“Shared History” and Decolonising the #RoyalVisitGhana

Last week British successor to the throne, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, more popularly known as Camilla, came to Ghana for a four-day visit. The tour was part of a 9 day West Africa visit with stops in not just Ghana, but the Gambia and Nigeria as well.

Britain was heavily involved in the transatlantic slave trade which greatly affected and weakened what is now Ghana, subsequently tightened its grasp through bloody wars with the local kings and leaders, especially the Ashanti kingdom. In 1874, the protectorate of Gold Coast was proclaimed and until 1957 when Ghanaian freedom fighters negotiated independence, the British flag flew over this land and Gold Coast people were killed, exploited, and without basic rights. Hence, a state visit from the former colonizer with such a power imbalance infused history is symbolically important and interesting to study – and discuss, see info on an event below!

With this background, I was shocked and outraged when I saw the UK in Ghana facebook account discussed the visit with the words “celebration of a shared culture” – how is this bloody past equal to “a shared love of Ghanaian music”? Since when?

 

But was later informed of the major billboards around town which had President Akuffo Addo and Prince Charles on them along with the text “Shared History, Shared Future”, a message that both omits and distorts reality and hence insults the intelligence of Ghanaians. What is shared about being exploited? What is shared from one entity exporting its language, education system, religion at the expense of the other? What is shared if one nation colonized the other?

A Facebook friend also pointed out that the shared future, propped up by an acute need for trading partners for the UK ahead of the automatic (Br)exit from the EU next year…

 

And there were other things:

 

As Ghanaian artist Fuse ODG complained in this video and Satirist Machiavelli drew something only Ghanaians can understand…

Now, this is not just Britain’s doing. Ghana has to think harder in how it positions itself when power visits. Look at the Benin traditional leader asking Prince Charles to return stolen goods, for instance. Or is there a gain to Ghana (or the Ghanaian elite?) for playing along I do not understand?

Come discuss tonight Saturday 10 Nov at Libreria at 6.30pm!

A Whirlwind of Events: #NAD2018, #NEFScienceWeek, #FIFAfrica18, #MIASA

The fall semester has just started and that means it is like a new year for us academics. I have decided to go back to a paper calendar to make sure I do not overbook myself (when the space for a day is filled, my day is filled!). However, September was slightly overfilled anyways. But with some great events:

#NAD2018

Nordic Africa Days is a biannual conference organized by the Nordic Africa Institute. It is my “home conference” as a Swedish researched in Ghana and I have been attending since 2007!

This year, I organized a panel session with my colleague Michael Boampong called Conceptualizing Youth Mobilities and presented a paper within it.

 

#NEFScienceWeek

Next Einstein forum contacted me about moderating a panel which proved to be very interesting where industry representative Ethel Cofie or Women in Tech/ Edel Consulting Ltd met education representative Dr. Patrick Arthur from University on Ghana on the gap between STEM education and industry. Some highlights from the conversations:

  • Review primary education to make sure we educate producers (eg. programmers), not consumers (eg. users of Word and PowerPoint).
  • Make sure the higher education sector is wired for innovation by having incentive structures not just for peer-reviewed journal articles, but also for innovation/entrepreneurial initiative.

  • #NEFScienceWeek

#FIFAfrica18

Forum for Internet Freedom in Africa organized by CIPESA and MFWA is something I luckily happened to come across as I was doing research for a new project I have initiated on Internet Freedom and Internet Shutdowns. It turned out the experts were on their way to Accra! The same week as finding out about this conference, I was able to join its last afternoon. It was a fantastic networking opportunity and the sessions I visited launched reports like The State of Internet Freedom in Africa and the Internet Universality Indicators, discussed how to measure Internet Shutdowns and how to advocate effectively for them not happening.

#MIASA

The Merian Institute for Advanced Studies in Africa funded by the German government had its inaugural conference at University of Ghana – I only made it to the very final and concluding session. The institute has planned for some interdisciplinary and interesting studies investigating big issues, from the concluding presentation, however, I worry that the research groups and methods seemed to already have been decided in Germany and that could mean the so-called collaboration in actual fact is only a satellite department of a German institution coming to Ghana. I hope I am wrong…

My paper calendar…

…is that beautiful blue book with gold details. On the inside it gives me a full week’s overview and just enough space to list my meetings and main to-dos for each day. I realize it is less stressful to have a finite space for planning my time.

How do you make sure your days and weeks are not overfilled, but allow for quality work and breathing pauses?

Last Chance: Orderly/Disorderly BlaxTARLINES Art Exhibit

Here is an important Public Service Announcement:

The Orderly/Disorderly Art Show curated by Blaxtarlines (follow and support on FB, read the curatorial statement here) opened at the Science and Technology Museum in Accra at the end of June. If you did not yet see it yet, you only have until Friday 1 September to do so. 

The magnificent show where young artists both from KNUST and the professional fold in Ghana treat the order and disorder in our society, spans installations, video, cartoons, photography, textile and new techniques I cannot even describe. The show makes you happy, sad, marvel and it is miraculously free!

The show closes in grand style with a talk by the grandfather of Ghanaian art, Prof. Ablade Glover at 4 pm on September 1st, 2017.

UPDATE: Meet-the-Artist Series featuring Adwoa Amoah, Ato Annan, Francis Kokoroko and Shimawuda Ziorkley, in collaboration with Foundation For Contemporary Art,Ghana (FCA-Ghana) and @thestudioaccra

Date: Wednesday, 30th August, 2017 
Time: 4pm
Venue: Museum of Science & Technology, Barnes Road, Accra
Rate: Free

The event will be broadcast live via Facebook

After that, it is over! Take your chance!

See my slideshow with a small selection of the works on display from my visit at the Orderly/Disorderly art show with my kids.

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New Year, New President

It is a new year and in Ghana (and very soon in the US) that means a new president! Nana Akufo-Addo, 72 years, was sworn in last weekend and the major event featured one positive media storm concerning President Akufo-Addo’s attire, and one negative concerning the heavy use of unreferenced material in key sections of the speech.

The negative aspect has gotten ample attention online, culminating in being ridiculed by Trevor Noah (who suggested Akufo-Addo also plagiarised Melania Trump, who in turn recently plagiarised a speech by Michele Obama). The administration’s new speech writer also apologised.

So let me move on to the positives…I was completely in awe of the President’s bespoke Kente/Adinkra/Gonja cloth. It was colourful (almost to the point of being psychedelic), regal (Kente is worn like the Greek toga over the shoulder, or perhaps it is the Greek toga that is worn like Kente?), and filled with symbolism.

The Kente cloth is traditionally woven is narrow strips later joined together. However here, it was not just Kente in the box of stripes, it was a national blend. Journalist Charles Benoni Okine explained in an article in the Daily Graphic:

“He’s taken the best of the various peoples represented throughout Ghana, and created a beautiful patchwork tapestry reflecting the traditions and the unity of the Ghanaian people. Ashanti kente with proverbs such as “Akokobaatan” – compassion and discipline, and “Nkyimkyim” – life is not a straight path. Obama kente which is derived from the Ga and Ewe people’s Adanudo cloth, and created with embossed and appliquéd patterns. Adinkra symbols, an Akan tradition, such as “Akoma” the heart and a symbol of love, “Bese Saka” a bunch of cola nuts and a symbol of abundance, and “Ohene Aniwa” which is a symbol of vigilance.  There are also pieces of Gonja cloth from the North of Ghana.”

Wasn’t it interesting it included an Ga and Ewe form of Kente known as Obama kente? And that textile from south to north was represented? That adinkra symbols were included with messages for the Ghanaian people?

In an article with more photos by OMGVoice, Twitter sources offered more clues. Apparently this type of joined, adorned, and appliquéd cloth is the highest form of Kente and reserved for kings (and Presidents), it is called Ago.

I wish we could know more, who designed it, who made it, how long time it took. Do let me know if you read it somewhere! Or perhaps the mystique around this centre stage piece of clothing adds that extra flair and elevation to Ghana’s new President? If so, I rest my Kente case.

Photo credit: Nana Akufo-Addo’s official website.

My Election Day: From Basic Level to Analyst

I had an excellent election day, divided in three clear sections. It seems the country also had an excellent election day, with a few exceptions discussed below. 

1. Family time
familyIn the morning, my five year old asked:

– Why am I not going to school today?

I answered:

– Because today is election day.

– What is election? Came the response. A Masters Degree in political science and a PhD in African Studies are not necessarily assets when getting to the basics. I took a deep breath and tried:

– It is when we chose who will decide in the country. We call that person president or prime minister.

– I want to be president! I will decide what to do and then you will decide what we should not do, ok, mama?

Morning proceeded calmly with family time. Our nanny had left the night before to go vote after a short campaign to join her party.

2. Voting

img_1112
In the afternoon, we went to my husband’s childhood neighbourhood where he is still registered as a voter. There was no queue, voting was swift and easy in the double voting register at the Chemu school in Community 4, Tema.

Of course, I did not vote as I am not a Ghanaian citizen (yet). It was great to see the positive atmosphere and how elections rather brought people together – at least in this community – than created divisions.

3. BloggingGhana in the Situation Roomelection-obesrver

BloggingGhana’s GhanaDecides project was approached about being part of the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP) and the National Peace Council’s  observer group. The group convened during the whole election day in a situation room of sorts, but as I needed to be part of family time and voting, I only joined in the afternoon.

team

I was introduced to the team of 30 or so “yellow shirt” observers collating reports from all the regions of Ghana, the 10 “green shirt” observers or analysts – where I had to pinch my arm, because that where I belonged! BloggingGhana/GhanaDecides had its own table filled with bottles, chords, and screens (see photo above). After a while the members of the highest level of the observers – the decision room stopped by after a tour including other situation rooms and the electoral commission.

A major convo was around the Jaman North Constituency now voting tomorrow after the failure of party agents to first agree on the electoral roll and then of the electoral commission to get materials out to the 92 polling stations. Jaman North is located between Ivory Coast to the west, the Bui National Park to the north, and the Tain constituency to the east that voted one day late in 2012 for similar reasons. How many voters are registered in Jaman North? I have not seen any official data yet. Will follow up tomorrow!

Another thing we see as the results trickle in is that the turnout seems low – after some 30 000 votes have been counted, the turnout hoovers around 57-58%. In 2012, the turnout was close to 80%. Following this closely too.

At this moment, most observers have returned home and a few of us are wrapping up the day to the sound of provisional MP results trickling in. 

See you online tomorrow – until then follow GhanaDecides.com and #GhanaDecides on all social media channels – over night run by our diaspora team!

Terrorism in West Africa: What the Attack in Ivory Coast means to Ghana (and to me)

beach paradiseAs so often these days, I got the bad news via social media. A friend has sent a FB message, I went on Twitter to see what it was all about and was shocked and saddened by the headlines: 16 dead in Grand Bassam Resort East of Abidjan.

When it was confirmed that Al-Qaeda has accepted responsibility for the act, I tweeted my thoughts and fears.

Sadly, it is not the first Al-Qaeda attack in the region. Hotels where multiple nationalities and the whole tourism sector can be attacked at once have been the prime target.

But this new attack was on the coast, it was in the bustling and growing direct neighbor Ivory Coast, it was so close to home, and that’s why this attack has already affected Ghana. We cannot feel safe here and that will imediately rub off on especially tourism, in the same was the ebola effect did. I am not saying the next attack will come to Ghana, but it is enough that it might. Travellers will prefer to not take the risk and the local economy will suffer for it.

My blog colleague Jemila also discussed the attacks and asked “how many more attacks before regional strategy and action?” and expanded with insight on many of these points and captured them all in this blog post. She wrote:

“Each attack that happens elsewhere shouldn’t just be an occasion to “thank God, it’s not us”. It should also be a “what would we do if”. Simulation and strategizing around different scenarios is key.

We’re in an election year – the lens of the international press will turn to us, we already have a large expat community.

How prepared is Ghana? What will we do – not just for expats – but also for those of us we won’t be evacuated at all cost?”

The question on how ready we are is interesting as we do not speak much about terrorism in Ghana, but we definitely also are not blue-eyed. The major hotels in Accra have for some time now increased their security check you and your car thoroughly before you can enter. Ghana has a system of police presence with barriers in all major communities and as tourism is a major sector, we have everything to win from keeping our guests safe. On the other hand, terrorism is now a global phenomenon and it has showed that it cannot be stopped just by increased security.

Just last weekend, my family went west on a beach trip and lodging on the very same beach strip, just a few hundred kilometres away from Grand Bassam. The same palm trees, the same tropical heat, the same crickets at night. It makes me sad that I now look at that time on the beach as a time of innocence and pure enjoyment that really cannot be recovered.

Despite what has happened, this attack means I will continue enjoying life, keep going to the beach, and walking about town. I will also continue discussing events like these with my students and with my friends across the globe. I will keep inviting them to West Africa! I will continue to work for a world where life is worth living for all.

Because what can we do? If we stop living, to use a cliche, the terrorists have already won.

 

Problem Fatigue: Korle Bu, NIA, and Weija Dam

Often, the news cycle in Ghana excites me and seemingly puts pressure on people in charge. So far so good. However, at times, the news feel like projectiles that blow up too close to comfort and just keep coming BOOM BOOM BOOM without breathing space to the point of me and other people going “what is happening to us?”, “WHY?” or similar while throwing our hands in the air. 

This week, and its only Tuesday!, for instance we heard about:

All these problems are major, critical, and totally unacceptable. They all are not new, but historical problems that have not been adequately addressed. On radio this morning, the Korle Bu Hospital CEO Dr. Buckle said the surgery ward issue dates back to 2014  and the article on the identification card suggests the exercise begun in 2003, albeit is still not completed!

All these problems have multiple people (departments! ministries! experts!) working on them, seemingly not making much progress – or what do I know- but at least not solving issues!  For instance the identification card was here highlighted in a forum organised by a media house and the World Bank – why not championed by the parliament or the authority created for identification, I do not understand. It seems the problems are too big to get solved by public servants or politicians? Or they lack the skill, funds, or political will?

If so, solutions to problems are likely linked to more citizen engagement. But how do we get there? How do we make sure we channel rage, direct energy, and funnel ideas for solutions –  and not for apathy?

#SundayReads 24 Jan, 2016

sundayreads

Here are my first Sunday Reads for the year:

  1. Africa’s Boom IS NOT over. Mr Internet in Ghana (and now globally the African angel investor) Eric Osiakwan takes a stand and suggests the future jobs in Africa’s KINGS countries (alliteration for Kenya, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Ghana, and South Africa) will be created in tech. (It was BTW published on Medium, a new form of blogging, I’d like to call it that makes excellent use of social media).

    “Africa’s millennials and digital natives, instead of looking for job or a way to vacate the continent, have caught on to the development of mobile web applications and are unleashing their creative juices and entrepreneurial prowess to disrupt traditional markets and address key pain-points for both rich and poor customers.”

    The Doctor Who Kills Doctors by Marc Parenteau. Terrible information presented with beautiful illustrations about what is happening in Syria.

  2. Screenshot 2016-01-24 22.25.28
  3. A Masters in Four years; My Ordeal at University of Ghana Graduate School. A very important text on what is slowing Ghana and higher education output down, sadly written only after graduation by one of Ghana’s top journalists, Manasse Azure Awuni.“The week after the graduation, I returned my academic gown and asked for my certificate. I was told it wasn’t ready. At the Graduate School I was given a chit after I submitted the gown and signed to that effect. I was supposed to present the chit later that week for my certificate. When I returned on Friday, I was told that the certificates were not ready.“Please, when will it be ready?” I asked.”
  4. Revolution 2.0, a 2013 text by Mohamed A. El-Erian on a book with the same name (by Wael Ghonim) which describes the Egyptian revolution in 2011.“The movement captured the interest of the disgruntled young and activists, and it secured their loyalty by engaging them in surveys, encouraging a high level of interactions on the [Facebook] page, and essentially reinventing crowd sourcing and decision-making…As important, if not more, the page administered by Ghonim and Abdelrahman Mansour (who joined the page on its third day as the second admin) achieved something that many thought improbable if not impossible: Encouraging an increasing number of young Egyptian to believe that they stood a chance at regaining a claim on their country and its destiny. In the process, they started gradually overcoming multiple barriers of fear that, both explicitly and implicitly, had relegated them to just impotent and frustrated observers.”
  5. Try Safe Mode. Apple’s support pages have been frequently visited these first weeks and days of the new year as my MacBook Pro 2011 has slowed down almost to a halt. After trying safemode (Embarrassingly, I did not even know there was such a thing!) and adding some RAM memory, I am now hoping for the best.

Hopefully I’ll last until next week when Sunday Reads will be back!

Inspired by personal role models, Ory Okolloh Mwangi and Chris Blattman, I want to share articles I read with my followers on a somehow regular basis. I hope to make Sunday Reads a weekly feature to be shared here and on Twitter!

 

Hopes for African Studies Association meeting, ASA 2015, in San Diego

So by this time next week, I’ll be on my way to the big African Studies Association 58th Annual Meeting, ASA2015, in San Diego, California, USA. The conference has the theme: The State and the Study of Africa and will be happening 19-22 November. It is an enormous event which attracts over 2000 scholars! I am terribly excited and have the following hopes:

  1.  getting some feedback on my research. I am presenting a paper in a panel called: Rethinking Decolonialization: Institutions, Archives and Identities (Session VII- D1, Fri 20th, 2-3.45pm). My paper is how university students in Ghana and their narratives can help decolonializing migration studies.
  2. meeting with other researchers, both interested in Ghana (as under the Ghana Studies Association meeting scheduled for Fri 20th at 7.30pm) and in migration and higher eduction.
  3. tweeting (follow me on @kajsaha) and Periscoping!
  4. learning more about publishing and post-doc opportunities.
  5. finding books and initiatives in the exhibit that accompanies the conference.
  6. experiencing some art and maybe good food in the world-reknowned Balboa Park in San Diego.
  7. meeting up with other African Studies tweeps, see my list below.

I’m Back! With a Life Crisis, Post-PhD Blues, and Blog Fatigue

Vacation is over. Work has begun. I am back.

However, the sweet hopefulness of new beginnings that surround each start of a new school year has this year eloped me. Sadly, instead of feeling triumphant and light about my submission of my manuscript, I now feel rather lost and blue.

I don’t know what goal to aim for.

I don’t know where to go from here.

I don’t know what I want to do with the rest of my life!

Is this the post-PhD blues people talk about? Or a full-blown life crisis?

I don’t even know what to blog about. Ghanaian politics seem more opaque than ever. Should I be more of a lifestyle blogger, perhaps? Showing you my (perfect) kids, my (well intended) DIY-projects, and my (always failed) herb garden? Or more like my fav academic blogger Chris Blattman, wittily summarising the interesting research debates I engage in, mixed with lists of links to great reads? Should I join other bloggers and start a podcast and simply talk to you, dear reader?

Well, for now I am lost. Or as it is put as the textbook chapter I happen to teach next week, I am “learning to wallow in complexity”. If someone out there has an opinion on what I should do with my life (or blog!), I’d love your input.

3 #DumsorMustStop Vigil Lessons

Here are my three take-aways from today’s #DumsorMustStop vigil.

1. A few people, in this case celebrities, can make a difference. Thanks to their leadership, we were given a venue to speak up. The feeling of walking down the street with 1000 (2000?) others who also think we deserve better was like…a cold shower after a night under a non-moving fan.

2. We can do better. More people can show up next time, but more importantly, those who come should know how powerful we are if we optimise the protest in terms of:

  • spacing (one arms length to the person in front of you one to the person next to you),
  • speed (slowly, like a tortoise winning against the hare!) and
  • place ( you want to walk ON THE ROAD to create maximum impact of the protest, not on the curb, etc).

3. Clearly, Ghanaians are tired of sitting in the dark. Seeing thousands of Ghanaians dressed in black floating down the street holding candles and kerosene lamps – and one fridge! –  must be the government’s nightmare.

Tomorrow Sunday 17 May, 2015, at 3.30pm BloggingGhana will discuss the vigil and how social media can play a role in #DumsorMustStop. If you want to attend, let us know here.

Seven Photos of the Revolution in Burkina Faso

It has all the ingredients of a proper revolution: president shuffled abroad, media outlets overtaken, parliament ablaze and military seen on the streets of the capital. But it is the photos of the people that really convinces me it is indeed a revolution!

Here are my favourite seven photos shared on social media today.

https://storify.com/kajsaha/photos-of-the-revolution-in-burkina-faso