NATIONAL HOUSE OF CHIEFS PRESIDENTS SPEAKS ON CRITICAL NATIONAL ISSUES calls for a stop to racism
EXCERPTS FROM THE WELCOME ADDRESS BY TOGBE AFEDE XIV, PRESIDENT OF THE NATIONAL HOUSE OF CHIEFS AT ITS GENERAL MEETING HELD FRIDAY, June 19, 2020
Your Majesties, Nananom… it is a great pleasure to welcome you to this meeting, our second of the year. I also wish to welcome into our midst, invited guests and our friends from the media.
Before proceeding, Daasebre Kwebu Ewusi and I would like to thank you for your dedication to your various roles at the committee level. But, as I’ve always said, given the enormity of the task ahead of us, we want to ask for an even greater commitment from each one of you.
In return, we pledge an unwavering commitment to the best interests of this House. Thus, in our dealings with Nananom, we will not vary a hair’s breadth from the path of strictest honesty. To quote Obrempong Krampah from yesterday’s meeting of the Standing Committee, “the chieftaincy institution is our heritage, a national asset”, whose sanctity we must protect.
I would now update you, Nananom, on various happenings since our March 13 meeting, starting with matters that are more external.
Emancipation Day, and the oppression and recent killings of blacks in the US
Coincidentally, Nananom, today, June 19, is Emancipation Day in the US, and “commemorates the date in 1865 when Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger traveled to Galveston, Texas, to inform residents that President Abraham Lincoln had freed the slaves and that slave owners had to comply with the Emancipation Proclamation”.
Also, this month, Tulsa, Oklahoma, marked a grim date – the 99th anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre in which a white mob ravaged a thriving African-American business community in the Greenwood District known as the “Black Wall Street.” Estimates suggest as many as 300 people were killed, and scores of homes and businesses were destroyed.
The Standing Committee of the House, at its meeting yesterday, reflected on recent happenings in America, and accepting the recommendation of its Governance and Development Committee, decided to identify with the suffering of blacks in America, and to issue a statement of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Nananom, for having been forced to provide 400 years of free labour that has helped build America, and for having endured centuries of dehumanizing treatment, and suffered under laws that virtually were against them, African Americans deserve restitution. Affirmative proclamations and actions are not enough. And they also deserve understanding, from their white counterparts, most especially, for the psychological damage they suffered.
We would also like to express our support for the government’s call on Africans in the diaspora, who want to, to return home.
Latest Press Statement from the leadership of the House
Our May 30 Press Statement – A Call for Calm, Peace and Unity – was inspired partly by these recent killings of blacks in the US, two of the most publicised ones occurring after our last meeting, about three months ago.
In that statement, we called on the EC to make peaceful conduct of this year’s general elections its primary objective, requiring, among others, that no qualified Ghanaian is disenfranchised, and that the elections are free and fair. The importance of our peace cannot be overemphasized.
Nananom, while we attack the racists, we must not forget about the tribalists in our midst. Charity, they say, begins at home. Tribalism can be more dangerous. This is not the time for anyone to claim that he is more Ghanaian than the other.
As with racism, nobody was born a tribalist. Racism and tribalism are both products of ignorance. Let us set a good example for our children, and be careful about what we teach them. Let us preach unity always, and let us condemn the tribalists amongst us.
At this time when unimaginable atrocities are being visited on the black man in various parts of the world, we need to work together to strengthen the peace, and create harmonious living conditions at home, so that xenophobic isolation abroad would not be preferred by our people.
Cooperation among Africa traditional leaders
Recent events have exposed the vulnerability of the black race and the imperative need for us, as traditional leaders, to think about what we can do to complement what our political leaders are doing to further the cause of peace, unity and development in Africa.
Africa has 20% of the world’s landmass, 30% of the earth’s mineral resources, and 17% of its people. But we suffer mass poverty and joblessness in the midst of all these, accounting for only 3% of global GDP and 2% of global trade.
The search for answers has engaged our minds recently, and Nana Ewusi and I came up with a plan to initiate conversations with important traditional leaders across the continent, with a view to possibly hosting a conference of Africa traditional leaders in Ghana next year.
Ultimately and ideally, this should lead to the formation of a permanent continental body, say, Africa Traditional Leaders Union (ATLU), along the lines of the African Union (AU), to coordinate our activities.
In pursuit of this objective, the Registrar has written to embassies of 20 African countries with the strongest traditional leaderships, for initial audience to discuss our “desire to collaborate with the traditional leaders” of their countries “to further the cause of African unity”.
So far, we have had meetings with the ambassadors of Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Mali and Liberia, and I am happy to report that our message was very well received, and each of the ambassadors demonstrated a lot of enthusiasm. I will ask that our External Relations Committee takes up the mantle.
Standing Committee Meeting, June 18, 2020
The Standing Committee met yesterday. Before the meeting formally started, we received petitions from two groups:
- Anchoring Democracy Advocacy Movement Ghana: They petitioned the House to “intervene in the impasse between the Electoral Commission and some political parties and civil society organisations”. They questioned the need for a new voters’ register, the time available for the compilation of a new register, the risk of escalation of the spread of COVID-19, and the qualification requirements for registration.
- Back-Bone of Good Governance: They petitioned the House to “advise the Electoral Commission to desist from the act of compilation of new voters’ register which has the potential to plunge this country into conflict”.
Respect for the rights of chiefs
I want to end by calling for respect for, and appreciation of, the roles and responsibilities of chiefs in our socio-economic and political evolution, and ask that our chiefs are spared unnecessary insults and name-calling. Some of these negative behaviours are born out of ignorance, and can be forgiven. Others reflect our typical inability to appreciate what is our own.
I would like to ask that the rights of traditional leaders to comment on issues that affect them and society at large are respected. We need to understand that the constitutional provision that chiefs should not participate in partisan politics cannot mean chiefs cannot comment on political issues that affect them and their subjects. Neither can the fact that political parties have taken positions on certain issues mean chiefs cannot express their independent opinions.
Finally, it is important to recognize that in a society that guarantees freedom of thought and speech, even people in the same party can have different views. So people who share a different view on an issue are not necessarily opponents, let alone enemies.
Once again, I want to thank you all for coming, and for all the committee meetings that took place before this meeting.
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