"Ghana is freedom" and Made in China

Just before I stepped into the internet cafe this evening a traffic warden shouts ecstatically at the passing white man: "Ghana is Freedom". It dawned on me that when I came to Accra 2 weeks ago the same traffic lights were also out of order. It also hit my tired brain that the traffic lights have the exact same colours of the Ghanaian flag.

Let's try link up all this trivia.

First independence leader, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, chose the name Ghana for sub-Saharan Africa's first post-colonial nation -state as an inspiration for the future. Meaning 'warrior king' it was to embody a great empire from centuries ago which existed in what is now Mauritania. The colours of Ghana's flag - green for the tropical vegetation; gold for the mineral-rich mines; red for the sacrifices made to achieve independence; and black for pan-Africanism - resemble somehow the current state of the defunct traffic lights outside this cafe.

A young man, proud of his heritage, shouting a grammatically incorrect statement 'Ghana is freedom' is not a laughing matter. It doesn't matter a shit that it's not Oxford English. What does matter however, is that 2 years ago President Kufuor spent $40 million to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ghana's freedom from Britain. Yet, 2 years later to the day, traffic lights on Accra's main road don't function and a man in a barely visible vest is stopping cars from one direction to let others fly by from another.

So while millions can continue to be spent on the myth that Ghana is freedom (why does it depend on so much aid if it is) every March 6th, few resources are channeled into things that really matter, like providing this traffic warden with proper equipment for his own safety and to conduct his important task for traffic.

Ghana has been strangled for decades by the West and it's own corrupt elite. It's traffic lights, as many other prominent Ghanaians have been saying over the past few weeks, are just not functioning well. So lets take off the rose-tinted glasses and let's stop the crap talk. Ghana is not freedom!

Postscript - Due to lack of time I did not write anything above which would justify the second part of the blog title: 'Made in China'

Well, wandering around the celebrations at Independence Square on Friday last it was obvious that an abundance of the Ghanaian "hats, scarves and headbands" etc. were leftovers from two years ago when it celebrated its 50th anniversary. It appears the patriotic wear had been mass produced in factories throughout China. Surprise, surprise. Nothing like abandoning your own indigenous industries when it comes to proclaiming your independence from other nations.

While warplanes spewed out red, yellow and green smoke above the applauding masses, the irony that the city authorities still hadn't fixed Kojo Thompson's traffic lights crossed my mind. If they can't afford to be bothered to fix them, it would have been far more useful if they just used these smoke theatrics on the top of the traffic lights. Green smoke unloads, traffic moves towards Nkrumah circle; orange smoke bellows, traffic slows down; red smoke flows outward, traffic ceases. The patient line of traffic adjacent can then proceed onwards as their smokey system kicks into operation.

I await calls from entrepeneurs to patent my classy idea.

Not to appear too cynical though, of course it is great Ghana can and does celebrate they day it kicked the Brits out. But as Ghanaweb point out, when your economic purse and people are worse off now than they were at Independence, some serious questions need to be asked and answers need to come fast. Nkrumah may have inherited the title of a great visionary, but it doesn't change the fact that in 1957 his gvt. had US $1 billion in foreign reserves -then, by the time he was ousted in 1966, Ghana's foreign reserves were depleted and the country primed for disastrous governance and corruption for decades after.


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