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Opinion | Feb 12, 2019

President Akufo-Addo And The African Diaspora

President Akufo-Addo
President Akufo-Addo

IT was entirely appropriate that it should have been the Presidents of Kenya and Ghana who should get together and mark, in Addis Ababa (home of the African Union) the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first African captives – classified by their kidnappers as “slaves” – in Virginia, USA.

For both President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and President Uhuru Kenyatta have “political genes” that are encoded with the “DNA” of African liberation.

Their pedigree is this: Nana Akufo-Addo's father was a member of the “Big Six” politicians who defied the British in the late 1940s and successfully wrested independence for the “Gold Coast” (which they turned into “Ghana”.)

And Uhuru Kenyatta's father, Jomo, was the foremost African freedom fighter of his day, who was jailed by the British a whole decade before Nelson Mandela of South Africa was imprisoned by the Boers. Jomo valued freedom so much that he named his son “Freedom” (Uhuru in Kiswahili)!

Additionally, Kenya and Ghana represent, in the political history of the world, the opposite ends of British imperialism. In Kenya, because the climate and the lands were ideal for European settlement, the British fought with brutish force to try and retain the country for their “kith and kin” who had migrated to settle there. We hear so much these days about African migrants trying to make it to the “Northern” parts of the planet. But does anyone ever mention the fact that millions of Europeans occupied Africa and made tonnes of money in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, Kenya Uganda, Mozambique and Angola only a few decades ago?

In Kenya, the British settlers even had the brazen shamelessness to name the best part of the land as “White Highlands” (as if that part of Kenya had dropped from the heavens, clothed with “white” vegetation that could only be tilled by whites!) When the Kikuyu people and their allies in other ethnic groups said “No! You cannot steal our land!” to the settlers, the British army was unleashed on them with such ferocity that even today, the British dare not allow their own people – let alone the world – to read the official accounts of the atrocities they committed in Kenya during what they called the “Mau Mau Emergency”. (The colonial records from Kenya for the period were spirited off from Kenya to Britain and hidden there, and are only recently being unearthed by scholars with a dogged determination to find and publish the truth).

Ghana, on the other hand, was fortunate enough to be taken by the British on a relatively easy ride. After the country had embarked on a few strikes laced with looting of foreign-owned shops (following the arrest of the “Big Six” in 1948) the British suddenly remembered that this was “The white man's grave” and quickly enacted a constitution for us which initially brought Gold Coasters into the Government, and then replaced it with one handing the government completely over to “Ghanaians”.

As we celebrated our independence, Jomo Kenyatta was still languishing in jail. He was described by one British Governor of Kenya as “a leader unto darkness and death”. Apparently, the Governor did not consider himself a “leader unto darkness and death,” despite the murders the military forces under him had committed in such places as “Hola camp”.

But in one respect, the sufferings of Kenya and Ghana were similar. Three hundred years earlier, the British and other Europeans had tricked many African states into continually fighting with one another and capturing their fellow Africans, many of whom they sold to the Europeans, initially to buy arms from the Europeans to defend themselves with. Eventually, a market was created on which Africans captured Africans and sold them to Europeans for cash and such frivolous imports as European gin, beads, ornate cloths and mirrors and even European tinned foods! It was a shameful period of African history and it is extremely sad to realise that some of our ancestors were – sebe o tafracher [excuse my language] – so stupid that they took part in horrific atrocities against black people like themselves, at the bidding of white people.

This is what Nana Akufo-Addo obviously had in mind when he declared that:

QUOTE: The commemoration of the 400th Anniversary of the commencement of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade is a recognition of the fact that never again should the African peoples permit themselves to be subjected to such dehumanising conditions, and be sold into slavery. UNQUOTE

The President described the slave trade as “one of the most unfortunate and barbaric episodes of human history” . Some “12.5 million Africans, from Central and West Africa, were sold into slavery; had their freedoms curtailed in order to build up forcibly, countries other their own; and created wealth for the peoples of [the] unknown lands to which they were sent”, President Akufo-Addo recalled.

Nana Akufo-Addo added:

QUOTE: As though this was not enough, the continent had to endure centuries of being colonised by the same people who undertook the slave trade. The identity and personality of the African were assaulted, and the imprints of imperialism and colonialism woven deeply into the fabric of our lives.... We have a sacred duty and an onerous responsibility to help restore the dignity and pride of the African.” UNQUOTE

But the Ghanaian President did not limit himself to crying over spilt milk, as it were. He looked for ways of turning a negative event in Africa's history into a positive one. He pointed out: “We are a continent of some 1.3 billion people, more than either the populations of Europe or the Americas; we are an enterprising, hard-working and innovative people, and we must make it count.”

In other words, we must unite our peoples and use our combined intellectual power – especially, our technical skills – to make Africa a home to which every person in the diaspora can look with longing and affection.

Ghana, according to the President, is using the symbolism of 2019, dubbed as the ‘Year of Return’, to “bring together Africans, persons of African descent, and all well-wishers and lovers of freedom, to strengthen the commitment to ensuring that this blot on the history of Africa never reoccurs.”

(It will be recalled that Ghana kicked he anniversary off with a launching of “The Year of Return” in Washington, D.C. in October 2018. This was continued in December 2018 with a “Full Circle Festival”, during which over 70 African-American celebrities visited Ghana to reconnect with their African heritage. )

In the words of the President: “They [the visitors] were able to view Ghana, and, indeed, Africa, from their own lenses. They were [also] able to “Eat, Feel, See and Wear Ghana”.

But words and promises are not enough to bring us together with our brothers and sisters who, in the words of Malcolm X, “did not arrive in America in the Queen Mary” [a luxury vessel] .They were taken to America and the Caribbean traumatised and in shackles. Many died in “The Middle Passage” (as the ocean between their homes and their new abode was called). Those who survived were worked like animals and many dropped dead in the fields of tobacco and sugar plantations where they were put to work. Those engaged in this slave labour were caned or even lynched, at the slightest sign of insubordination. This has remained till today, when a black person can be shot dead, for no reason at all, by the American police. The police usually go scot-free, after shooting a black person.

Every Jewish American can look to the state of Israel as his or her “other home”, and Jewish Americans of means regularly contribute money and skills to safeguard the Israeli state. It is up to us Africans too, to court our African-American brothers and sisters, so that they can justifiably look on Africa as their spiritual home; a continent whose people's lives they would like to help improve, so that they can be welcome here, as well as make as good a living on the continent, as they can do in the USA or Europe.

To achieve this objective, we need to work hard and work together on it. It is therefore an excellent development that the sons of two great anti-imperialists have come together to pool resources to try and actualise the idea.

Good on you, Nana Akufo-Addo!

Good on you, Ndugu Uhuru Kenyatta!

Cameron Duodu
Cameron Duodu, © 2019

Martin Cameron Duodu is a United Kingdom-based Ghanaian novelist, journalist, editor and broadcaster. After publishing a novel, The Gab Boys, in 1967, Duodu went on to a career as a journalist and editorialist.

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