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Diasporian News Mon, 26 Nov 2007

Ghana Ambassador to Italy 1yr. in office

Time flies, and so soon it’s a little of over 12 months since His Excellency Charles Agyei-Amoama took office as Ghana’s Ambassador to Italy.

There was not much to laugh about then, for it was a time that the Ghanaian community in Italy led by the Council of Ghanaian Nationals Association in Italy (COGNAI) and the Ghana Embassy in Rome were deadlocked over passport fee increase at the Ghana Embassy in Rome. COGNAI, the mouth piece of the Ghanaian community, had asked the Embassy to reconsider a decision to reduce an 85% increase on renewal or applying for the Ghanaian passport at the Embassy.

Petitions flew over board to the then Ambassador and to the Ghana Government in Accra on the issue as the Embassy insisted the fees were arrived at by the Government and there is not much they can do about it. In the view of Ghanaians in Italy the increase has been influenced by the Embassy arguing also that they are being singled out among their fellow compatriots in Europe as none of the Ghanaian Embassies in this territory is charging that much on the same document.

When diplomacy failed, it came to a head that the community of Ghanaians across the country planned on going to the Embassy in their numbers, bare their teeth with placards in demonstration against the increase. The trend of events was going to give the Ghana Government a nasty dent abroad, they at first underrated the threat but later saw it wise to change the Ambassador who the Ghanaian community saw as not helping matters on the issue.

Whichever way you saw the coming in of a new Ambassador then to take office, there is no denying to the fact that the passport fee increase issue contributed to the change at the Head of the Ghana Embassy in Rome and he did not go alone, two other top diplomats were also replaced.

The Ghana Government which had been sleeping on petitions upon petitions from COGNAI finally woke up and made a quick turn around after snubbing the charge and threats to the demonstration.

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And with that the non-flamboyant His Excellency Agyei-Amoama took office as the new Ambassador. He doesn’t wear those accessories of our big shots who prefers doors to be opened and closed for them, their light weight briefcase carried behind and it takes an awful lot by their own country men and women to see them in their office. The man is that simple and when I met him for the first time in his office he quickly pointed out he‘s also a diasporan. He was well aware of the challenges that confronted him before coming into office, at a time that the Ghanaian community in Italy and the Ghana Embassy in Rome were poles apart over agreement on the passport fee increment.

He admitted he has taken office at a very difficult time but said, “my door is open to any Ghanaian here who wants to dialogue,” and he adds, “if you are coming to me with a problem you should as well come with a possible solution so that between the two of us we can see how to solve it.”

COGNAI saw in him a man they can work with, for at least in his first few weeks in office he showed respect to the Ghanaian community in Italy, prepared to listen to COGNAI. His first meeting with them was in their own backyard, in the northern city of Reggio Emilia. It couldn’t have been a better place since majority of the Ghanaian population in Italy live in the north of the country.

Within 1year in office, he has bridged the gap between the Ghana Embassy and the Ghanaian community in Italy. So soon the heated wrangling over the increase of passport fee from €115 to €200 appears to have been forgotten and the Ghanaian applicant, though paying the new fee under a grinding teeth, is not making much of it as seen in the past. The Embassy building is taking shape with renovation works. Things have not reached the full expected satisfaction but Ghanaians who go to the Embassy for their documents see an Ambassador who is close to them as he often walks to the Consular Section to interact with them, know about their difficulties and offers possible solutions. One Ghanaian lady to the Embassy told me the Consular Section refused her a document she went for, she was not too happy about it but it happened that the Ambassador was there, she followed him to his office and like a caring father he explained the situation promising that when she provides all the needed requirements her requested document would be processed. “I was moved by his approach and that calmed me, we hardly see this in that office,” she said.

That’s not all, His Excellency is also integrated into the Ghanaian community in Italy taking time off his busy schedules to be present at some of their functions, the Ghana@50 anniversary celebration, among others, has seen him at some of these events.

Staff relationship at the Embassy appears to have improved with regular meetings giving permission to members to spell out their grievances.

He is setting up a welfare fund for the Ghanaian community in Italy so those who find themselves as destitute and meet the criteria to be set up can be assisted since the Ghana Embassy is unable to provide for such assistances.

Your Excellency, those of us in this profession will give credit where it’s due but will also open and pour out what goes sour in your court.

So far so good but it’s still early days by my watch to make any conclusions. The first year of your administration has seen some remarkable results and will be sitting on the side line in the coming year watching events again as it unfolds in your camp.

Ghanaians in Italy appear to have someone who can talk to them like a compatriot, know their problems and also listen to them and if this healthy situations keeps improving there is no doubt they will give their best in contributing to Ghana’s development.

Source: Reggie Tagoe