The recent brouhaha over the American crooner Chris Brown’s overt use of Cannabis sativa at a concert in Accra could have been avoided had the government refused to issue a visa to the artiste. My argument is adduced from the fact that the government, which remains the primary sentinel of the people, is responsible for keeping foreign-born felons from entering the topographical entity known as Ghana. Beginning in 1992, when a despotic Jerry Rawlings won multiparty elections to become the choice of the Ghanaian electorate, Ghana has continued its yearly march towards becoming a stalwart of democratic governance in Africa, but political freedom is intricately intertwined with responsibility – social responsibility that ensures that foreign-born criminals are not allowed into the country to continue their misdeeds.
Exactly four years ago, the gifted but progressively temperamental Chris Brown viciously assaulted his then-girlfriend Robyn Rihanna Fenty over the latter’s discovery that she may not, after all, be the only woman in Brown’s life. For doing what any reasonable woman would do – that is, investigate the source of several mysterious text messages that Brown had received from another woman – Rihanna was beaten to a pulp by Brown. Luckily for Brown, a judge sentenced him to a paltry five years of probation and 1,400 hours of community service, rather than send him to prison – perhaps because Brown had the resources to hire some of the best criminal defense attorneys to represent him and negotiate a good plea deal on his behalf. In my opinion, this plea deal was a travesty of justice, because it became known shortly after Brown’s February 2009 assault on Rihanna that he had attacked her twice in the past, which goes to confirm the refrain that “once an offender, always an offender.” A poor criminal defendant would not have been so fortunate.
Six years ago, Australia refused to grant a visa to the notorious American artiste Snoop Dogg, known in real life as Calvin Cordozar Broadus, Jr., because of the rapper’s burgeoning rap sheet. According to Kevin Andrews, the Immigration Minister of Australia at the time, Snoop Dogg was refused a visa because “he had failed to pass the country’s strict character test, which takes criminal convictions into account” (USAToday.com). In March 2007, Snoop Dogg and fellow artiste Sean “Diddy” Combs were forced to cancel a concert tour of the United Kingdom because Dogg had failed the United Kingdom’s strict character test as well. Snoop Dogg’s rap sheet is, indeed, disturbing: an April 2007 probation sentence stemming from felony and drug charges in California; an April 2006 arrest due to a brawl the crooner was involved in at Heathrow Airport; a 1993 gun-possession charge stemming from a traffic stop; and a 1990 conviction for cocaine possession.
I applaud Australia and the United Kingdom for their enforcement of domestic-abuse laws, including abuse that occurs outside of their territories. In fact, my Snoop Dogg narrative was deliberately chosen to precede what is coming next: the refusal in June 2010 by the Home Office, United Kingdom, to grant Chris Brown a visa to perform in the cities of London, Manchester, Birmingham, and Glasgow. The Home Office’s decision was the right one, as all right-thinking people ought to acknowledge the fact that domestic violence, and other forms of criminality, should be punished when they occur.
So does the Government of Ghana have laws that prevent felons from entering the country? If the answer is “yes,” then who gave Chris Brown a visa to travel to Accra to perform before thousands of locals? If the answer is “no,” then the government ought to pass and promulgate a law immediately that bans foreign-born felons from entering the country. Abuse is abuse, no matter who commits one, which is why the government must make no exemptions when enforcing the law.
I find it absurd that some senior members of the Ghana Police Service are now claiming that they will investigate the Brown marijuana-smoking incident and, if there is enough evidence, have the crooner tried in absentia. A ridiculous statement, indeed! Chris Brown will certainly not return to face charges if found guilty of breaking the laws of Ghana, so why waste the taxpayers’ money simply in an attempt to placate an angry and disappointed populace? Certainly, police officers were inside the arena when Chris Brown lit his roll of marijuana, so why did law enforcement not act at that time? Perhaps, like the rest of “reverential” Ghanaians who were present at the concert, the police officers themselves were carried away by the heavily tattooed Chris Brown’s “remarkable” performance! Perhaps we should all shamefully bellow: long live Chris Brown!
What Ghanaians need to do now is put the matter behind them and enforce the laws that are currently on the books, going forward. If no law exists that prevents felons from entering the country, we must pass and promulgate one immediately, as stated earlier. More importantly, however, the government must refuse visas to foreigners, no matter how popular or wealthy they are, if these people have criminal records. It will take real courage to enforce the laws against all forms of violence – including violence against women and children – but it will be the right thing to do, if we are to be taken seriously by others. Enforcing the codified laws of the land is, without a doubt, a portent of a growing democracy.
© The writer, Daniel K. Pryce, is a doctoral student who also serves as an adjunct professor in the Department of Criminology, Law & Society at George Mason University. He holds a master’s degree in Public Administration from the same university. He is a member of the National Honor Society for Public Affairs and Administration in the U.S.A. He may be followed on Twitter: @DanielKPryce. He invites the reader to join the pressure group “Good Governance in Ghana” on Facebook.com, which he superintends. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.