Chukwuhdi: “I want to counter bogus impressions that (a) business is booming in Ghana and, (b) that there is a lot of opportunity by asking If that’s true why are so many Ghanaians risking their lives to escape to Europe and the United States?”
Writer Allen Chukwuhdi says Ghana is not the best destination for African-Americans seeking dual citizenship or to live in Africa.
Following the death of George Floyd, the Republic of Ghana invited African-Americans to ‘Come Home.’ And although the idea of returning to Africa is noble, nevertheless, I’m offended by the Ghanaian government’s use of Floyd’s murder as a duplicitous opportunity to promote tourism.
For that reason, I want to clarify the misconceptions and outright lies about Ghana contained in recent articles. For example, Janelle Richards article of June 8, 2020, for NBC; Brendan Cole’s article of June 10 for News Week; Elizabeth Ohene’s article of June 11 for the BBC; Danielle Paquette’s article of July 4 for the Washington Post; and, likewise, Kwasi Gyamfi Asiedu’s article of June 20th for Quartz entitled “After George Floyd, Ghana’s simple message to African-Americans: Come Home.”
To be clear, the substance of all the articles is the same. However, I’ll reference Mr. Asiedu’s article of June 20th that says “Ghana has long courted the descendants of enslaved Africans to ‘return home’ as tourists or to permanently resettle. Leading African-American icons including Martin Luther King Jr., Maya Angelou, Muhammad Ali, and Malcolm X have either visited or lived in the country since independence in 1957.” Indeed, Ghana was the place to be in the 1960s. But, none of those Mr. Asiedu mentions actually lived in Ghana except for Maya Angelou who arrived in 1962 and, returned to the U.S in 1964. And while she writes favorably about her ‘African experience’ she [also lived in Egypt] was dismayed by the general apathy of Ghanaians. On the other hand, MLK attended the ‘independence ceremony’ in March 1957, Muhammad Ali visited Ghana in 1964 and, to be sure, Malcolm X addressed the student body at the University of Ghana in May 1963. Which is interesting when you consider how hostile the University of Ghana is toward African-American educators today. Having attended the University of Ghana (Legon), in 2012, I can tell you that there’s a general fear that if African-American are employed Ghanaian staff and professors would lose their jobs. Nevertheless, I have some fond memories of my time at U-Ghana because it’s where I began writing my book on Kwame Nkrumah.
Notwithstanding, Mr. Asiedu goes to the heart of the matter when he says “Ghana’s government . . . is hoping to tap into the current mood . . . to strengthen its pitch targeting people of African descent in the diaspora . . . [as tourist]. Then, he quotes the tourism minister, Barbara Oteng Gyasi who says “We continue to open our arms and invite all our brothers and sisters’ home. . . We have our arms open ready to welcome you. . . Please take advantage, come home, build a life in Ghana. You do not have to stay where you are not wanted . . .”. As previously stated, the idea of African-Americans repatriating to Africa is noble. However, the question that confronts us is ‘come home to what and, on what terms?’ Moreover, should the diaspora in general and, African-Americans in particular, ‘go home to Ghana’ as opposed to Senegal, Nigeria, Gambia or Ivory Coast? What I’m asking is whether the Republic of Ghana is the place for African-Americans to settle and, based on my experiences, I would like to suggest that under the present conditions it is not! Perhaps, that’s why as opposed to becoming a citizen of Ghana Cardi B decided to take Nigerian citizenship.
However, the tourism minister’s statement is important because it inadvertently illuminates my claim about deceptive practices. Given that, there are an estimated 3000 African-Americans living in the country, for example members of the ‘African-American Association of Ghana’ their absence of expression is noteworthy. Furthermore, their exclusion makes any article extolling Ghana as the place for African-Americans to ‘come home to’ suspect. So does the absence of an African-American presence in the ‘Ministry of Diaspora Affairs’ and, likewise, there conspicuous non-appearance at the so-called ‘George Floyd dedication’ held at the W.E.B DuBois Center in Accra on June 5th. But, most importantly African-Americans or ‘obroni’s’ as we are often called are noticeably absent from any plans to promote tourism or resettlement in Ghana.
But allow me to deviate for a moment because the term ‘obroni’ is worth mentioning. It is a derogatory term for African-Americans meaning ‘white-man’ which is interesting when you observe how much Ghanaians in general and, the elite in particular, idolize white people. On the other hand, African-Americans, Nigerians, Jamaicans, and other Blacks are often subjected to xenophobia and treated with the same indifference that Maya Angelou was subjected to. Then again, Nkrumah warns African-Americans not to go to Africa looking for some lost land of the ancestors because it doesn’t exist. To be precise, Africa has been “forever altered” by colonialism. Moreover, Nkrumah advises us to be critical because if we don’t identify the problems in Africa, we won’t be able to address them. That being said, the judiciary in Ghana still wears blonde periwigs.
Yet, I don’t want to digress I want to counter bogus impressions that (a) business is booming in Ghana and, (b) that there is a lot of opportunity by asking If that’s true why are so many Ghanaians risking their lives to escape to Europe and the United States? What’s more, I present the reality that the Republic of Ghana is on the verge of collapse and has been for a long time, therefore, the government seeks African-Americans half-heartedly. Allow me to elucidate because I’ve spent 4-6 months a year for the past 9 years in Ghana and, as a result, I can testify to the difficulty foreigners, particularly African-Americans, have acquiring land or attempting to do business due to xenophobia and systemic corruption. Concerning African-Americans, specifically, the government of Ghana doesn’t really want them as anything more than tourist that spend their money in over-priced hotels and go home. That’s because of the threat that they would pose to a corrupt status-quo if they became entrenched in Ghanaian society. In fact, the ‘Year of Return’ is an idea that was stolen from me!
I could on to say that tourism hasn’t benefitted ordinary Ghanaians and, challenge exaggerated ideas about historic tours, parties and the success of Afrochella or the Ghana fashion show but, I think it’s enough to say that recent articles are misleading and, it has become incumbent upon me to tell the truth. Which is important, since articles urging African-Americans to “Come Home” and set up shop lack the opinions of people from the diaspora that live in country.
Let me spell this out, the ‘Right of Abode’ which was supposed to offer African-Americans permission to settle in Ghana was unanimously voted down by the Ghanaian parliament in 1997. Even though, it was initiated in 2001 it has never been fully implemented into Ghanaian law. As a result, African-Americans who’ve lived in the country for years have been stuck in an indeterminate state wherein they are denied the opportunities of full citizenship. What’s more, in November 2019 President Akufo Addo engaged in a ‘Year of Return’ publicity stunt when out of the estimated 3,000 African Americans living in Ghana, he promised to grant citizenship to a mere 250 ‘people from the diaspora’. But, when they showed up for the ceremony, he only let in 126 and the rest were abruptly turned away. Yet, these facts are missing from articles extolling Ghana as the place for African-Americans to ‘Come Home’ to.
If truth be told, African-Americans are routinely preyed upon in land purchase and building schemes and, as follows, have money and or property stolen from them. Ironically, these are ways in which African-Americans differ from the Chinese, for example. However, because corruption has caused ‘social disorganization’ in Ghana there is no legal redress. What’s more, to stay in country African-Americans have to pay an annual fee that most assuredly goes into a ‘ministers’ pocket. Taking this into consideration, I believe that any discussions regarding African-American tourism or, a ‘Return to Ghana’ must include these important issues. Specifically, the issue of dual citizenship, xenophobic discrimination, business opportunities with the same tax breaks given the Chinese, government employment, as well as, land, legal and ‘intellectual property’ protections. In short, Ghana is going to have to let African-Americans ‘breathe’ by changing the existing state of affairs.
Furthermore, we need to address the fact that slavery and indentured servitude still exists in Ghana because ‘Black Lives Matter in Ghana Too’. We need to talk about the people in the north who ‘can’t breathe’ because they still suffer from the effects of the Atlantic slave trade, as well as, present day government ineptitude and corruption. To be precise, the people of the north are like African-American’s, in that, they continue to suffer at the hands of the descendants of the very people that shipped our ancestors into the Atlantic and now get to decide who is worthy of coming back, on what terms and, how they can exploit us. Along these lines, we need to discuss why Ghanaians are paid so little. Why the literacy rate in Ghana is the same as it was in 1960 which is approximately 10%. We need to talk about why the average Ghanaian is homeless and hungry in a country that produces gold, oil, magnesium, bauxite, natural gas, redwood and, etc. In short, we need to talk about fundamental change and, I have suggested to the ‘Congressional Black Caucus’ that Ghana be held accountable for these transgressions.
This is important because the call for social equality is the heart of the worldwide ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement. Therefore, on the face of it the Ghanaian President Akufo Addo sent the Floyd family his condolences along with traditional Kente cloth on June 2nd and, in addition, the Ghana Tourism Authority organized a ‘memorial dedication’ in Floyd’s honor on June 5th. But, when Ernesto Yeboah organized a grassroots ‘Black Lives Matter’ protest in Accra on June 7th that invoked George Floyd and others while protestors chanted “We are not free until we are all free”, and “I can’t breathe because of corruption” it was abruptly shut down by the Ghanaian police firing their weapons in the air and Mr. Yeboah was promptly arrested. Therefore, in contrast to any bogus impressions given by the Ghana Tourism Ministry that (a) there’s empathy for George Floyd or even the sufferings of Black people (b) business is booming in the land of ‘milk and honey’ or (c) that there is a lot of opportunity for African-Americans in Ghana I offer you an accurate assessment and, I suggest that you look before they leap.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8H28xu9IF48 https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/detroit/2015/05/07/elderly-native-detroit-sisters-slain-ghana/70980666/ https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1929786250373115&id=100000252755438 https://nationalpost.com/news/canada/two-canadian-women-kidnapped-in-kumasi-ghana-says-authorities