If it’s the last thing you do, Ambassador Asante (1)
By: KWESI HAYFORD
Around this time last year, an African scholar of some international repute, and engaged in research on aspects of Africa’s political history, approached me for help in either validating or putting to rest forever two allegations which evidently followed Dr. Kwame Nkrumah to his grave. He impressed it upon me — and I agreed with him in toto — that unless these allegations were verified, found to be true or false they will reflect badly on Nkrumah, taint his belief in the dignity of the black race.
The first of the two allegations or rumours I was familiar with, had, in fact, been round for years on end and still persists. It says that Nkrumah was not altogether ken on the appointment of Franklin Williams as America’s Ambassador to Ghana. His objections? Ambassador Williams was a black man, and Nkrumah felt that this was a slight.
What the rumours have never made clear were the following. One, assuming they hold water, was the slight Nkrumah felt personal? In other words, did he think that in sending him a black man the U.S. State Department was telling him since you do go on so much about the dignity of the black race, we are giving you someone of your own kind?
Two, again assuming that the rumours are true, do they expose Nkrumah as someone who, like millions of Africans, carried with him till the end that baggage of white superiority? The rumours strain credibility. More so because there is a protocol which ensures that no country, not even the mighty United States of America can impose an ambassador on another country.
Here is how the process works. Let us, just for the hell of it, deal with this hypothetical case. A government of Ghana decides to appoint Kwesi Hayford, a well-known member of the “ammbo bra brass band” as its envoy to the United States of America. It does not follow automatically that I pick up and leave for Washington. First, my nomination has to be presented to the U.S. State Department, the American equivalent of our Foreign Ministry.
The government will have to build me up on why it thinks I will be a good representative. After that it is in the hands of the U.S. government to accept or reject my nomination, If Nkrumah, for whatever reason, was chilled to the bone by the prospect of a black-American, al he had to do was tell the State Department in no uncertain terms; thanks but no thanks. Unless, of course, Nkrumah kept his peace because be recognized America as the “praise God from whom all blessings flow”, and thought twice about upsetting the apple-cart.
In hindsight, the person who surprises me the most in all of this is me. Why, in light of the advantageous position I was in, didn’t it ever occur to me to chase the truth? Among my best friends at the time of the rumour was the Political Officer of the American Embassy in Accra. I knew enough American diplomats who might have been willing to confirm or deny what was being offered as the gospel truth.
In Washington, D.C., I could have explored the matter with my boss, Ambassador EM. Debra,
with whom I had an unusual simpatico. In New York, I came to know the very than around whom the rumour swirled, Ambassador Franklin Williams, then heading a Foundation there. Had I remembered to bring the matter up, I am sure he would have confirmed or repudiated it.
As much as that rumour strains credibility, I wouldn’t be so quick as to dismiss it if I were you.
Believe me, in governments and in diplomacy alt over the world, strange, strange things occur.
For instance, I discovered in the years that I was reporting for the Ghana News Agency — Embassy Row being one of my beats — that the best informed people on goings-on in the Nkrumah government, which Minister had his hands in the till, were foreign diplomats and foreign correspondents.
There was very little going on in this country that the government could put past those people, and you could, to use an old American phrase, bet on your bottom dollar that what you heard at diplomatic cocktail parties and from foreign correspondences you talked with had bases. A good example: Nkrumah’s government, justifiably offended by apartheid, placed a trade embargo on the racist South African government.
Unfortunately, Ghana had to eat humble pie when Nkrumah was informed that the only country from which it could purchase mining machinery badly needed in this country was South Africa. Every foreign diplomat informed his government about this, foreign correspondents were restrained, but the public was never informed of it. And where do you think these rumours about Nkrumah’s displeasure with Ambassador Williams originated from? Diplomatic circles, which is why as incredulous as I find the rumours I choose to be of two minds about it.
The second rumour centres on Raymundo De Souza Des Gantes(?) Brazil’s first Ambassador to Ghana, popularly known as “Sakura”. Long, long before shaving the head became fashionable for all those of us who wanted to hide our balding patches, Ambassador Des Gantes had his head closely shaved. Ghanaians not familiar with the importance attacked to different shades of skin in North and Latin-America do not know this, but Des Gantes was a black Brazilian, and the first in his race to be appointed an envoy to another country.
If the scholar ever gets round to publishing his book he will tell you the whole Magellan, which doesn’t belong here is why his skin colour either set off the rumours, which for all we know have some basis.
Unhappy with Brazil for sending him a black ambassador, the rumour went again, Nkrumah broke with a diplomatic etiquette witch sets a time frame for the leaders of a country to receive the credential ( of a foreign envoy. Some say he kept Des Gantes waiting for three months, while others put the waiting period to six months.
Again my suggestion to you is not to dismiss this rumour as not stacking up. If we cannot guarantee what goes on in the minds of the men and women who sleep next to us night after night, how can we stand behind every action of politicians? Given their sleight of hand? To demonstrate his displeasure with the Brazilian government for foisting on him an ambassador he would rather not have had, Nkrumah, the rumours went, broke with the diplomatic protocol of receiving the credentials of an ambassador with a specified period of his arrival.
The Ghanaian Times - Page: 7 Saturday, September 4, 2010