Mission To Basel

Sat, 24 Sep 2005 Source: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame

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An unsigned July 19, 2005 news article reported the disappearance of 29 Ghanaian musicians in Zurich, Switzerland, after the group had been invited to participate in a World Youth Music Festival which ran from July 8-12(Ghanaweb.com 7/19/05). Actually, the report continued, the Ghanaian musicians had not ?disappeared? as such; they had simply failed to board a return flight to Accra, their Ghanaian capital, after the festival had ended. In all, 33 Ghanaian musicians had been invited. Four members of the group, however, had decided to comply with their collective visa requirements by promptly returning home.

What is interesting about this story is the fact that all 33 musicians appear to have arrived at Zurich?s Kloten Airport for departure. Somehow, the mysterious 29 had managed to slip out of the airport at departure time. We are also told that a representative of Zurich?s World Youth Music Festival had accompanied the group to the airport. In sum, either the aforementioned representative, who appears to have reported the ?disappearance? of the 29 Ghanaian musicians to the Zurich police is grossly derelict or she or he is hiding something from the rest of us. And here, the wonder becomes one of whether the unnamed representative had stage-managed the entire episode of ?disappearance,? or he or she had simply dreamed it up. And in as much as this may not, historically, be the first time that any such incident involving Ghanaian musicians and athletes has occurred in the West, still, it does not stand to reason that the aforementioned musicians would actually show themselves up at Zurich?s Kloten Airport and then miraculously melt into the thin air, as it were.

What is also interesting, if only because of its patent diplomatic grandstanding, is for the Swiss government to be huffing and puffing, as it were, about the possibility of Ghanaians having their image dented and thus the confidence of the entire country being impugned. And here, we make bold to remind the Zurich police and Swiss government that long before the 29 Ghanaian musicians vanished into the thin air, assuming that, indeed, they ?vanished? of their own accord, rather than being kidnapped, wholly uninvited Swiss missionaries, mainly from Basel, had invited themselves into Ghana, then-Gold Coast, and stayed as long as they wished and wanted, in the name of Gospel Propagation. And what is more, none of, modern-day Ghanaians, have any recollection of these missionaries having entered our shores and territories with any visas or travel documents. In effect, these Basel missionaries had literally forced themselves and their Gospel on us; some had even ended up consorting with Ghanaian women and taking permanent abode and citizenship in our country.

The good news, however, is that nearly two centuries after these Swiss missionaries swarmed our land, it turns out, after all, that their purported mission had a proactive edge or aspect to it. Needless to say, the development of modern education could not have taken roots and expanded as rapidly as it did without the pioneering and significant input of the Basel missionaries. For the British colonial government appears to have been more interested in capitalist profit-margin than the tedious nitty-gritty entailed in the modernization and cultural development of our country. Of course, some acknowledgment is quite in order, regarding the remarkable contribution of the Scottish Mission, Anglophone partners of the Basel missionaries to the development of modern Ghanaian education.

In essence, our argument here is that perhaps the abrupt ?disappearance? of the 29 Ghanaian musicians from Zurich?s Kloten Airport may not be such a bad idea as it seems to the Swiss authorities. What is even more heartening is the fact that unlike their Basel predecessors of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, these ?vanished? Ghanaian musicians entered the country on genuine visas and passports, which simply implies, after all, that they are quite responsible and law-abiding immigrants who are not likely to cause any serious problems to the Swiss government. And, also, like their nineteenth and twentieth century Basel predecessor-counterparts, the ?missing 29? might have discovered something quite intriguing and worthwhile beyond their primary mission which is causing them to overstay their visa requirements.

Then again, as the Basel missionaries were well aware of and, indeed, preached to their pioneering Ghanaian converts, including this writer?s own maternal great-grandfather, Theodore Adolph Kwadwo Aboagye, the Law was made for man - and also woman, for that matter - rather than vice versa.

On the other hand, the ?missing 29? may yet bring something quite good and replenishing into the nival and relatively more languid Swiss culture, particularly vis-?-vis the vital area of modern music. For like this writer and a myriad others, these Ghanaian musicians must have readily recognized something of the culturally effete and humdrum about Switzerland?s geopolitical landscape and generously volunteered to facilitate its prompt rectification. Remember the maxim: ?One good turn deserves another?? In sum, perhaps it is the fact that Switzerland direly needs to add more color and racial diversity and thus ineluctable vitality - and oomph - into its cultural menu that forced the ?missing 29? to stay behind as their country?s cultural ambassadors. And on the preceding score, a healthy dollop of continental African vegetable in a Swiss broth may just be what the proverbial doctor ordered.

Of course, we are pretty much aware of the fact that the Swiss government may be apt to reckon ?the missing 29? in terms of economic asylum - and it is all well and good. For, after all, what is wrong with a few ravenously hungry Africans once awhile reaching out to meliorate their economic distress abroad, wherever greener pastures appear to abound? And wouldn?t it rather be insufferably hypocritical if these deathly hungry Ghanaian musicians were allowed to die of an all-too-preventable scourge and then have the Swiss government, as well as its other European counterparts, unctuously lament and belatedly jet in sumptuous provender for corpses?

On the part of the Ghanaian government, this may obliquely constitute a veritable foretaste of the recent G-8 largesse; in sum, with less number of hungry mouths to feed, however minuscule, statistically speaking, the government may yet be able to free more resources for its ongoing ?Operation Triage? economic program. And so in a sense, the government could not say ?Good Riddance? to ?the missing 29? fast enough. For, needless to say, it is almost certain that once these musicians are comfortably settled, they would become integral to the gravy train of Ghanaian diasporic remittance operators, thus giving a desirable fillip to the ongoing Economic Recovery Program (ERP).

The preceding notwithstanding, a very significant observation ought to be registered. And it is the fact that for many an Anglophone and Euro-monolingual Ghanaian, a Franco-Germanic Switzerland may not, after all, be the best, or ideal, destination for an ?illegal? immigrant. But then again, what more auspicious alternative exists for one who is caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place?

*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., teaches English and Journalism at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is the author of twelve volumes of poetry and prose, including Dr. J. B. Danquah: Architect of Modern Ghana, a volume of essays on twentieth-century Ghanaian political history, all of which are available from iUniverse.com, Amazon.com, Powells.com, Borders.com and Barnes & Noble.com. E-mail:

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Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame