Becoming Ghanaian: Registration as a Citizen Part 3 – The Interview

After 11 years in Ghana, I have applied to become a Ghanaian Citizen. This is the third post in the series of my experience of the application process. Read part 1 Submitting the application and paying the fee and 2 Submitting the Application to Ghana Immigration Service.

Just before the holidays, I sent a few WhatsApp 

messages to my Ministry of Interior contact to ask of my citizenship application. I wanted specifically to know if the application had reached the stage where they would make a home visit and interview my husband and me. After a little back and forth, we decided on the last Friday before Christmas.

It was a brief affair. After arriving almost two hours late, due to Christmas traffic and phone network disturbances to clarify our location, the visit / interview seemed to be centered around two issues:

  1. Did we live where we said we lived?
  2. Had my husband written the “consent letter” to support my application included in my docket?

Everything else was pleasantries that reminded me of cordial, although formal, family visits before an engagement or similar where you take turns to welcome/accept the welcome, offer water/drink the water, and state the purpose of the visit/ accept the purpose of the visit.

At the tail end of the two officers’ visit, we enquired how long it would be before my application was concluded and were told it would most likely be finalized in the first quarter of this year.

So there we have it, step three toward my Ghanaian citizenship is now behind me. End of this month, it will be one year since I started the process and took the selfie that illustrates this post at the Ministries in Accra. 

If you have any questions on this process, please post them below and I will do what I can to help.

“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!

MAKE BE with #TheBeyondCollective / Art Exhibit

Life in Ghana can be very monotonous. It is the red dust, the wailing religious songs, the water that doesn’t flow, the soup that never stops flowing, the discussion on how Ghanaians’ attitude to maintenance must change, the discussion on how the red dust is too much and the water doesn’t flow. Rinse and repeat. Then there are the art events which challenge all of that and carve out a whole new way of looking at where we are and who we are.

Last night was like that, an experience put together by the collective exhibit, “MAKE BE” by The Beyond Collective consisting of artists

Nana Anoff

Randa Jebeile

Eric Gyamfi

Poetra Asantewa

Nii Obodai

Rania Odaymat (also the curator)

Francis Kokoroko

While Poetra Ansantewaa, Eric Gyamfi, Nii Obodai, and Rania Odaymat looked inwards in beautiful, intricate, and overlaying works, with self-portraits, or in Poetra Asantewaa’s case her memories, as their medium,  Francis Kokrokoo, Randa Jebeile, and Nana Anoff looked outwards – Kokroko by using the symbol and actual presbyterian choral singers as his topic, Jebeile using colorful mosaics, and Anoff triumphing them all scale-wise by lifting half an airplane to the exhibit venue.

A collaborative piece between Kokroko and Odaymat and an NGO working with justice in Ghana’s prisons became the proud centerpiece of the exhibit: Remember Me, a large screened slideshow framed by barbed wire, with queenlike portraits of the women in Nsawam prison, sentenced to stay there for life, here fully made up, wearing beautiful and sparkling jewellery and attire. Their eyes glistened of many layers of feelings. Deep sadness. Defiance. Anger. Hope. Fear. Pride. The women seemed temporarily released by the dream of what could have been and it was mesmerizing.

The connection between all works was a contemplative and intimate stance demanding much from the viewer and I complained to a fellow visitor that I thought some of the works were too subtle or abstract, almost like I could not get a grip on any message from them. He disagreed completely and there we were, far from the red dust and conversations on maintenance culture.

Indicative of this rich pop-up art show was that only when scrolling through Instagram coverage of the exhibit already at home, I realized one could enter Nana Anoff’s airplane! There is much more to see, much more to be, and more to make than what is at first apparent.

 

More info:

MAKE BE

La Maison, Icon House, Airport City, Accra, Ghana.

4th – 8th October 2018

MAKE BE is an exhibition celebrating two years of reflection by seven artists. Paying homage to the Ghanaian context, it focuses on the resourcefulness of living in a space

and place that can bring magic and mayhem in the switch of a second. It is about creation and conversation, especially in an age of change and uncertainty.

The most significant obstacles we face as creatives are personal, while the biggest battles we wage are intimate. In contemplation of this, it made sense to turn our lens,

brushes, pens and craft inwards for reflection. It is an invitation for each artist to convey what existing and creating means to them.

-Rania Odaymat, Curator

How Are You Managing Your Screen Time?

Because I love technology and social media, I feel like I have been quite conscious of my screen time. Since more than a year, all notifications are off my phone. I use the app “Focus” to turn off the internet on my phone (it also helps with working with the pomodoro technique). After reading Adriana Huffington’s book on sleep, I also parked my phone – turned off! –  in a different room during the night and am awoken by an old-fashioned alarm clock. All in the name of limiting my screen time and not being dragged down the rabbit-hole of smartphones.

Sadly, I also agree with Jim Kwik who suggest that smartphones make us less smart!

However, all of this seems to not be enough to manage my time in front of a screen. Indeed, Catherine Price who wrote a book about breaking up with your phone, and a New York Times article that sums it up, suggests it took her two years!  When I heard on the news Apple is including such a control mechanism for parents and individuals in their next OS, I thought to myself I NEED THIS NOW and started researching programs for both me and my 7-year-old. This is what I found.

 

FOR ME: Space. Free app, upgrade available USD 1.99 (but actually I am not sure what the upgrade does).

I liked the design and step-by-step idea that “diagnoses” your particular problem (I am a “boredom battler”) as well as the pop-ups and idea of dimming of the screen. It is also free! That is a pretty great feature when comparable apps charge a monthly cost.

 

FOR THE KID: Habyts. Free for 14 days and after that USD 3.29 or 7.99/month depending on services needed. The more expensive upgrade include chores that your kid can do for extra points or minutes.

Further, Habyts was the only app I could find that both allowed me to set daily time allowances, remote turn off her device, as well as included the option of adding tasks or chores for her to earn more time.

 

5 days in

We have tried a for a few days and I appreciate the professional help! In addition, what has helped is the idea to limit and track not just duration of each session, but also the number of times one reaches for one’s phone and unlocks it. However, despite warnings, limits and general awareness-raising, it has not been very impactful so far for me. I have not yet met my goals of 1,5 hours max on the smartphone/day (my average is more like the double!) or less than 30 unlocks during a day. Two nights since I started this phone detox, I have also unfortunately late-night-binged on my iPad (where I did not install the program).

My child shows withdrawal symptoms as well and has been angry and demanding. I had to change the lock codes on all my devices as she “jumped” to mine when her time was up! However, the remote shut-down function makes the process of limiting the time (right now the same 90 minutes a day) easier than earlier and I recognize that it helps for thinking of other things to do that I am also off my phone!

I will follow up again when some more time has passed to tell you how we are doing.

How do you limit screen time in your family?

Becoming Ghanaian: Registration as a Citizen Part 1

About two years ago, I saw a newspaper article about a citizenship ceremony held in Accra. In the photo illustrating the article was a small group of well-dressed, brand new Ghanaians smiling widely. One of them was a fair-skinned woman. I think I was at that moment, a lightbulb lit up in my mind and I thought to myself, “But of course! I will also be a Ghanaian!”

Last year I discussed this idea with the members of the International Spouses of Ghanaians (ISAG), who were most helpful when I was applying for permanent residence eight years ago. Now a handful of us agreed, it would be good to become Ghanaians! One of us went to enquire at the Ministries about the process, another talked to someone who just passed through the process. We were happy to find out that it would not take more than six months and cost GHS 3000, a quite reasonable sum for adding the rights and responsibilities of a whole new country to your person.

 

Why going for a Ghanaian citizenship?

I can think of many reasons ( I will list them all below), but it is based on the general feeling that one should hold a citizenship for the country where one resides permanently, and return readers will know I have lived in Ghana for 10 years now.

Here are all my reasons for going for a Ghanaian citizenship:

  • I live in Ghana and would like to hold all the rights (like voting) and responsibilities (like being involved in local government) as others who live here.
  • My current status could be revoked. I hold an Indefinite Residence permit, but have to ask permission to leave Ghana for more than one year. The Ghanaian government could say they don’t like my reason for staying away, and revoke my indefinite residence permit. If I get divorced, I am also not sure what happens to the indefinite residence permit as it is based on being a spouse of a Ghanaian.
  • My children and spouse are Ghanaians. At this stage, my husband has no reason to apply for Swedish nationality, but it would still be practical and nice to all have the same citizenship.
  • I would also like to inspire and perhaps even surprise jaded Ghanaians who think there is nothing to gain from being a Ghanaian citizen. I would be proud to be part of the nation that has such rich cultures, languages, and practises, that first gained independence from the colonial power, that has gold and diamonds, vast forests and beautiful shores…
  •  Easier African travel is a plus!

 

Starting the process

 

 

 

 

 

 

Together with my fellow applicant Nancy we signed in at the Ministry of Interior at 10.20am. We were directed to Room 17 to share details. In the small office, three officers sat by their desks. We were asked how long we had resided in Ghana and the room fell quiet when Nancy calmly said “41 years”. My 10 years seemed feeble in this context. We were asked for our nationality and brought our passports to show our full legal names. There was a Notice on the wall that a third party cannot come for the registration or naturalization form.

We were told to go to Room 24 to make payments. After we had paid the GHS 3000 and been issued with a receipt, we went back to the first room, obtained a checklist (see below) of all the documents we need to attach to our application, a form for sponsors to fill, and the application form. We asked some questions to clarify. We found for instance that although not specified in the checklist, we also need a police report, two sponsors to fill forms AND write letters on our behalf. Sponsors should ideally be a senior government officer and a lawyer. After only 25 minutes in the ministry we had come to the end of the first step of the process, we asked one of the officers to take a photo of us with our brown envelopes containing the application forms to let us remember this big day and at 10.46 am we signed out!

 

First Step of the Process of becoming a Ghanaian citizen

The first step definitely was most fact-finding, psychological and personal, and just to a small extent administrative. The process seems to be quite straightforward, the hardest part at the ministry was finding parking! Now I have some work to do to complete my application. I will keep you posted on the next steps.

If you have any questions, please post them below and I will do what I can to help.

 

————————————

Checklist: Requirements (taken from the Ministry of Interior’s website).

NB: Applicant should reside in the country for at least 5years

  • Purchase (Application form 3)
  • Copy of Passport (Bio Data Page)
  • Current OR Indefinite Residence Permit page
  • Copy of (Spouse) Ghanaian Passport (Bio-data page)
  • Consent letter from Spouse
  • Copy of marriage Certificate
  • Naturalization Certificate (if spouse is a naturalized Ghanaian)
  • A citizen of age and capacity of any approved country may upon an application, and with the approval of the President be registered as a citizen of Ghana if he satisfies the Minister that;
  • (1)He is of good character, (2) he is ordinarily residence in Ghana, (3) he has been resident throughout the period of five years or such shorter period as the Minister may in the special circumstances of any particular case accept, immediately before the application, (4) he can speak and understand an indigenous language of Ghana.
  • Application letter addressed to the Minister, Ministry of the Interior (P.O. BOX M42, Accra)
  • Four (4) Passports Size Pictures

 

My Week Following The @Sweden Curatorship Experience, #SMWiAccra

So last week, I had the honor of being the curator of the twitter account @Sweden. With a click, I increased my following by 10 and was the seven-day temporary face of my native Sweden. In a tropical setting. I thought I’d sum up my experience and also share what this week, following all the excitement, was like.

Monday, I woke up sick, with a swollen (!) nose. Had I been in a fist fight? The doctor said it was rather a sinusitis infection in my nose and I was on antibiotics before I knew it. I am not sure it was the curator experience that made me sick, but it was a day lost to pain and rest.

Tuesday, my children both started their new school. I accompanied and excited three-year-old to Nursery school and my husband took our six-year-old to Primary 1.

My school girls! ????? #maryjane #sisters #schooluniforms #mahjong #vamlingbolaget #233moments

A post shared by Kajsa Hallberg Adu (@kajsaha) on

On Wednesday, I was well enough to share some of my thoughts about the @Sweden experience on the Citi Breakfast Show on Ghanaian radio station Citi FM. IN an interview with the brilliant Bernard Avle, I talked about 

  • Traffic (I was late to the studio)
  • Knowing my audience
  • Missing my TL
  • Thinking about Swedishness
  • Wanting to be a Ghanaian citizen

Find the full program here, I come on around 9.40am.

In the afternoon, I met with a researcher, Hanne Geirbo from the interesting research project Learning Flexibility. We spoke about social media activism, solar energy adoption and strategies for infrastructure challenges.

Last, I attended the Social Media Week Accra, and was a speaker under the heading “Social Media: The Ghana Case”.

I tried to give a quick overview of how blogging has developed in Ghana since BloggingGhana started in 2008, but also to critique the use of social media as heavily entertainment, one way, consumeristic instead of appreciating the true revolution of social media and harnessing the promise of social change. I suggested we support each-other ventures more, create and use more hashtags to curate content and campaigns, we produce more content.

On Thursday, I met with my Ashesi students for the first time. Ambitious, fresh-faced future leaders make me so happy. I also finalized the contract with two final year students who I will supervise on their papers. Two very interesting projects, I will tell you more about later.

Today, Friday is for research and preparing for next week. I will also fit in some meetings. This evening, I’ll be seeing my friend to celebrate her birthday.

 

I feel like this week was as intense and interesting as last week, but I was back on my own social media accounts and I had missed the people I am following and learning from. The Sweden curatorship, made me rethink what I publish and how much I share my personal life. While I have a high sense of integrity, and usually post quite minimal “this was my day”, “this is my breakfast”- content, I now think there is also value to sharing more personal details and life circumstances as that goes to the heart of the prospects of social media: bringing people closer together by showing how diverse and how similar we all are.

Do you think it’s useful or interesting to read about other people’s daily lives?

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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Green Ghanaian Akua Akyaa Nkrumah is Gone

Environmental Technologist Akua Akyaa Nkrumah passed away on Thursday. She was, write her colleagues in the death announcement, a “mighty tree”. I think it is not often such words are used about a thirty-something, but those were the same words that came to mind as I heard of her passing on Friday morning. I am devastated. 

In lieu of the one-week meeting for family and friends that is customary in Ghana, I want to sit an imaginary living room and share here on my blog some of my thoughts. I imagine an overcrowded room, some of us are standing. I see Akyaa’s family and colleagues in the room, friends from BloggingGhana, Chale Wote, Ahaspora, Golda, Maame Aba, Jemila, Edward, Ato, Naa Oyoo, Efo. Now that we are all here, let’s remember.

Akyaa was a blogger and member of the organization I co-founded in 2008, BloggingGhana. Do read her last blog post on the 15 things NPP can do for the environment. She was a very present member, featured in our “By the Fireside”-events last year, and a feisty and fun discussant on issues we would deliberate on when the official meeting was over. She was a passionate professional working with Jekora Ventures, doing the hard work that is cleaning up Accra, one of the places in the world most in need of sanitation. She was proud of her work and often talked about her projects. Additionally, she was an inspiration and a fellow creative in a space where creativity is rare. She was also an ray of light in the field of environmentalism, desperately needed for a Ghana that is quickly becoming a dump site. Last year, she was featured on Jill of All Trades with this beautiful interview.

In the beginning of the year, Akyaa and I had quite a lot of interactions. We met up and talked about life, she helped my student with information, I got to learn about her initiative to take Eco thinking and social media to university students in the Green Ghanaian Eco Tour. The program was masterfully crafted, intended to reach all regions of Ghana, prefunded by an international donor who Akua had approached and written a proposal to. I took notes and confided in her that under so many years of discussing such an outreach for causes I feel strongly about, I never managed to. She generously shared the details that made her project a success.

In February, Akyaa brought her initiative to Ashesi University. I played only a small role and finally could not attend the program on the Saturday she came up with her team, but was following the tweets online from engaged students.


 

In her last year of living, Akyaa spread her worldview to hundreds (thousands?) of young people, opened a waste management plant, and taught me personally about activism and outreach. Now that she is no more with us, my only consolation is in these endeavors Akua Akyaa Nkrumah will live on. Green Ghanaian…dubbed Great Ghanaian by a mutual friend. Green Great Ghanaian. Our mighty tree. Thank you. Da yiy3.

BloggingGhana will remember her in an event soon. 

Ahaspora will be dedicating their June Happy Hour to celebrate her life.

Family GoFundMe collection for her burial.

Ethical Higher Education: The Ashesi University Case

My article from last year on how we educate leaders with a focus on ethics was in the news again this week, this time in English!

I wrote:

“Africa is still the continent with the lowest level of university enrolment, at about 6% of the population compared to a 26% world average, according to UNESCO. What this means is that extremely few Africans ever get a chance to go to university. And those who do are destined to become leaders in society.

With this analysis, Ashesi University College has aimed to bring scholarships to deserving students, quality education to those who can afford, and making sure the future leaders of the continent are both ethical and entrepreneurial.”

But educating ethical leaders in a corrupt environment marred with inequality is a challenge.”

I also mention my taxing commute, here is one small section of it as recently shared with Facebook Live.

Read the whole article over at University World News.

Enjoy!

Guest Post: Being a foreigner in a country that we want to call home

After my blog post on my 10 years in Ghana last week, I received numerous comments, ideas for celebrations (leaning towards a night at TeaBaa with friends) as well as congratulatory messages. Over the weekend, I also received a very special email as a response to my blog post from someone who understands my position extremely well, someone who is living a life with one foot in Canada and one in Ghana. I really enjoyed Rod McLaren‘s email and therefore asked him if I could share it with my readers on the blog. Luckily he said yes, here is his email.

___________________________________________________________

 

Good morning, Kajsa,

You just observed your ten year anniversary in Ghana – congratulations. You are one of those special individuals who have the perseverance and positive outlook on life that is required for the long haul. Good on you!

Several of your observations resonated with me and prompted me to write to you today. You and I have met only briefly, but I have followed your Facebook posts. I feel like we are connected because of the common experience of being a foreigner in a country that we want to call home.

When I moved to Ghana in 2001, I had already logged the equivalent of close to three years in the country if one took into account the two years that I taught in Half Assini 1971-73 plus the many visits over the ensuing 28 years, visits that were always a month or longer each time. In 2001, I was quite convinced that I would remain in Ghana until the end of my life, and that my ashes would become part of the red laterite soil of West Africa. Well, I didn’t quite make it. After 10 years, for reasons that have only in part to do with Ghana, I returned to Canada.

Rod McLaren with his son Akwasi.

Ghana can be very frustrating at times. I am not referring to the day-to-day life, which I thoroughly enjoyed or the “real” people (i.e. not bureaucrats), especially those in the villages, who for the most part live with enthusiasm and energy and joy. However, it can be tiring to be called obruni after a while, and especially so when that comes from someone behind a desk at Ghana Immigration Service who knows and has seen less of the country than I have and who was not even born when I learned to chop fufu. My biggest Ghanaian disappointment was not being granted citizenship, even though I applied as soon as I qualified, and followed up on the application repeatedly.

It is now six years since I returned to Canada. My return has been challenging in two ways. I have had to learn to adapt, and in some ways, this has been more difficult than the adaptations that the move to Ghana required. In the first place, Canada is not the same country that I left, due to the restructuring that had taken place at the hands of an extreme right wing government. It is not a kind country anymore – the focus is more on resource extraction regardless of the cost to citizens, Indigenous rights, and the environment.The restructuring continues under a different political party that puts on a pretty face but is still directed by the same neoliberal ideology as its predecessor.

There is another, more personal challenge, one that you mentioned in your post. Even though I am back in the country of my birth, I feel as though I am an outsider who sees Canada and the world through the eyes of my experience in Africa. It is not easy at times to find people who share a common point of view.

In spite of that, I am happy with my life. I am blessed to be living with a very generous woman. I have been able to pursue activities that are my passion. My health continues to be very good. My children and grandchildren are well. My past has blessed me with wonderful memories. Life is good.

And so I will close with my wishes for another ten wonderful years for you and your family. Carry on blogging.

Best wishes,

Rod McLaren

Celebrating 10 Years of Living in Ghana

This week, I have a major life anniversary: 10 years of living in Ghana! On April 17th, 2007, I stepped on the Kotoka tarmac in Accra with two big suitcases, and was hit by a hot wind of promise. 

And Chale, Ghana has delivered…

(Our wedding slideshow has more than 21 000 views!)

But despite worldly successes, the transition from a cold, Scandinavian country to a hot Tropical one has not always been easy. In my home of 10 years, I continue to be an outsider who hear “Welcome!” every single week. While I smile and say “Thank you!”, it hurts to know I can never fully be accepted here. I often say “I am a 7-8-9, now, 10-year-old in this context…” and I like that image as it often accurately reflects how much – or how little –  I understand of my surroundings. Many things (traditions, greetings, events, ideas, relationships, ends of relationships) here still surprise me, actually surprise me more than during the early days in Ghana.

In addition, 10 years away has made me start to feel like a stranger in Sweden. Swedish politics, fashion, topics for discussion throw me off, makes me raise my eyebrows. While I can walk the streets in Sweden totally blending in…ok, maybe not when I sport my colourful wax print in the sea of black, gray, and beige…but, at least, without hearing anyone welcoming me, I increasingly feel like a stranger who look around with a surprised face. I am reminded of what a family friend who grew up somewhere else said about living a life abroad: “soon, you don’t belong anywhere”.

Missing being close to my Swedish family is unfortunately a feeling that grows with time.

I am not saying the above because I want to complain, no! Life in Ghana for 10 years has undoubtedly been good to me,  or else I would not have stayed. My dreams have come true! But life in Ghana is not just good, rather it is continuously the adventure of my life.

I am still thinking of how to mark this milestone, if you have ideas, write a comment below. Thanks!