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Opinions Fri, 22 Jul 2011

“And Rawlings Wept”

By Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK

I hope Christian fundamentalists will forgive me for using this important quotation from the Holy Bible. I am not trying to belittle the Crucifixion of Christ but when I saw the Ex-President Rawlings weep on Channel Four News last night, I could not help but feel very proud of the longest serving leader of Ghana. Rawlings was interviewed by Jon Snow on the 19.00 hours News on Channel Four about the famine in Somalia in his role as the African Union’s Representative to Somalia. When he was asked specifically about what he had seen, he was saddened by what he had witnessed, overcame by emotion, lost his voice, wept and kept silent for some seconds before he could regain his voice. This is the first time, I have seen Rawlings in such a state, a real person, a man, a man’s man and above all a woman’s man. He was impressive, eloquent, fluent and made a passionate appeal for humanitarian assistance for the people of Somalia. I saw the human side of Rawlings again

I am one of those Kwesi Adu described in one of his articles as having made it possible for Rawlings to find a platform after his retirement from the Air Force and sometimes feel disappointed by his attacks on former and present leaders and governments. As readers may recall, I posted three articles on Ghanaweb and Peacefmonline criticising Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings’s decision to contest for the NDC Flagbearership and the support she received from her husband. I have always said that I am not ant-Rawlings and in fact, do still have a lot of respect for them, though I disagree with them on a number of issues. As I criticise them when they do something wrong, I must be honest and fair to them and praise them when they do the right thing. This is one of such occasions that the Ex-President deserves commendation.

He was a true African and World Statesman, an Honourable Ambassador of Africa who did not only do Ghana but the whole of Africa proud in this interview. Your Excellency, this is what Ghana and Africa requires of you and we must see more of you assisting with the numerous conflicts and challenges on the continent. You still have respect and influence in Africa and you can and must use that goodwill to assist resolve some of the conflicts, particularly the Somalia crisis.

In the interview, Rawlings said something very poignant. He was asked if he could guarantee that food and medical supplies would not end up in the hands of the armed Muslim fundamentalist. In his response, he assured the donor communities that, assurance has been secured for humanitarian organisations to distribute relief items without hindrance. He also added that, due to the Arab Spring the armed groups in Somalia have been weakened and added that this is the time for the world to try and assist the people of Somalia. Finally, he appealed to the corporate world and multinationals operating in Africa to also show solidarity with Africa and contribute some of their profits to Somalia by way of assistance.

Ghana is blessed with two living former Presidents who have goodwill and international recognition. Both Rawlings and Kufuor can use their influence for the good of Africa and the benefit of Ghana. I know they are doing that already but I am of the firm conviction that the sky would be their limits if they collaboration with each other. As at now, the two do not see eye to eye and that is a big shame. I wish His Eminence Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Tutu could one day sit the two former Ghanaian Presidents down and reconcile them with the assistance of Kofi Anan and the Asantehene. That is my dream but I am also a realist and know that, my hope may be against hope. Please, even if the two of you would not smoke the peace pipe now, feel free to criticise constructively but do not attack each other, especially in public and at international fora. Such attacks and negative criticisms do not only damage your credibility but also the image of Ghana.

I have been disappointed and even sometimes saddened by actions and omissions of ex-President Rawlings and his wife at home, especially in the past year. However, I saw a different Rawlings last night on UK television. The real Rawlings I knew in the 1980s. Last night, I was encouraged. My prayers and hopes are that, he would calm down, take a break from direct political activism at home and concentrate on the role given to him by the African Union at the moment. The World, African and Ghana would be indebted to him forever if he is able to bring peace to Somalia. But and that is a big BUT, no matter what he is able to achieve in Somalia, if he continues to consistently attack other leaders at home, his legacy could diminish.

Before I end, could I use this opportunity to inform you that, I still have your History book with me (the one given to you by F K Buah) and will return it to you whenever we meet again. Keep the good job up in Somalia.

Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK

Columnist: Ata, Kofi