Do you believe in fate? Do you believe that sometimes things are not coincidental in how they happen? I do not think I fully believe in fate but I do not believe in coincidences. My experiences, good or bad, over the years have taught me that everything happens for a reason. Sometimes the Universe works in a way that aligns your path and then things start happening and you begin to realize- it was supposed to be exactly like this.
I am not African because I was born in Africa, I am African because Africa was born in me – Kwame Nkrumah
This quote has been very powerful for me from the very first time I heard it. It has a great meaning of how and why you identify yourself as a person. I had heard of Kwame Nkrumah when I was younger as one of Africa’s greatest leaders. His name more often than not always came first when past African leaders especially in the pre-Independence period were mentioned. I loved this quote even before I ever dreamed that I would one day be living in Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana!
Relocating from Kenya was never something I ever imagined. Yes, travel for a few weeks, maybe months, explore and experience different cultures, but not make it home. The fear of the unknown was too much to even imagine being in a foreign land by myself. Ghana has however grown on me- with the people, its rich history and culture. A country that has taught me my own Independence.
Independence, by dictionary definition, is a condition of a person, nation, country, or state in which its residents and population, or some portion thereof, exercise self-government, and usually sovereignty, over the territory. The opposite of independence is the status of a dependent territory.
There are many schools of thought that argue that even though many countries, especially in Africa, have gained independence by separating themselves from colonial rule to practicing self-rule, it is more often than not portrayed that colonial rule had a more permanent effect on Africans where for the longest time, we considered ourselves inferior to western countries. This can be seen in the adaptation in the way of doing things where a lot of the African Culture has been lost and we have adapted western culture- sometimes in the name of modernization. That is however a topic for another day!
Today Ghana marks 63 years of Independence from British Colonial rule. Kenya on the other hand gained Independence from the British colony in 1963. So when I tell you that it’s no coincidence that this Kenyan Girl living in Accra gets to write an article about Ghana at 63, best believe it that this was exactly where I was meant to be.
Ghana was the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to gain Independence and can be seen as one of the inspirations for other African countries to seek separation from colonial rule. As a young girl in Primary school, something we learnt over and over again in History classes was about how the different countries fought to gain independence from the different colonies. At that point, perhaps it was just another lesson.
When I was younger, I often experienced Independence Day in Kenya as a free day (pun not intended) another reason to stay at home- play with my friends and watch television. Those days since we did not have a lot of options for TV channels, Independence Day celebrations would be broadcasted as the main programme for the day.
The President would be received with a lot of pomp and glamour, he would do the Presidential match to inspect the Guard of Honor, address the nation over what the country has achieved since Independence and at least in Kenya, pardon some inmates on good behavior- basically reward them during Independence Day with their own independence.
When you grow older and begin to understand what countries really went through before they got independence, only then do you get to comprehend why the ‘hullabaloo’ of the celebrations is necessary. It was when I moved to Ghana and paid a visit to two of the country’s largest slave castles- Cape Coast Castle and Elmina Castle that I really got to hear what slave trade was about. And even though it was meant to be a fun trip to learn a bit more about Ghana’s past, the stories and experiences were heartbreaking. What the slaves at the castles went through was dehumanizing.
Now I know why celebrating Independence Day is important. In fact, we must celebrate even more. We should never take for granted the gift of being free. We must continuously strive as individuals to exercise our freedom and use it to develop our countries.
Ghana has recorded a number of successes after independence. It is the world’s largest cocoa producer, behind Ivory Coast and Africa’s biggest gold miner after South Africa.
Over the last decade, Ghana has enjoyed a stable, peaceful and deepening democratic governance. I have been present in Ghana through 3 Presidents and two General Elections, with H.E The Late Prof. John Atta Mills (2009-2012) passing away while still in office and his then Vice President, Former President John Dramani Mahama being elected as President (2012-2016). In 2016, for the first time in the history of Ghana, an opposition candidate and the current President of Ghana, H.E Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo won the Presidential race and we witnessed a peaceful transition of power between the two governments.
I have seen and heard of what peace after elections can be and what violence after elections can be. In 2007, I voted in Kenya and it is unfortunately the election year we are least proud of. The 2007 elections recorded the worst of post-election violence. In fact, it is said that those of us that were lucky to be in Nairobi (Kenya’s Capital) did not experience even a tenth of the chaos that went on in the country. They were dark days.
The day I submitted this article (February 28 -remember the no coincidences analogy at the beginning of this article) will be 12 years since The National Accord signed on February 28, 2008, at the height of the post-election chaos, saw the birth of the Grand Coalition Government led by Kenya’s then President Mwai Kibaki and Opposition Leader, Raila Odinga. Former UN Secretary General, the Late Kofi Annan, led the Panel of Eminent African Personalities convened by the African Union in the negotiations that ended the post-election violence following the disputed 2007 elections.
Speaking of peace, Ghana has had various high-profile peacekeeping roles where troops have been deployed in Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone and DR Congo. Not surprising the role it has played within the region, as it is home to the Kofi Annan International Peace Keeping Training Centre (KAIPTC), which has achieved nothing short of its mission and vision of evolving into a preferred international Centre for training, education and research into securing and protecting Africa’s peace and security while contributing to global peace.
One of the things I love most about Ghana is the hospitable nature of the people. Ghanaians are generally known for their warm, peaceful and welcoming nature. Most people don’t like ‘wahala’ and you can be assured that you will encounter more hospitality than the bad experiences you may have when you live in Ghana.
A lot of times when speaking to my Ghanaian friends you often hear statements like “if it was not for Nkrumah’s work we would not be enjoying some of these things.” Some of the things that are still being associated with Kwame Nkrumah include the Tema Motorway, Tema Harbour, Akosombo Dam, Adomi Bridge. Nkrumah built quite a number of schools across the country including the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST).
Certainly there have been a lot of developments in the country over the last 63 years however it goes to show that some legacies speak for themselves. It is up to the current generation of leaders and upcoming leaders to build legacies that will outlive them.
- I hope to see a Ghana that truly promotes Made in Ghana products and services.
- I hope to see a Ghana where young people are empowered to develop their potential and dream big and not solely focus on the usual way of doing things.
- I hope to see a Ghana with more entrepreneurs who are providing innovative products and services.
- I hope to see a Ghana that makes it easy to trade with other African countries.
- I hope to see a Ghana that believes in local tourism and frequently promotes the rich culture and heritage the country has.
Happy Independence Day to Ghana, my second home. One that I am proud to be associated with. I hope the next 63 years will be filled with true Independence- an independence that starts in the mind with us believing in the potential of Africa and doing something about it.
The author is the Chief Director at Global Media Alliance, a leading Integrated Marketing and Communications Company in Ghana (www.gmaworld.com). She leads the Digital Innovations and Public Relations teams in providing strategic advisory services to the clients that they work with. LinkedIn: Emma Wenani