Live from the Woods: Speaking truth to Akufo-Addo about murder of Ghanaians in Gambia

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One attitude of our governments that particularly bothers me is the way they treat matters relating to the welfare of Ghanaians residing in foreign countries. Perhaps I’m being critical, but our enthusiasm when it comes to the welfare of our people abroad is distressing.

Our governments are either impassive or want our nationals to face the consequences because they paid their way into those countries. The truth is that our behavior hasn’t been the best especially when political rhetoric says the opposite.

I was in Monrovia, Liberia in 2014 working as a freelance journalist for Concord Times newspaper when Ebola broke out and I wondered what Ghana’s Ambassador was going to do by way of our safety. We didn’t even receive a phone call from the Embassy although it had our particulars. No communication was issued to warn Ghanaians about the danger that was ahead.

I could name countries such as the United States, Britain, China, Russia, and Nigeria (passively) that communicated the impending danger to their nationals. They told them what to do and how to seek assistance in the event that the worst strikes.

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh

I monitored events especially when news circulated that a Guinean motorist had sneaked an Ebola patient into Liberia for medical treatment. The citizens were disconcerted, but their legislators backed by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s government went on a mission to obscure the truth.

The government told the nation no case of the disease had been recorded in the country. They lied. The occupant of the Executive Mansion (seat of government) propagated falsehood. Barely a month after what the government thought was a smart communication, cases of the disease was reported in some of the counties; Grand Cape Mount, Bong, Nimba, Sinoe, and Margibi.

Flights from Monrovia to Accra were cancelled and the citizens grew apprehensive as more cases were reported. Ivory Coast shut down its border with Liberia, turning away Liberians and other West African nationals who want to use the country as a thoroughfare. In the end, about 10,666 cases were reported across the country with 4,806 deaths.

I had left Liberia before the disease escalated, but months after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea – three most Ebola battered countries – as Ebola free, the Ghana government is yet to tell us the number of Ghanaians lost to the disease.

Gambian President-elect, Adama Barrow now President also

In 2005 under the supervision of erstwhile President John Agyekum Kufuor, at least 33 Ghanaians were reportedly murdered in a mysterious manner in Gambia. President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo was then the Foreign Affairs Minister when the heinous crime was committed against our people.

The circumstances under which our compatriots died were not established by our government. The only thing we have for display was a rejoinder Ambassador Kobina Wudu who was then Acting Chief Director of the Foreign Affairs Ministry wrote to one Salam Mahama to dispel the rumour about the inaction of the Kufuor government.

The letter dated October 10, 2005, reads:

“As you can see, Government is quietly but vigorously pressing for answers to the questions posed by this tragedy. It will not, however, play to the gallery as it considers Ghanaian citizenship too precious a commodity to be the object of demagoguery or opportunism.

“Government intends to go about this delicate situation, involving the activities of law enforcement agencies of a sovereign sister ECOWAS country, systematically and purposefully so that the truth of this affair will be laid bare and its logical consequences realised.”

Twelve years down the line our government hasn’t established what truly happened and what measures have been put in place to protect our people. Yet on January 18, 2017, President Akufo-Addo committed over 200 Ghanaian combatant troops to join ECOWAS forces to militarily oust President Yahya Jammeh.

I will not comment on broke ECOWAS which has no budget for its military action and is only dependent on foreign paymasters. It’s clear the sub-regional body has no plan for the possible humanitarian crisis that its aggression might cause.

What should be of concern to us is how President Akufo-Addo is going to evacuate Ghanaians who are resident in Gambia. What’s our government’s plan? ECOWAS promised a peaceful exercise, but we should not disregard the worst which is staring at us. Mr Jammeh is no stooge to allow the sovereignty of his country to be mortgaged.

Ambassador Kobina Wudu had said of Mr Akufo-Addo in 2005 that he “shares fully the vision of government that Ghanaian citizenship has a value which cannot be quantified, but the defence of which is the most fundamental obligation of any responsible and self-respecting government.”

But truth is, in terms of rhetoric, the President values Ghanaians, but in the arena of actions, he has done far less for him to be described as a defender of Ghanaians. Perhaps, a defender of personal interest.

ECOWAS troops led by Senegalese forces are in Gambia advancing to the capital Banjul to overthrow Mr Jammeh. Considering the background of the Gambia President, the exercise might not be as easy and peaceful as ECOWAS faintly thinks.

The cause of the political crisis is inconsequential as the failure of ECOWAS leaders to listen to the grievances of Mr Jammeh. Adama Barrow, the winner of Gambia’s December 1, 2016, presidential election has been sworn-in at a ceremony in Dakar, Senegal Thursday. What next?

Gambia has two Presidents and the situation could be likened to Ivory Coast in 2010 when President Alassane Ouattara, then President-elect was sworn-in at a hotel in Abidjan under the watch of United Nations (UN) peacekeepers.

Incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo also had his inauguration earlier on December 4, 2010 at the Presidential Palace in Abidjan, but he was arrested some four months later by French-led forces. He is currently facing trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged war crimes.

Although the Ivorian situation might be different in nature to the Gambia crisis, it only serves to remind us about what to expect in the coming days. Will Mr Jammeh end up in the manner Mr Gbagbo was arrested at the Presidential Palace? Or he might be lucky?

The answers to these questions would be discovered in the coming days, but Ghana has to secure the safety of its citizens. President Akufo-Addo must desist from supervising another slaughter in Gambia. Our diplomatic missions have to be sensitive to the plight of our people.

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Disclaimer: Views expressed here are the Author's and do not reflect the position of management of the Multimedia Group Limited or Myjoyonline.com. The author Austin Brakopowers is a journalist with Joy 99.7 FM and could be reached via Brakomen@outlook.com or www.brakopowers.com