Monday, November 27, 2006

As the Week Opens in Accra: Al-Jazeera’s ‘Witness’ programme gives me Mental Pabulum on Mali


I had the priviledge of catching AL-Jazeera English that is transmitted free-to-air during certain hours of the week on Ghana’s Metro TV. It being Sunday, I hardly expected to catch it—let alone watch an insightful and thought-provoking programme, Witness hosted by former BBC Iraq correspondent Rageh Omaar about the plight of those Africans who illegally make it to Spain.

It was very close to home, because ‘Africans’ in this case was none other than my ECOWAS francophone neighbours—the Malians!


Throughout the programme, I kept on pondering over the psychological compulsion for Malians to go to Spain for a better life. Even when Reuters photographer Juan—a surprisingly compassionate man who made his way all the way to Mali to see the family of one of the Malians who survived the ordeal in those waters of Spain, and with whom he had become close, some of this Malian’s family members maintained Malians had “no choice”, and that it is their “destiny”, and that "les prieres de ses parents ont sauve notre fils".

Quite whether the prayers of parents saved this Malian prompts speculation that God must, assumedly, not have been listening to those who were also praying.

In my view, it was sheer luck, because the conditions by which they travel are horrendous. The boats—makeshift as they are—cannot withstand strong currents. Regrettably, they end up being a death trap.

Quel raison existe-t-il pour quelqu’un de sacrificier sa vie comme ca , si c’est pas le pauvrete ?

I wondered why they felt so isolated and so poor to run off to Spain…when they could easily come to Ghana, for example ? If Ghana’s Anglophone neighbours from Liberia can come to Ghana, why can Malians, at least, not make it to, say, Senegal, another ECOWAS country that is doing very well for itself? Failing that, why not trek to Ghana for opportunities?

I also, frankly, felt ashamed: here I was just a few hours flight away from Mali, yet I had to see an international news station’s broadcast on the plight of my OWN ECOWAS neighbour! These are the kind of documentaries television in Ghana should be showing, especially if the ECOWAS project is to go anywhere.

I am particularly impassioned and encouraged about this as an ECOWAS issue, especially also because on Sunday morning, the news that predominated was the need by Ghanaians to learn the French language. To the extent that, in late October, as the Chronicle paper reported: ¢85m Alliance Francaise office complex commissioned at Takoradi

According to the article: "Ghana as an English-speaking country finds herself in the midst of French-speaking countries, and trading could only be better if the language of French was well-spoken here as well."

The exhortations by government and civil society alike to learn French was as a way of facilitating ECOWAS and African integration.

It’s not a bad idea, but I still think and believe the "ECOWASness" in the region will remain very much a tenuous concept unless serious education of conditions in the region and the fruits of being an ECOWAS national are sufficiently and comprehensively communicated to all ECOWAS citizens.

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