Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Beautiful Lessons From Ghana

This week I have decided to publish a piece from a fellow Zimbabwean Blogger who has written extensively about "our" (and by that I mean Zimbabwean) perception of Ghana and why Obama chose Ghana. I have included his e-mail at the end so if you feel motivated enough, you may comment on this blog and drop him a line too. The article is rather longish that my usual dosage, so I have split it into 2 parts. This blog post was first published in one of Zimbabwe`s weekly newspapers and online publications two weeks ago.

I love Ghana.
If I had to choose an African country other than Zimbabwe, as my home it’s fair to say Ghana would have little, if any competition.
Perhaps it’s the fascination of a one-time visitor. Perhaps it is judgment that is clouded by the comfort of being a passer-by; by the beauty of being a visitor who often is accorded kindness, something that often fades the longer you stay among your hosts.
That is possible, but even my interactions with most Ghanaians outside Ghana persuade me that they are a good and cultured people. I would happily live among them.
A couple years ago, when Ghana celebrated 50 years of independence, I wrote in these pages about my first and only trip to that beautiful country on the West African coast.
I wrote about the warmth the people of Accra exuded; about the atmosphere which made it so easy — it was like I had been transported to an old country that I had once lived in centuries ago. It reminded me of Zimbabwe in many ways; a Zimbabwe that now existed in memory.
It brought back a lot of memories but it also gave a glimpse of some of the pain that runs through every part of the continent.
I have always found a strong connection between my country and Ghana. Perhaps it’s the maternal connection. For this is where Zimbabwe’s original First Lady, Amai Sally Mugabe was born and raised.
I did not know much about her but I think she was a good woman. For sure, she looked and sounded like a good woman. She had a certain aura around her and seemed to always have a permanent smile.
We knew her not for her beautiful costumes but for the love that she showered upon so many children.
She did not have one of her own but you wouldn’t have known, for she was always surrounded by happy kids. Our then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe had been a teacher in Ghana and here he had found himself a beautiful wife. As I walked the streets of Accra and spoke to the cheerful men and women that I met, I couldn’t help but notice a little Sally in most of them.
They were happy to have me, a brother from Zimbabwe and many remembered the Sally connection. Even in death she remained a uniting point; someone whom diverse people from different sides of the continent could relate to and talk about with fondness. Few are so blessed whether in life or in death.
But I also had some painful moments on that trip. This was the first Sub-Saharan country to gain independence in 1957. Yet what I encountered in the suburbs, beyond the smiles and cheerful welcome were many sad stories of a people whose circumstances could only be described more kindly as “challenging”. Here in Accra you came face to face with the plight of a whole continent that had escaped the yoke of colonialism in the last half century.
I spoke to Ghanaians who gave various versions of their history. They are a proud people; this is the land of the legendary Ashanti Empire, a favourite subject during my history lessons in high school.
I learned of the turmoil that the nation went through in its early years. In 50 years it had seen it all — almost everything that every other African country has gone through or will go through — one-party rule, military rule, failed attempts to institute democracy and finally, the present beautiful phase of peaceful multi-party democracy.
On reflection, Ghana almost encapsulates the evolution of the continent — the challenges, trials, errors and successes, of the post-independence era. No wonder US President Barack Obama recently chose it as his first proper African destination.
Five years after my visit to Ghana, nothing has happened to diminish my affection for that country. If anything, looking at the continent’s political landscape, Ghana seems to have turned a corner.
The ordinary men and women may still be struggling economically but the country has at the very least managed to tame, for now, the one institution around which chaos grows in most African countries: the election.
The last three elections demonstrate that it is possible in Africa for the election to be a facility through which people can successfully make free choices and that the incumbent does not have a divine right to remain in power at all costs.
Former President Jerry Rawlings was the last of the military rulers but by 1992 he had been re-born, leading Ghana for two four-year terms under the 1992 Constitution. That two-term requirement was observed.
The seminal election of 2000 was won by John Kufour, the opposition leader, beating John Atta Mills, the man representing former President Rawlings’ party.


  1. Reading and waiting for the other parts. This is so warm. I like it that it is not just romantic, but talks about the not-so-scenic 'routes' as well.

  2. The second part is right below this article, sir. I should have made it clear, thanks.