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Diasporian News Wed, 31 Jan 2007

Ghana’s new Ambassador to Italy, new hope?

Looks, expressions, position and sometimes one’s level of education can be deceptive in judging the individual but if recent comments and actions by Ghana’s new Ambassador to Italy, His Excellency Charles Agyei-Amoama, is anything to go by then Ghanaians in Italy are going to feel the presence of their Embassy and an impact on their lives in the country

Just months after taking his seat at the Mission, the ubiquitous Ambassador has made remarkable changes in staffs positions.

Last year, by this time when I was at the Embassy, the state of the building - inside out and the compound - was a pitiful sight. In short it didn’t befit standards.

Today the story is changing, the Mission is carrying out extensive renovation of the building, work is grinding at a slow pace though and I’m told it’s the same contractor working on the residence of the Ambassador which also needs reconditioning. Why the two contracts are still in the hands of the same contractor, now that activities marking Ghana’s Golden Jubilee celebration in Rome has been flagged-off baffles my mind.

Nevertheless, there is a degree of optimism among the Ghanaian communities in Italy after the impasse with the Mission last year over increase of passport fees and its related documents. His Excellency Agyei-Amoama visits to their communities in the regions, interacting with them and taking note of their problems is actually pumping back their confidence in his new administration. Almost each day, he lifts himself off his office desk to go to the Consular Section where his countrymen and women are applying or waiting for their document. He chats with them, know where they are coming from in Ghana and where they reside in Italy. He jokingly told me, “sometimes unaware of who I’m they tell me things they won’t generally disclose only to find out later I’m the Ambassador”. “I’m a diasporian”, he always maintain.

I’ve never seen it like that at the Embassy, often our ‘big men’ prefers doors to be opened and closed for them and their lightweight briefcase carried along behind them.

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I’ve lived in Italy long enough and travelled across the length and breadth of the country to know about the Ghanaian here. They don’t bend or crumble under stress or threat. They refuse to be shoved and injected with laws that have not been properly explained and despite their differences in religion, tribe and personalities they are like a united family. The Ghanaian here would hardly meet another Ghanaian at the train station desperately looking for a place to adjust and abandon him or her. Many Ghanaians who arrived in cities here in the fashion of ‘Bob Cole’ style (a former comedian in Ghana) have received warm help from their compatriots and today they have settled in well, working to make a living. My Kenyan friend journalist one day asked me, “the Ghanaian community here is vibrant and under their Associations they are close together, we don’t have this kind of unity among our people (Kenyans) here”. He wanted to know the secret. I told him Ghanaians have their differences - religion, tribes and what have you – but that doesn’t generate friction between them, something that has been the cause of unrest in some African countries culminating into civil wars with the hacking of human limbs.

Ghanaians can work their socks off when the condition is right and the money is there for taking and I’ve seen factories in Italy that the ‘capo’ or employer fancy a Ghanaian worker. The issue of impasse over passport fees increase escalated into confrontation between the Ghanaian communities and the Mission in Rome because they (the Ghanaian communities) were taken for granted, the authorities underestimated their reaction. The fact is, the former administration at the Embassy saw them as a group of nonentities without any sense of direction. They got it all wrong. There were hundreds of them preparing to travel hundreds of kilometres in droves in buses from the north of the country to the Mission in Rome to show their teeth in anger in a demonstration against the passport fee increment after their petitions to have the 85% increase reduced was swept aside and received no response.

Current development shows that dialogue works. I have stated before human being are not like animals, they can sit down and dialogue over issues even if they have disagreements. Ghana’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs -Hon. Akwasi Agyei- actions didn’t help matters on the passport issue. He sweet-talked the leaders of the Ghanaian communities at a hurriedly arranged meeting in Rome (a time when plans for the demonstration was hitting its peak) to diffuse the tension for the demonstration assuring them fees for all of Ghana Missions in the Euro Zone would be the same few days after he gets back to Accra to conform with what is in Italy, apparently one of the arguments being raised against the increase. He knows at the back of his mind such fees are decided and debated in Parliament which can take days, weeks or perhaps years.

Ghanaians in Italy waited for months and there was nothing to back the Deputy Minister’s remarks as they continued to pay the increase fees seeing their situation as an isolated case. They felt they’ve been fooled and the Minister’s visit was just a ploy to quench the ‘fire’ gathering momentum to descend unto the Embassy.

The truth of the increase was not told as explained by the Foreign Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Nana Akufo-Addo, when he accompanied President Kufuor on a visit to Italy late last year.

Through proper dialogue the tension has eased, Ghanaians in Italy are now paying the new fees though under a grinding teeth.

I believe if the Ghana Government can strike a compromise with the Italian Government to have a token amount of say €2 deducted each month from the salary of each working Ghanaian in Italy for a worthy cause in Ghana, only a countable number of Ghanaians here will raise an objection, the support would be overwhelming if they can see concrete evidences of what the money is being used for and not ending up into someone’s pocket. This will be a long term project in raising funds for development projects than arbitrary increasing passport fee and its related documents.

The new wind of optimism now blowing between the Embassy and the Ghanaian communities here is expected to unite both parties and for the mutual benefit of Ghana.

We have lived through the years to know what political rhetorics and all its pleasantries are all about, at the end of these we want to see actions, the kind of actions that will project the image of Ghanaians in Italy.

Source: Reggie Tagoe