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This Is My Kind Of President Africans Need (I)

Fri, 4 Nov 2011 Source: Bonna, Okyere

In November 2011, the British Newspaper, Daily Mail noted the UK has donated over £200?million to Malawi during the past three years but that the government will continue withholding funds from the country if it does not stop threatening and punishing its homosexual (LGBT) citizens. According to the same report by Daily Mail, other countries on the UK's watch list include Ghana , where earlier in July 2011 Western Region Minister, Paul Evans Aidoo called for the arrest of all gay people and Uganda, which has considered a "Kill The Gays" bill and saw its first gay bar shuttered a week earlier in October 2011.

UK’s policy statement says,

"The Government is committed to combating violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in all circumstances, in this country and abroad. We take action where we have concerns.”

The statement continues,

“We now allocate funds every three months, rather than every year, so that we can review a country's performance, for example on human rights, and take swift action when governments fall short. We only provide aid directly to governments when we are satisfied that they share our commitments to reduce poverty and respect human rights."

This (economic Aid to Africa) policy statement is s subtle way of destroying Africa’s culture. Again, it has every element of re-colonising Africa. It MUST be resisted.

Africans have consistently maintained that homosexuality violates their religious and cultural beliefs. It is mind boggling that Britain and others will not respect the culture of sovereign African countries. There have always been gays and lesbians in Africa and for that matter, Ghana. However, open display of this behaviour is what is not acceptable anywhere in Africa. It is not true that African countries persecute gays and lesbians in Africa. No one discriminates against people who exhibit this behaviour so long as they keep it out of the public. All gays and lesbians participate in voting as well as all rights ascribed to citizens in Africa. Therefore for the British government to say that it will cut aid to African countries that persecute LGBT people is suspect. As president of any sovereign nation, one does not only represent himself and his beliefs but also the whole nation. His conduct must reflect the will of the people and above all the values of the nation. The values are the culture and ethos of the land. As long as he remains in office, the president should not and must not sell the conscience of the nation for his own enrichment or popularity with foreign powers. During his tenure of office a president must shelve his personal beliefs and life styles that do not meet the approval of the national culture or agenda. In other words, a president must know that he embodies the national values of his country. As head of government the president (in this case, Dr. Mills) is the chief officer of the executive branch of government. As head of state Dr. Mills is the official "leader" of Ghana and the embodiment of "the spirit of the nation" until his term expires. Therefore he must speak the language of the people both at home and at international forums even if it does not feel comfortable to do so.

It is in the light of this that this author doffs his hat for Dr. Mills for speaking out against the idea of connecting homosexuality to human rights in Africa. The link is not only weak but destructive to the African culture. Unfortunately many African leaders have been found to be lacking the courage and integrity when it came to taking a stance to defend their culture. Many of Africa’s leaders have compromised Africa’s integrity when it came to taking some form of aid from richer nations or loans from international organizations like IMF and World Bank. For far too long loans and aids from the West have not benefited Africa that much because of the many strings attached to these loans. This author believes if there was a time to prove how tough an African president could be it was not the arrest and bully of its own people but how he/she could resist the imposition of counter-cultural elements in exchange of economic aid from other nations; in this case the superpowers like Britain and USA or IMF and World Bank.

On November 2, 2011 Ghana’s president, Dr. Atta Mills minced no words in calling the bluff of UK Prime Minister David Cameron over his threat to cut aid to countries with anti-gay legislation. In his response to Prime Minister Cameron’s threat to cut UK aid to African countries which ‘abuse the rights’ of gay citizens, Dr. Atta Mills said, Ghana will not capitulate to the United Kingdom or any country for that matter.

It must be recalled that in May 2011 two Malawian gay men were sentenced to 14 years in prison for breaking the law. According to the Malawian government homosexuality is “unheard of in Malawi and it's illegal." Even though the government of Malawi argued that the boys committed a crime against their culture, against their religion, and against their laws, and that Malawi doesn't condone marriages of this nature, Malawi had to pay a price. On October 10, 2011, International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell revealed the UK has already cut funding to Malawi by £19?million after the two gay men were sentenced to 14 years in prison. Though Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga were eventually pardoned by Malawi's President, Bingu wa Mutharika, their freedom came with a stern warning: "The Government of UK is committed to combating violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in all circumstances.”

“If that aid is going to be tied to things that will destroy the moral fibre of society, do you really want that?.” Koku Anyidoho, Ghana's presidential spokesman has asked. The truth of the matter is every country, like UK, has their own peculiar laws that are akin to their culture. Imposing Britain’s culture on Africa is tantamount to colonization, which is outlawed. It is morally wrong for the UK to use economic aid to re-colonise Africa. On Monday, October 31, 2011, Ugandan presidential adviser John Nagenda said Mr Cameron was showing a "bullying mentality" and Ugandans would not tolerate being treated like "children". "If they must take their money, so be it," Mr Nagenda said. President Mills had been seen as quiet and too soft to rule Ghana until this day-November 2, 2011- when he confronts the British Prime Minister who threatens to cut aid to countries with anti-gay legislation. Dr. Mills said Ghana will not legalise homosexuality on the say-so of Mr Cameron. "I as president of this nation will never initiate or support any attempt to legalise homosexuality in Ghana," Dr. Mills asserted. According to Dr. Mills, "No one can deny Prime Minister Cameron his right to make policies, take initiatives or make statements that reflect his societal norms and ideals but he does not have the right to direct other sovereign nations as to what they should do especially where their societal norms and ideals are different from those which exist in Prime Minister's society," President Mills stated.

It is very refreshing to see a leader of a small nation stand up (to defend his country) against a giant for what his country believes is wrong. President Mills has since been lauded by his people for standing up against these bullies for once. In truth, no African country (or developing nation) should accept any loan attached to same sex marriage for several reasons. One good reason is that it is very costly. The cost of doing damage control is astronomical. Besides it has the potential of eroding the entire African culture and identity. Space will not permit me to explain further. African leaders and all developing countries must learn to resist ‘the Oppressors’ playbook. African leaders must be discerning and represent the voice of their people. Better late, than never! I believe on this one president Mills has won the vote of confidence of many Ghanaians and Africans. Kudos Mr. President! If any national polls were to be conducted today, November 2, 2011 one would find the trailing Mills moved up by at least some 10 percentage points. The president’s view is a true reflection of the beliefs of most Africans. Africans do not joke with their family values and culture. On this day the general comments and the political barometer shifted in favour of President Mills.

OKYERE BONNA

Columnist: Bonna, Okyere