Right and wrong signals: A message to Akufo-Addo

Ghana Thinks

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Mr. President, I hope that this message finds you well.

At the onset, let me wish you a Merry Christmas in advance and congratulate you on your courage, deftness, and consistent delivery of the Ghana beyond aid slogan which is gradually defining your presidency. You started this inspiring message at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2017, continued in London last month, and made it the focus of your media interaction with the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, a little over a week ago. Your will to succeed on this front is something that those of us in the academia, at least, admire because it is a topic that we have learned and taught for decades. Many academics wish to see the Africa beyond aid rhetoric translated into practice. In that regard, I hope that your political will would find concrete meaning in a well crafted and coherent and comprehensive Ghana foreign policy strategy to achieve this noble goal.

To be sure, you are sending the right signal, and Ghana’s partners may be taking careful notes on how to meaningfully engage the country under your presidency and in the future. As well, foreign investors may be reading that, indeed, Ghana is opened for business and wish to run a modernized economy.  Again, foreign policy observers would be thrilled to note that in the past three weeks alone several European leaders have visited Ghana. This week you are hosting the President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, on an official visit. Your diplomatic engagements at home and abroad are very impressive for your first year as the President!

Ghana beyond aid as the catchphrase of your government’s external relations, however, cannot be achieved in practice without the active participation of Ghanaians living abroad. Mr. President, Ghanaians in the Diaspora are your transnational ambassadors. They are the unofficial diplomats who are well positioned around the world to build the bridges of collaboration and cooperation with your targeted foreign nations. Their non-traditional diplomatic clout and the benefits thereof must not be underestimated by your government and Ghanaians as a whole, and that brings me to the second reason why I am sending you this message. 

Mr. President, I am sure that you are aware of the proposed amendment to the NPP Constitution to exclude Ghanaians in the Diaspora from holding offices in the NPP. To put it bluntly, the proposed amendment is not about the Diaspora. It is essentially about your government and the Ghanaian society. The apparent attack on the right of the Diaspora community to participate in the political life of the NPP is a convenient means to undermine your government, and in turn, the overall socio-economic development of the Ghanaian society. The proposal, if passed, will be a major blow to the morale of the Ghanaian Diaspora community to support your development efforts. I can only think about power and argue that the Diaspora is perceived as a soft target to derail your progressive development agenda. Whether this is being done intentionally or unintentionally by the NPP Parliamentary Caucus, ad hoc Constitutional Review Committee, and National Council is hard to tell. However, it is very hard to imagine that such a delicate decision to exclude an important constituency like Ghanaians in the Diaspora was made without the three groups of decision-makers thinking about the implications and consequences. I will advise that this proposal is struck-down and should not be allowed to get close to the floor of the NPP’s Extraordinary Delegates Conference in Kumasi on Sunday, December 17, 2017.

Mr President, your disposition since you came to power has earned you a lot of goodwill beyond the NPP fraternity. I would not be wrong to say that some of your strongest supporters and admirers are not NPP folks but Ghanaians in the Diaspora who have seen the dawn of Ghana's century under your leadership. They smell great opportunities to give back to their motherland. These Diaspora folks are men and women who love their country no more or less than their families and country folks at home. Indeed, their remittances of $2 billion in 2016 alone far exceeded the total tax revenue and foreign aid for that year. This is a strong signal that the Diaspora community is certainly needed in the equation to move Ghana beyond aid.

Further to the establishment of the Diaspora Liaison Office at the Presidency and the hosting of the Diaspora Homecoming Summit in July this year, Ghanaians in the Diaspora expect leadership from your government to amend Articles 8(2) and 94(2)(a) of the 1992 Constitution to provide equal citizenship to dual citizens.

In your speech on Africa beyond Aid to the Royal African Society in London, UK, you said “We need to have our own bright and sharp lawyers to keep us abreast with the sharp and bright lawyers that our trade partners have. We need to have our own bright and sharp technologists to keep us abreast with our competitors” Yet, the door to fully utilize the vast expertise of Ghanaians in the Diaspora is currently closed by Articles 8(2) and 94(2)(a) of the 1992 Constitution. Mr President, not only is this inimical to Ghana’s democracy and human rights development, as well, the country cannot exclude the huge human and material resource potential of the Diaspora community and still expect to be competitive in the highly competitive global economy. 

I need not belabor the fact that there are enough challenges that Ghana face and the leadership of the NPP are supposed to help to create the enabling environment including the implementation of Diaspora-friendly policies, and assisting in the removal of Constitutional constraints against the Diaspora community for your government to succeed. Your government’s success will depend on the full utilization of the human resources at home and abroad.

It is troubling to note that a new Achilles heel is being formed with the proposed constitutional amendment to the NPP Constitution regarding the exclusion of the Diaspora from holding offices in the NPP.  That is a wrong signal! Politics of self-preservation and exclusion is not only dangerous to the promotion and protection of human rights, but it attacks the essence of your progressive development agenda that is marked by Ghana beyond aid.

Mr. President, speak and let you men and women listen and act accordingly. 

Edward Akuffo is an associate professor of international security and international relations at the University of the Fraser Valley in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada.