Saturday, May 12, 2012

Contagious Art

a collection of the works at the exhibition
In a quiet neighborhood in North Kaneshie, Grandma Josiah’s house stands on the left side of the cross –roads. Three Date Palm trees beautifully guard the house. Later Grandma would narrate how the trees she planted after she returned from Europe provide fresh air for taxi drivers who come and nap in the mornings in front of the house. 

Inside the house, in a well kept garden the walls hold firmly to their bare chest a collection of artworks with vibrant colours; a young man helps a natural braid-wearing lady of average height to hang solar powered decorative lights, as the music of Asa’s ‘bebanke’ plays in the background. Intermittently, a large size philosophical painting of ‘an eye ball in a mouth’ frees itself from the wall and lands on the ground.

Naa has been painting since age 16 when she drew inspiration from her elder brother, Paa Nii, who she describes as a master artist. Naturally drawn to art, she would at the time take advantage of her sibling’s spare canvases and materials that lay around. She has grown up by simply teaching herself how to paint with freedom.  

She had the chance to hone her skills when she took her works to her school’s arts centre and eventually got accepted into an advanced art program, 

“…we didn’t learn how to draw because it was an advanced program so we just had to produce things and I think that freedom actually gave me the time and the effort …and I put the effort into developing a style.” 

Today is her 23rd birthday and she is marking the day with an exhibition that she quietly promoted to her BlackBerry Messenger friends and twitter followers who know her as @Afro_Martian. Occasionally, her grandma, dressed for the event, would pop out the front door to check who had entered her beautiful garden of trimmed grasses for the viewing.

In 2011, Naa Kofi, was privileged to have some of her pieces displayed at two exhibitions courtesy the Foundation for Contemporary Art (FCA), Ghana. The FCA is an active network of artists, art critics, curators, and art lovers that provides a critical platform for the development of contemporary arts in Ghana.

“…I’ve wanted to organize an exhibition for a long time; actually a lot of my pieces were at the FCA…they put them through one or two exhibitions and so I thought it was time to do my own, and today being my birthday so I thought what a better way to have friends and people who appreciate art to come and see what I do…”

Unique and Eclectic

“… I do think that my work has a style, if you see it you can tell that I did it”.
On display were a collection of her works, [some still work-in progress] and her brother’s. While Naa’s brother like to paint ‘incomplete men’ in deep thought which evokes an invitation to brainstorming, Naa’s own works included one of her music icons, a familiar image of Nigerian afro-pop musician, Fela, whom she eulogizes as an epitome of an African man. 

“I have chosen a lot of characters with an expression on their face and for me I think that’s what is captivating because that’s what really develops a narrative, you know, people start making or developing a story or there’s a theory or like a conscious thought behind it a wave of consciousness and I hope as you go through my work you can sort of feel [it], so it’s not really how you see the work but it is the expression and I feel like art is contagious so if you can feel or you see the sentiment behind my work then my work is accomplished I guess.”

Soft-spoken Naa does not consider herself an artist even after understudying at the LOOM, a popular art gallery in Adabraka, Accra ,

“…painting is my passion and an extension of my character…who I am, if I label myself as an artist, I have to feel like my work has to be too perfect…” she smiled as she spoke.

She adds “I have never really seen a style that is very similar to mine, and I work from photographs but I very much change them, like, with the colors, skin tone and stuff and it’s very afro-centric.” 

During her two-week stint with the LOOM, she realized her brand of painting was different from the typical themes associated with Ghanaian artworks, many of which she says are in repetition in the gallery. 

At a glance, most Ghanaian paintings reflect what she says are “women at market place, woman and child and those kinds of things…” mentioning that she would encourage others to stray away from those ideas given the opportunity.

Well fitted in an old school, Kaba, which her grandma wore in her heyday, Naa confesses she discovered on the morning of the exhibition that her great-granddad was also an artist. Art runs in her family.

Asked who her external influences are, she responds, “I have to admit I went to a very European school, so a lot of the artists we studied were [either] euro-centric or American, so you know, I’m inspired by Basquiat and I’m very much inspired by Picasso because of his story especially, he could really draw but he chose to paint abstractly and you know, I like that.”

She goes on to say, ‘I have a lot of favorites, I like Van Gogh, I like those European classics, but when I am in Ghana, I do look at Glover and stuff like that, I do appreciate their work.”

Art Camp
When she graduated from Vienna International School, Austria, in 2007. Naa returned to Ghana. Having always felt encouraged to illustrate with either the pencil or the brush regardless of whether she is good or not, she teamed up and planned what she feels was the first summer Art Camp (for children) in the country. 

“We decided that it was needed that Ghana had an art camp for children” says Naa.
But then the project in its first year mostly attracted the children of expatriates who wanted to keep their kids busy, and she laments “In Ghanaian society we found out that if your child shows slight interest in art, parents will say ‘oh no no no, stop drawing, focus on your math and your science skills’ so a lot of parents would have preferred to take their kids into science camps or math camp or something.’’ 

However she takes pride in the fact their project paved the way for other summer camps to start in Ghana.
On the ‘Create Your Future’ initiative, she worked with a closed friend, the cool and happy-go-lucky, Hansen Akatti, who is an urban/hip-hop culture cartoonist. 

Hansen, who does his 9-5 grind with the afro-bourgeois Canoe Magazine, joins Naa in the garden together with dreadlocked Tacitus, an amateur photographer, who joined the movement in its second year. They make up the complete trinity of CYF.

Wearing a white round neck t-shirt portraying an artistic impression of Lady Gaga, Hansen points out the objective of the project.

“Basically what we wanted to do was not to turn every Ghanaian kid into Da Vinci or Picasso or an artist. But help them explore their options with the tools they have… help them to become creative. We show this through art, how blank sheets present infinite opportunities with whatever materials you have and that transcends into life, in whatever field you find yourself, you could make something out of nothing if you put your mind to it.” 

For the shy-looking Tacitus, the art camp taught the kids discipline to master their talent.
“I think in Ghana we can achieve development through creativity” Naa adds her voice and the three leaves to start a tour, invited guests have started filing in.
Naa Kofi with Hansen Akatti

Among the works is a painting of two human faces symbolized creatively in the insides of the sun and the moon, man and woman respectively, beneath them is written, ‘unpredictable funk’, here Hansen Akatti tells the gazing and enthusiastic art lovers, 

“ Naa is able to reach a threshold of form, she can use solid colors to represent figures and you can recognize what it is.”

Monday, August 1, 2011

Ashesi University's new campus at Berekuso-in pictures

Established in 2002, Ashesi University, the privately run tertiary institution will celebrate its decade of existence in March 2012. They haven't been around for so long as compared to the 3 main state sponsored universities in Ghana. Ashesi was started off in Labone-Accra, where residential bungalows were literally converted to lecture theatres to create a space for learning. Today, Ashesi can boast of a newly constructed world class university campus in Berekuso in the Akuapim Hills of the Eastern Region. Below, i share with you beautiful pictures of Ashesi's newest facility that will be inaugurated this month.

Its quite refreshing see the pictures knowing where it all began in relation to current university students agitation against increased fees vis-a-vis the problem of accommodation, which has always been a constant feature of Ghana's tertiary education. Ashesi maybe a little expensive with a far lower student population that comes no where near the splitting over-population of the University of Ghana, University of CapeCoast and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, established many decades ago. Relatively, with the much longer existence of these public universities, the facilities have not been improved and expanded to take care of increasing student population at the turn of every academic year. The point is that, the public universities earn more in revenue from the student body in addition to subsidies from the State, they should be able to do more than just increasing fees every year without any commensurate improvement in facilities.

I didn't attend Ashesi, but i have a little experience with school that i want to share with you. I remember going to the, Labone campus a couple of months after completing Senior High School to pick up a glossy student's catalogue/application form for free, they were barely a year old. At the time and even now, applying to attend a public university with good grades was uncertain, there was a trend were some students applied(not free application) to all 3 state universities to count their chances. Students who left Senior High School had to queue up a year or two to gain admission.

Private universities were invariably non-existent. Ashesi was new and had its fees quoted in dollars, $2,500 per semestre for tuition for a 4yr undergraduate program. A couple of days after picking up the student's catalogue, i had a call, on the other end the speaker introduced himself as Patrick Awuah. The founder of Ashesi University was trying to follow up, he inquired why i had not forwarded my application. Though he understood that my sponsor's could not afford, he promised Ashesi would offer me scholarship if my financiers could take up part of the cost. I didn't press my financiers because attending a public school in those days was more fashionable and [still] cheaper. Currently there are many private universities in Ghana and Ashesi stands out tall. I attended a public university, if i had gone to Ashesi, i wouldn't have bothered struggling with hundreds of course mates to fit into a lecture hall whose capacity was being over-stretched, making learning itself strenuous.

But i believe that education, at any level, must be accessible and affordable to all

Take a look at the new Ashesi University campus. Do you have any experiences with either private or a public institution? Please share with us.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Accra's first ever street art festival- Chale Wote

CHALE WOTE means “Man, let’s go!” or is a reference to slippers worn on the feet.

On every last Friday of each month in Accra, a collective of young people ranging from artists, photographers, musicians and writers to designers, students and activists, meet to discuss comptemporary ideas and issues at the 'Talk Parti Series'.

You can call them Accra's alternative group, and in fact they are led by the organisers of Accra [dot] Alt, Ghanaian filmmaker Mantse Aryeequaye and cultural scholar Dr. Sionne Neely.
Both of whom have keen interests in developing and exploring alternative art forms.

They have come up with an idea that has never been tried in Ghana, a festival dubbed 'The Chale Wote Street Art Festival'.

By the time the festival is over tomorrow, 16thJuly, JamesTown, the heart of Accra would have been beautifully transformed with vibrant and colorful painting and chalk art on the sidewalks of this once colonial town close to the Gulf of Guinea coastline. This community is primarily known for its fishing and boxing (akotoku) culture. JamesTown is a strategic part of a bigger Ga ethnic tribe settlement that is often referred to as British Accra, facing the Lighthouse right down to the ruined Kingsway Building.

Professional teams of artists and students will attempt acrylic street painting and stencil work, side walk painting and chalk art, graffiti wall murals, as well as large installation art exhibits and large photography displays at this whole day's event.

There will be many artistic activities taking place concurrently within sections of the entire area. From capoeira demonstrations to acrobatics, bike stunts to skate boarding/roller skating, stilt walking to live DJ/musical performance sets. Slam poets and alternative hair stylists have not been left out of what will become an annual festival depending on its success and patronage.

A complete 'do-it-yourself' festival were the young ones from the community will be given disposable cameras to take shots, which will be featured as part of the post-festival photo exhibition later in the year.

Find out more about the schedule of events for the festival.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Osama killed: a dead man does not pose and smile for the cameras

Almost 10yrs after the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers in 2001, the United States government says it has finally killed Osama Bin Laden, who was hiding in a mansion in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The man who they purported to have been responsible for the despicable act that claimed thousands of American lives.

Osama was the target of the United States ‘War Against Terrorism’, as started by George W Bush. Through the rocky and mountain caves of Tora Bora region in Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan, the US deployed its arsenals to crush the Taliban, who are believed to be in league with the Al Qaeda network and its leader; the most wanted in the world.

Getting hold of Osama dead or alive was so important to ‘War-shington’ [pun intended]. Leaving him on the loose was a threat to US’ security at home and abroad.

Therefore to allay the fears of its citizens who even expressed indignation inter alia the cost involved in the counter terrorism war, the US government had to consistently refrain that Osama Bin Laden, the 54yrs old man they trained and armed years ago, is a clear and present danger.

As president Obama announced that ‘Jason had delivered the golden fleece’, Americans hit the streets to the White House in jubilant mood chanting USA! USA!!

Clean and dusted, Bin Laden together with his wife and son has been killed and quickly buried at sea with no material evidence.

The White House is telling the world that it is enough to just accept this not-so-believable tale. The claim being that the sea burial had to be done quickly out of respect for Islamic tradition, as anything otherwise would incense outrage from Bin Laden’s supporters in the Arab world.

On the contrary Muslim clerics interpret the burial as a humiliating disregard for the standard Muslim practice of placing the body in a grave with the head pointed toward the holy city of Mecca.

And in fact Khadija Patel, a muslim woman and blogger based in Johannesburg, who I follow on twitter, tweeted that “the only time it's permissible for a Muslim to be buried at sea is when they die at sea and there's a fear of the body decomposing”.

So questions are being asked, as to the particular Muslim tradition America claims to be respecting.

Meanwhile the White House has said that it has not determined yet whether it will release photos of Osama bin Laden's body. Indeed dead [wo]men don’t talk, neither do they pose and smile for the cameras. That, this final move was such a clandestine operation unknown to Pakistani government even after years collaboration with US to fight terrorism is embarrassing to officials at Islamabad.

Is this how overnight a government can win the confidence of its citizens to probably continue fighting more wars? But what we do know is that, Al Qaeda in the last couple of years has not targeted America or its installations and citizens elsewhere directly.

There are many who dispute that indeed Osama was killed yesterday [Monday 2ndMay]. There’s the political school of thought by some analysts, which was even published in a book in 2009[Osama Bin Laden: Dead Or Alive-by Prof David Ray Griffin ] that Osama died on December 13,2001 as a result of a urinary complication linked to a kidney disease.

It is on record that Osama Bin Laden, after the 9/11 attacks, on four occasions through Arab press, insisted he played no role in the deadly attacks. Yet there have been a number of strategic video tapes, of him contradicting his earlier positions, accepting responsibility. These tapes, through forensics by experts, have been discredited as emanating from ‘counter intelligence agents’.

It is quite clear the United States government seem to be contradicting itself. To avoid the grave site of Osama becoming the rallying point for militants, Bin Laden’s killers bury him in the sea and refuse to release pictures that could by their estimation anger perceived Islamic radicals.

Inasmuch as ‘War-shington’ says it wants to prevent any incendiary responses, they have gone on by ceasing the opportunity to remind traveling American nationals and those residents abroad that Al Qaeda may still target them. According to an official release concerning Travel Alert which expires August 1, 2011, the U. S Department of State warns

“…Given the uncertainty and volatility of the current situation, U.S. citizens in areas where recent events could cause anti-American violence are strongly urged to limit their travel outside of their homes and hotels and avoid mass gatherings and demonstrations. U.S. citizens should stay current with media coverage of local events and be aware of their surroundings at all times”

In essence, president Obama is telling the good and proud American people that, they are free from Osama Bin Laden but not yet safe from Al Qaeda and its network of militants across the globe.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Socialist Forum Of Ghana on the worsening situation in Ivory Coast

Among civil society groups in Ghana, the Socialist Forum of Ghana has been the most critical concerning recent events in Ivory Coast since the November 28 polls which has been disputed resulting in a stalemate as to who is the legitimate president is. I re-publish here a press statement released last week of their analysis and understanding of the issues.


On 24th Day of March 2011, the Heads of State Government of ECOWAS, meeting in Abuja (Nigeria), passed a resolution (RES.1/03/11) to request the UN Security Council to mandate the United Nations’ Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), to use all necessary means to facilitate the immediate transfer of power to Mr. Alassane Ouattara; and for the United Nations Security Council to adopt more robust actions against Mr. Laurent Gbagbo and his associates.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media,

We wish to remind you and the rest of the country that Ghanaian troops are serving in Cote d’Ivoire under a parent UN Security Council Resolution 1528, which was passed in 2004.

Under that Resolution, the UN peacekeeping contingent was mandated principally:

  • To observe and monitor the implementation of the comprehensive ceasefire agreement of 3rd May 2003 and investigate violations of the ceasefire;
  • To liaise with the National Armed Forces of Côte d’Ivoire (FANCI) and the military elements of the Forces Nouvelles in order to promote the establishment of trust between all Ivorian forces
  • To guard weapons, ammunition and other military materials handed over by the former combatants and to secure, neutralize or destroy such materiel;
  • To protect United Nations personnel, installations and equipment, provide the security and freedom of movement of United Nations personnel and, to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence, within its capabilities and its areas of deployment
  • To support, in coordination with the Ivorian authorities, the provision of security for the ministers of the Government of National Reconciliation
  • To provide oversight, guidance and technical assistance to the Government of National Reconciliation, with the assistance of ECOWAS and other international partners, to prepare for and assist in the conduct of free, fair and transparent electoral processes

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media,

The use of the expression “use all necessary means to facilitate the immediate transfer of power to Mr. Alassane Ouattara” in the recent ECOWAS Heads of State Resolution is effectively calling on the UN to change the status of the United Nations’ Operation in Côte d’Ivoire. In effect, West African leaders are asking for an amendment of the role of the peacekeeping force from that of a peacekeeping, protection and monitoring role to that of a belligerent and offensive war machine on the side of one of the contending parties.

It is the firm view of the Socialist Forum of Ghana (SFG) that if the UN Security Council were to adopt the recent decision of the ECOWAS to turn the peacekeepers into a partisan fighting force, the rationale and understanding for which the government of Ghana agreed to send troops, would have been changed.

If that should be the case, Ghanaians would have to ask ourselves why our soldiers should be fighting and probably dying in Cote d’Ivoire. Would it be in defence of “free, fair and transparent electoral processes” or for democracy or what?

In spite of the claims of the ECOWAS Commission, the AU Commission, France, the United States and their western media trying to convince the world that the November 2010 second round Presidential election results in Cote d’Ivoire were conclusive and that one party won, the truth reveals otherwise.

It is an established tradition of the ECOWAS to send election observer teams to monitor elections in West Africa. The ECOWAS election observer mission, would, within two days of an election, publish their interim report. In the particular case of the November 2010 elections in Cote d’Ivoire, the ECOWAS observer team has not been able to publish an interim report, four clear months after the elections. The ordinary people of ECOWAS should ask the Commission, why they have no report on the elections.

The African Union also sent a 200 strong Observer team, led by the former Prime Minister of Togo, Mr. Joseph Kokou KOFIGOH. The report of the AU team on the electoral process was very clear. At post election press conference of the AU team, addressed by Mr. Kofigoh stated:

“Ladies and Gentlemen, the delegation has noted a lot of violence. Loss of life, arrest, intimidation, attempt to kidnap, destruction of election equipment. These facts should give the relevant organisations a clear appreciation of events and determine their impact on the results. Moreover, the delegation regrets the kidnapping of two of its members, who were thankfully freed with the help of UN forces.”

According to Societe Civile Africaine pour la Democratie et l’Assistance Electoral (OSCADAE) an independent NGO, that was invited to observe the elections, their Head of Delegation, Ms. Seynabou Indieguene (Senegal) stated:

“In accordance with the recommendations of the declaration of the International principles of Electoral observation adopted by the United Nations on 27th October 2005 by the United Nations and the engagements of Francophone countries in Bamako in November 2000, on free and fair elections observation. As per the request of the Independent Electoral Commission of Cote d’Ivoire to have the presence of international observers in the north, west and central regions of Cote d’Ivoire, the OSCADAE sent its members to Korogho, Touba, Bouake, Mankono, Guiglo, Yamoussoukro and Abidjan.

“From the reports of our observers who have visited 620 polling stations, we can confirm the following: The exercise has been quite violent. The curfew was not observed in the north, west and centre of the country. Opening of polling stations were delayed by between thirty minutes to an hour. The representatives of LMP – President Gbagbo- were refused access to polling stations to do their work, especially in Korogho. Ballot boxes were transported by men in military uniform on bicycles without representatives of the electoral commission. People were told who to vote for at the entrance of polling stations.

“Voters of the LMP were physically attacked in Korogho, especially in Soba Primary School. Voting was done in some polling stations without the necessary equipment. In view of the above, our mission can confirm that the credibility of the run-off in these localities is doubtful.”

In yet another observer report, Mr. Jean-Marie NGONGJIBANGTE of Cameroon, Head of Delegation, Co-ordination of African Election Experts, stated:

“I am the Head of Delegation of Observers from Cameroon, Senegal, Benin, Mali, Morocco, Gabon, and Togo. We have deployed our members to the Regions of Korhogo, Bouake, Katiola, Seguela, Yamousoukro and Abidjan.

“Compared with the first round of Cote d’Ivoire’s Presidential election, the second round took place amid a lot of violence. The Observers of the Co-ordination of African Election Experts have noted that people did not go to the run-offs in as large a number as the first round.

“After sharing information with other national and international election observers, we hereby state that the second round of the Presidential elections in Cote d’Ivoire was held amidst major problems in the regions of Korhogo, Bouake, Seguela, Katiola, Garango,

These problems were stealing of ballot boxes, arresting of candidates’ representatives, multiple voting, refusal to admit international observers to witness counting of ballots, and the murder of representatives of candidates.

“To that effect, we hereby declare that the second round of voting was not free, fair and transparent in these localities”.

In spite of all these, it is bizarre that the ECOWAS, which could not publish the report of its own observers, declared that one side had won a free and fair election. It is even more intriguing, that the AU Commission should have ignored the report of its own observer mission and gone ahead to pronounce one side as victor. It is even more curious that having failed to publish the report of its own observer team, the ECOWAS Commission should have organised and hosted on 8th February 2011, a special presentation for the West African media of the Final Report of the EU Electoral Observation Mission (EUEOM) in Côte d'Ivoire. Where is the ECOWAS Observer Team’s own report?

Ladies and Gentlemen,

That is not all. Immediately following the protest of President Laurent Gbagbo challenging the election results, the AU sent ex-President Thabo Mbeki, the former President of South Africa to Cote d’Ivoire to seek clarification. After considering the election figures presented to him by the Cote d’Ivoire Electoral Commission, ex-President Mbeki recommended that the AU should set up a process to verify the election figures because there were significant red flags. It is again curious that ex-President Mbeki’s recommendation was rejected by the AU Commission.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media, the electoral figures, presented to the UN, the ECOWAS, the AU and ex-President Mbeki and which are being used to proclaim Ouattara as winner of the elections, would blow your mind.

For an election result to be credible, the important ingredient is that there should be no major occurrences of ballot box snatching, prevention of candidates' agents from witnessing the voting, widespread intimidation or harassment of voters, etc. Moreover, the electoral officers should be able to accompany the election materials at all times until they have been handed over to the appropriate officials. These ingredients have been reported to be missing in the Cote d’Ivoire presidential run-off.

Secondly, election results must be consistent. The actual votes cast at a polling station or in a constituency must not be more than the total registered voters. However, in Issia, in the Haut Sassandra Region, out of a voters' register containing 79,093 people, Ouattara got 79,771 votes while Gbagbo got 46,976. Ouattara alone got more than the registered voters (120% share) while actual total turnout was 160.25%. In Koumassi, in the Lagunes Region (Abidjan) with 71,190 registered voters, Ouattara got 61,429 while Gbagbo got 56,000. The total votes obtained by both candidates is 117,429, which represents a total turnout of 165%. This is so although according to the Cote d’Ivoire Electoral Commission's own figures, valid votes cast was 59,102. These figures are mathematically impossible.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media,

There are several more of such cases. If we were to take you through some of the locations where the African observer teams reported cases of electoral fraud, you would find the following:

Constituency Total Votes in Favour of Outara Votes in Favour of Gbagbo

registered Actual votes %Share Actual votes %Share


Korhogo 117,418 98,580 88.11 3,652 3.57

Ferkéssedougou 90,461 81423 96.71 2,772 3.29

(near Korhogo)

Séguéla 52,370 44,552 95.70 2,002 4.3

Mankono 57594 49,438 93.81 3,261 6.19

(near Séguéla)

In other places in the north where the rebel Forces Nouvelles are strongly positioned, the results were even more spectacular.

Constituency Total Votes in Favour of Outara Votes in Favour of Gbagbo

registered Actual votes %Share Actual votes %Share


Madinani 15,644 13973 97.41 372 2.59

Minignan 5803 5214 98.38 86 1.62

Odienné 57417 51322 98.29 1093 2.09

Dabakala 41795 34398 95.02 1803 4.98

It is clear from the AU Observers, OSCADA and the Co-ordination of African Election Experts, who have published their reports, and who say that voting was very chaotic and quite violent in several parts of the country where they observed, that irregularities were widespread. These reports are in direct contrast to the claims by the Head of the European Union’s Election Observer Team in Cote d’Ivoire Mr. Cristian Preda, who stated that “In over 95% of the polling stations, there were present representatives of the two candidates and everybody was satisfied, nobody complained of fraud. The other international observers didn't find any fraud either; and that the only person that saw fraud was the President who refused to leave”.


These are the conclusions of an observer team that admitted that it visited only 5% of the 20,000 polling stations.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media,

The state of affairs in Cote d’Ivoire looks as if, for some leaders in the ECOWAS, the AU, the EU, the United States, the election results were determined even before the ballot took place. We now have a situation in which the European Union, France and the United States, supported by the ECOWAS Commission and the AU (which do not have their own reports) are turning the UN peacekeeping contingent in Cote d’Ivoire into a rogue organisation which, for some months now, has been involved in numerous illegalities, way beyond their mandate.

A few examples may suffice here:

Early this month, the Commander of the United Nations “peace-keeping” troops in Cote d’Ivoire, General Abdul Hafiz resigned from his position after a fierce argument with Mr. JIN CHOI, the Representative of the UN Secretary General in Cote d’Ivoire. Gen. Hafiz was protesting against the calculated attempts by France, US and other western countries to use the UN soldiers to manipulate the situation in Cote d’Ivoire, even if it means killing innocent Ivorians. In a statement to reporters, he said,

“Our role has been diverted; I do not understand the new role we are having. The bosses are asking us to fire on civilians, to help the rebels’ camp to fight the regular army. We are not in this country to kill Ivoirians. We are training, arming, transporting the OUATTARA army; I could not take it anymore and I briefed several times CHOI about this unfair situation we are in, but it looks like he has another mandate that has nothing to do with preventing war and promoting peace… “

He continued, “I stopped, because I do not want to be in the wrong. Coming from one of the poorest countries in the world, I know that by doing this, I lose a lot of money, but I have done it for my dignity and respect for human life”.

Among the complaints of General Abdul Hafiz is that Mr. Jin Choi, the UN representative, is involved in the recruitment of mercenaries from Senegal, Burkina Faso, Chad and Liberia and dressing them up as UN peace-keepers, who then move armaments to help the rebel soldiers of Ouattara. On 8th and 9th March 2011, more than 100 Burkinabe and Senegalese mercenaries were flown by UN helicopters to the Marahoue National Park, near Bonon, about 50 kilometres west of Yammoussoukro. When an Ivoirian TV station published this report, Mr. Jin Choi accused the Bangladeshi Commander of leaking what Choi calls“top secret” information to the TV station.

Even granting Mr. Choi’s allegation that it is General Hafiz who leaked these pieces of information, it also confirms that UN facilities in Cote d’Ivoire are being used to aid rebels and promote civil war, is true. Should we Ghanaians sit down and allow the UN to use mercenaries in our name?

This crucial information that General Hafiz has resigned in protest was drowned out by the western press, including the BBC and Agence Presse International. They did not even publish it.

Again in February this year, the UN office in Cote d’Ivoire released information that Belarus had violated the UN embargo on arms shipments to the Ivory Coast by sending three MI-24 assault helicopters to aid Laurent Gbagbo. On the basis of this supposed shipment of arms, Ban Ki-Moon, the UN Secretary –General immediately called for an urgent meeting of the Security Council. This was another blatant lie and another sorry attempt at disinformation.

The truth was revealed when Brigadier General Benjamin Freeman Kusi, the Chief in Command of the ONUCI (UN peacekeepers) in the northern zone reported the news of the arrival of the Mi-24 helicopters. Brigadier General Benjamin Freeman Kusi, who is a member of the Ghanaian peace keeping contingent, announced on 27th February 2011, it was the UN that had acquired those three MI-24 combat helicopters to enable the U.N. Force to use them initially as a defensive and dissuasive force. He stated that the helicopters will be stationed at Bouake and will operate on the Bouake-Yamoussoukro-Abidjan axes but with an operational capacity on the whole of the national territory.

Brigadier-General Benjamin Freeman Kusi’s report stated the objective of the helicopter mission as:

- to reinforce the capacity of the current air force of the ONUCI definitively to ensure the superiority of this force in this field.

- Helicopters MI-24 will be parked in Bouake with Ghanaian control

- The helicopters will start from Bouake and will be supplied while fuelling in Abidjan (at the bases of the French Unicorn Force ) and at Delia

- The operation of the MI-24 will be defined by the Air Ops with the agreement of the Force Commander.

- The authority authorising the shooting from the MI-24 will come from the Force Commander of the ONUCI or from any other entity according to the situation

This effectively means that UN forces have prepared to shoot at Ivoirians from helicopter gunships on the basis of a command from the ONUCI.

Even if the UN has decided to order assault gun-ships to shoot at Ivorians, it is very disingenuous that they should turn round and accuse Belarus and President Gbagbo of breaking UN arms embargo?

On 4th March 2011 the UN and the western media, announced that seven anti-Gbagbo women protesters had been shot dead by Gbagbo’s supporters. Later information showed that this was a staged-managed hoax organised by Ouattara supporters to fool the world. No one got killed. Eye witnesses and available video footage have reported that the women were asked to lie down for animal blood to be smeared on them. This cynical action was flagged by the roguish UN office in Cote d’Ivoire, the BBC and Radio France International as evidence that Gbagbo was killing women. The supposed video footage included an allegedly killed woman who tried to get up, thinking that the recording was completed, but who was then told to continue to lie down.

What is happening in Cote d’Ivoire is a deception of the world. This is a travesty. It is this deception and orchestration, which some West African leaders would like Ghanaian soldiers to join to install a President with an inconclusive election results.

It is in the light of these deceptions that the Socialist Forum of Ghana would like to appeal to all well-meaning Ghanaians to join us to appeal to the Government of Ghana, not to allow Ghanaian soldiers to be party to intended massacre of Ivorians, using the umbrella of a UN establishment in Cote d’Ivoire that has become a criminal set-up.

It reminds us of the situation in Congo in 1963, when Ghanaian soldiers, under the so-called umbrella of the UN were made to look on while Patrice Lumumba, the democratically elected leader was captured, murdered, and his body burnt. Mr. President, do not allow this to happen again in our name.