Tuesday, March 6, 2007
Greetings from afar
COMMONWEALTH SECRETARY-GENERAL, DON McKINNON
“THE best way of learning is to be an independent sovereign state”, said Kwame Nkrumah 50 years ago. So it was that the great events of 6th March 1957 at the Accra Polo Club began a learning process that sees an independent Ghana celebrate its 50th birthday today.
On this great anniversary, citizens of this country, of Africa, of the Commonwealth and the world celebrate these extraordinary achievements. The former Gold Coast has proved that its real gold lies in its people. The nation that pointedly placed a star in the middle of its flag has indeed become one of the stars of this continent, Ghana was a beacon for African independence and unity then; now, it is a beacon for African stability and progress. On behalf of the 53 nations of the Commonwealth, 18 of which are here on the continent of Africa, I warmly salute it.
QUEEN ELIZABETH II
I have much pleasure in sending Your Excellency my congratulations on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the Independence of Ghana, along with my best wishes for the happiness and prosperity of the Government and people of Ghana in the years ahead. Prince Phillip and I very much look forward to your forthcoming State Visit.
In many ways, Ghana and the Commonwealth are inter-twined roots of the same tree. They have grown together over the years, and come a long way.
Ghana’s belief in independence for all of its African brothers and sisters mirrors the Commonwealth’s role, as one of the most ardent champions of the process of decolonization, which Ghana set in train on the African continent. Great Ghanaian advocates of independence like President Nkrumah and Alex Quaison-Sackey, the first African head of the UN General Assembly, found strong allies in their Commonwealth counterparts from five continents. President Nkrumah was one of the pioneers of non-alignment, in a world afflicted by super-power rivalry. In 1965, it was Ghana that spearheaded the movement to establish an impartial and neutral Secretariat for the Commonwealth. And now, President Kufuor has been elevated to the role of President of the African Union, while the Commonwealth itself works alongside the AU in programmes to strengthen governance all across Africa.
Ghana’s democratic record – despite the violence and darkness of coup and counter-coup – now mirrors Commonwealth Africa at large in its health and vitality.
The significance of 1992, when Ghana became one of the first African countries to make the transition from One-party authoritarianism to a Multi-party State, has never been lost. Ten other Commonwealth African countries have followed suit over the last 15 years.
In 2000, Ghana then became one of the first African countries in which an opposing party came to power through the ballot box, a position that was secured in peaceful elections in 2004.
Likewise, there have been six Presidential elections in Commonwealth Africa in the last 18 months, in which four Presidents were returned to power, one party was returned to power with a new President, and power changed hands across parties in one country. All of the elections were peaceful; all were judged free, fair and credible – if never quite perfect. It is the essence of democracy that ‘life goes on’ whether a government is returned or replaced. And in Ghana and throughout Commonwealth Africa it has done so.
Ghana and the Commonwealth continue to work together, not just in consolidating democracy and development at home, but in exporting it and sharing it with others.
Again, it is no coincidence that Ghana was the first country to offer itself up for the African Peer Review Mechanism within NEPAD. The APRM report showed that democracy is on course in Ghana, and offered suggestions as to how to make a good situation even better. Ghana and the Commonwealth can be proud that of the 28 African countries which are part of the APRM, 14 are from the Commonwealth, with only 4 of our countries not yet included.
What the Commonwealth brings to Ghana – with some 40 billion cedis of development programmes in the last five years – is more than matched by what Ghana brings to the Commonwealth.
There have been many eminent Ghanaians who have helped further the Commonwealth’s work. Among them are Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, head of the Ghanaian electoral commission, who has helped to prepare and observe elections in Guyana, Malawi and Kenya. Justice Emile Short, head of the Ghanaian Human Rights Commission, has helped to establish similar bodies across West Africa.
Professor E.V.O. Dankwah assisted in preparing a Constitution for Swaziland; while Professor V.C.R.A.C. Cabbe, an inspiration at over 80, heads the Commonwealth programme on drafting and introducing new national legislation in Africa.
So Ghana is exporting the strength of its democratic institutions, while its exceptional teachers are to be found all over Africa, and its peacekeepers have been the mainstay of UN forces from Lebanon to the Democratic Republic of Congo, from Sierra Leone to Somalia. And of course, we can take vicarious pride in having provided the United Nations its first Secretary-General from a Commonwealth country – in Kofi Annan!
A beacon for Africa and for the Commonwealth – Ghana Ayeekoo!
THE GHANAIAN TIMES - Tuesday, March 6, 2007 Page: 8