13 April, 2007

GHANAIANS IN BRITISH COLUMBIA CELEBRATE NATION'S 50TH BIRTHDAY IN GRAND STYLE

Surrey, BC, Canada, April 8, 2007

Two eventful days and two spectacular events have kept Ghana on the lips of many here and it is likely to be so for some time to come.

A well-attended symposium and a sold out gala night organized by the Ghana Canada Association of British Columbia (GCABC) to mark Ghana's 50th independence anniversary kept tongues wagging about what the West African nation's trailblazing independence 50 years ago meant to people of African descent everywhere.

On March 23 a symposium jointly organized by the GCABC and Kwantlen University College under the theme: Ghana and Canada-50 Years of Friendship attracted more than 350 participants including local dignitaries-members of the Province's Legislative Assembly, students, professors and the members of the general public.

For more than three hours, the audience was treated to a lively panel discussion of 50 years Ghana-Canadian relations, but also Ghana's independence story by speakers from the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), academia, Non-Governmental Organizations and Ghanaian-Canadian community.

Ghana's High Commissioner to Canada, Her Excellency, Dr. Margaret Amoakohene delivered the keynote address. In her speech, Dr. Amoakohene traced the history of the struggle for Ghana's independence and paid tribute to leaders of Ghana's independence movement, particularly, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah Ghana's first president, who she said linked Ghana's independence to the liberation of the rest of Africa.

Dr. Amoakohene said Ghana's Golden Jubilee also marked 50 years of post-colonialism in Africa. Ghana's 50th independence anniversary "is a celebration not only for Ghana, but for the whole of Africa." But she also criticized African leaders who "took independence as an end in itself," and thereby leaving their countries in economic ruin.

Dr. Amoakohene also observed that the anniversary also marked 50 years of Ghana-Canada relations. She said Canada, has since Ghana’s independence, been consistent in its assistance to her country and praised the Canadian government and people for their continued assistance.

Speaking under the theme, "Ghana and Canada: 50 Years of Friendship: What Next?" eight panelists discussed the historic significance of Ghana's independence, Ghana's role in the liberation of other African countries from colonial rule, the singular and progressive role of Ghana’s pioneer president, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah , and Ghana-Canada relations.

Dr. Charles Quist-Adade, Kwantlen University College professor and organizer of the symposium praised Dr. Nkrumah and his fellow compatriots, collectively called the "Big Six" for facilitating the independence of Ghana from more than a century of British colonial rule.

Speaking on the topic "Kwame Nkrumah, the Big Six and the Fight for Ghana's Independence," Dr. Quist-Adade observed that the Big Six discovered the mission of their generation and strived to fulfill it. Dr. Nkrumah, he said, captured the essence of this mission of the independence leaders in the following two noble sayings: "We prefer independence with danger to servitude in tranquility," and "It is better to govern and misgovern ourselves than to be governed by someone else."

"These sayings by Dr. Nkrumah are testimonies to the fact that there's nothing greater and more precious than liberty. Indeed, there is no price for liberty," Dr. Quist-Adade added. Dr. Quist-Adade who doubles as Public Relations Officer of the Ghana-Canada Association of British Columbia noted that "although Ghana at mid-life may be suffering mid-life crisis" and that even though "the price of freedom may seem so costly to some, Ghanaians are better off as a free people to manage or mismanage our affairs than to be ruled by someone else."

He deplored the military coup that ousted the Nkrumah's Convention People's Party regime in 1966 and saying the coup, which was teleguided by the United States' Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was the worst thing to have happened to Ghana and the entire African continent. The coup not only "'prevented Ghana from becoming the Malaysia on the West Coast of Africa,'" it also aborted Africa's march toward Nkrumah's pet project, a continental union government, he lamented.

Dr. Francis Adu-Febiri, a Sociology professor from Camosun College in Victoria, BC, acknowledged the youth, farmers, women, and workers as the real heroes and heroines in the struggle for Ghana’s independence. Speaking on the topic "Youth, Leadership and Grassroots Democracy and Ghana's Independence," Dr. Adu-Febrir stated that the people of Ghana had long been agitating and organizing against British colonialism.

He said it was a mark of political acumen and great foresight on the part of Dr. Nkrumah to have tapped into the existing freedom-fighting spirit and energies of ordinary Ghanaians, notably the detached youth or "Veranda Boys" in the fight for independence. Without the grassroots, independence would have been impossible, he said.

Mrs. Theresa Agbemenu, speaking on the role of Ghanaian women in the struggle for Ghana's independence and national building, paid glowing tribute to Ghanaian women, who she described as "the unsung heroines" of Ghana's independence struggle and nation-building effort. She singled out the "Makola market women" for praise noting that they were the financiers and the real movers and shakers of the Convention People's Party as it mobilized the country toward independence. After, independence, the role of the Ghanaian women became even more indispensable as they worked even harder to build the foundations of the new Ghana.

Mr. Richard Le Bars, Deputy Director for West Africa in the West and Central Africa Division at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade stated that Canada recognized Ghana as a role model for the rest of Africa.

Mr. Le Bars recalled that Canada has shared close relations with Ghana since its independence and even before. In fact, 2006 marked a landmark - the 100th anniversary of the first major Canadian presence on Ghanaian territory. In 1906, Canadian missionaries from Quebec, Les Pères Blancs, established a church in Navrongo, in what is now Upper East Region. "Canada recognizes Ghana as a model for Africa: a country with strong economic growth, a stable democracy, with regular, free elections; a country that protects the freedom of speech (including a vibrant press), and one that promotes a dynamic civil society and private sector;" Le Bar said.

Ms. Marjorie Ratel, a Vancouver nurse and president of the Korle-Bu Neuroscience Project focused on the role of NGOs in the socio-economic development of Ghana with a particular emphasis on the Korle-Bu Neuroscience Project, a joint international venture between the Vancouver, British Columbia and Accra, Ghana-based Korle-Bu Neuroscience Foundations. The joint venture is raising funds to build a world class Neuroscience Centre of Excellence for Ghana and the West African sub-region.

Appealing for support for the project, Ms. Ratel outlined the acute need for a neuroscience hospital in Ghana and West Africa. "Ten per cent of all hospital admissions in the region are for disease of the nervous system, such as strokes, epilepsy, head and spine injuries, brain tumours and childhood malformations including spina bifida and hydrocephalus."

She appealed to Ghanaians in the Diaspora to pull together and support their homeland. She also called on "all members of society, as global citizens to financially and expertly support the vision of our project and that of our predecessors." The website for the foundation may accessed at: http://www.korle-buneuro.org/

Mr. Kwenu Turkson, for his part, observed that in spite of attempts to demonize him and discredit his outstanding achievements, Dr. Nkrumah is still recognized as one of the most respected leaders in the history of Africa. Mr. Turkson who spoke on the topic "Ghana's Independence and the African Diaspora" said Nkrumah is today recognized as one of the most influential Pan-Africanists of the 20th century and in 2000, he was voted Africa's, "man of the millennium," by the BBC.

Mr. Turkson, who is social activist took issue with Nkrumah's detractors who charge that Nkrumah inherited the richest country in Africa and left it the one of the poorest. Mr. Turkson chided those who have criticized Nkrumah for his alleged one-party dictatorship, the Preventive Detention Act (PDA) which jailed his political opponents without trail by saying to the applause of the audience "What do you do when your enemies spare no effort to unseat a democratically elected government through bombs and bullets, killing innocent children in the process?

"What is George Bush doing with alleged terrorists in Guatanamo Bay? Nkrumah did not send his enemies, who threw bombs at him in their bid to assassinate him to Guantanamo Bay," he said Nkrumah, he said did not invent the PDA; he inherited it from the British colonial government and it has not been repealed since."

To critics who accuse Nkrumah for allegedly squandering Ghana's wealth on white elephant projects and on the African liberation movement, Mr. Turkson said Nkrumah, unlike other African leaders, spent Ghana’s money on meaningful projects in Ghana on a worthy African cause, not on personal aggrandizement. "It takes time for money invested in projects to bear fruits," he observed.

Other speakers were Mrs. Theresa Ohene-Asante who spoke on the topic "The Ghanaian Canadian Woman: Contributions, Challenges and Prospects" and Ms. Bon E. Cummings, Deputy Director of CIDA's Ghana Program who topic was "CIDA and Ghana’s Socio-economic Development"


L-R Hon. Dave Hayer, Parliamentary Secretary for Multiculturalism and Immigration , Her Excellency Dr. M. Amoakohene, Hon. John van Dongen, Minister of State for Intergovernmental Relations and Hon. Richard Lee, MLA, Burnaby North. In the background is Mr. George Kyei Twumasi, GCABC Organizing Secretary

The Panelists: L-R Mr. Kwenu Turkson, Mrs. Theresa Ohene-Asante, Ms. Marjorie Ratel, and Ms. Bon Cummings

Mr. Richard Le Bar Deputy Director for West Africa in the West and Central Africa Division at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade speaking at the symposium

Dr. Adu-Febiri speaking at the symposium

L-R: Dr. Charles Quist-Adade, Hon Dave Hayer, H. E. Dr. Amoakohene, and Dr. Skip Triplett before the symposium

Did you say hairless and hatless? Hatless yes, but Dr. Charles Quist-Adade wears two hats. He doubles as Kwantlen University College professor and GCABC Public Relations Officer
     
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