Ali Mazuri, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Xernona Clayton, civil rights activists, politicians, students, tourists and many more.
The mission, located within the premises of the W.E.B DuBois Centre at Cantonments, Accra, has three significant walls guarding it. One of which has plaques bearing the names of members of the board and individuals or organisations who have been supportive of the mission.
Another wall, the ‘Sankofa’ Wall, which was perceived to be sacred, is a memorial wall which dons the names of Diasporan ancestors and loved ones who had the African Dream, but many of whom could not set foot on the Motherland.
Some of these are Marcus Garvey and Harriet Tubman.
In preparation for the inaugural visit of the First Black President of the United States of America and the First Black Family, DAF has embarked on several initiatives to include and connect Africans at home and abroad.
Some of these initiatives over the past few weeks include a youth discussion on the impact of Obama's visit to Ghana and Africa in general, to be uploaded on Youtube; meetings with local Diaspora groups on how to mobilise the Diaspora community and a roundtable workshop with editors from local media to sensitise people to inform on the connections between Ghana and the African Diaspora in general.
The roundtable discussion was facilitated by the W.E.B. DuBois Centre, the African American Association of Ghana and the Ghana Caribbean Association.
There was also a meeting held by eight Diasporan groups with members from South, Central and North America and Europe to show support and appreciation for the mission in its efforts to represent the African Diasporan community.
DAF has an office in Ethiopia with a liaison to the AU, Dr Desta Meghoo, to ensure consistent engagement with the AU. Over the past three years, the AU has pledged committed concern for the inclusion of the African Diaspora as the 6th Region of Africa.
The Mission also recently paid honour to musical icon, Robert Nesta Marley, by adding his name to the ‘Sankofa’ Wall and a memorial book for Michael Jackson, which will be presented to his family, was also signed at the mission by numerous fans.
The DAF Mission has been involved with many developmental projects around Africa, especially in Ghana and mainly with partnership with other non-governmental organisations (NGO) such as Plan and UNICEF.
One important initiative that DAF has partnered with African Communcations Agency (ACA) is to present African International Media Summit (AIMS), a four- year-old media initiative, to promote the positive image of Africa and emphasise the re-branding of Africa as a place filled with positive stories beyond the stereotypical war and famine.
With Africa’s urge to reach its Development Challenge Goals, the Diaspora African Forum will continue to encourage Diasporan participation in the development of Mother Africa. “Forward Ever, Backward Never”.