Friday, 28 June 2013

Proposed UK Visa Restriction

The proposed visa restriction which the British government intends to pilot from November this year in which visitors from some countries including Ghana will be made to deposit a whooping three thousand pounds as guarantee for their return is most distasteful. Other countries to be affected by such a bond include Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. According to the British Home Secretary, Theresa May, these countries have been selected due to the level of abuse of British Immigration laws and high volume of human traffic to the United Kingdom. The move is therefore to deter people from overstaying upon expiry of their visa. According to the Home Office, the policy generally will be expanded to cover foreign workers and students. At the moment, visa to the UK costs between 80 to 800 pounds depending on the type of visitor.

Even though the policy has not been finalised yet, it is important to make loud noise over the intent in view of past experiences and its selective and discriminatory nature. If today Ghana finds itself in distress causing some of its nationals to migrate to the developed world in search of so-called greener pastures, it might be due partly to the harsh and strangulating economic conditions imposed by the Bretton-Wood institutions which include the World Bank, IMF and the International Finance Corporation. Some of the countries calling the shots today including Britain, are instrumental for the weak financial situations Third World Countries find themselves in. Instead of teaching us how to fish they prefer to give us fish on high economic terms. As our one time colonial master, we least expected Britain to attempt to slap such a stringent immigration policy on us. Have they forgotten so soon how they besieged Africa for her abundant natural resources, which they shipped to their countries, added value to them and sold them back to us at exorbitant prices as finished products? We have not forgotten the obnoxious slave trade which deprived us of our strong and energetic skillful human resource which they used in developing their countries. Today the world has become a global village where countries depend on each other. So where one country no matter the size attempts to inhibit others with such immigration restrictions then it leaves much to be desired. Ghana and UK enjoy a very good bilateral relationship so we must be cautious when coming out with some of these policies.

The question is, why would anybody be tagged high risk simply because of the nationality. We recall the Certificate of Approval policy introduced by the Home Office in 2005 which required all foreign nationals who were subject to immigration control to obtain permission before marrying. This policy fell through because it was well thought out. In the recent past the UK threatened to cut aid to Ghana if it refuses to legalise homosexuality. We ask ourselves, why is Ghana always a target for Britain? Is it a case of neo-colonialism? It is good the proposed policy has not yet been relayed to government. When it is done government must forthrightly oppose it, for it is detrimental to education, tourism and globalization. Britain must rethink the proposed visa restriction for it is not in consonance with North-South Cooperation and International relations. Ghanaians must also learn to stay in their home country to help in it6s development. Where we migrate to other countries, we must come back when our visa expires. We seem to be exposing ourselves too much to international ridicule just because of hardship back home. Let us all put our hands on deck to build our home country, after all home sweet home.


Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Recycling Waste

Plastics were first introduced into the Ghanaian environment in the late 1990's in response to the need to enhance the packaging of industrial and domestic products. Since its introduction, plastic use and its indiscriminate disposal by consumers have contributed to the already existing challenge of poor sanitation and pollution of the environment. Not a single day passes in the life of the Ghanaian without using plastics in activities at home, work or school. Food is served in polythene bags, eaten directly from them and then disposed off indiscriminately with impunity into open drains. The result, leading to choked gutters and other health issues including cancer. As such, some individuals have adopted the method of burning their plastics as a waste management approach. Though the situation is extremely worrying, surveys continue to show the widespread nature of open burning of waste across the country especially in urban areas.

Plastic waste is either burned outside in the yard or garden or at land fill sites. However, plastics that are burnt are raw materials that could otherwise be recycled or picked up by waste collection companies. In countries like Benin and Nigeria, polyethylene waste is fully recycled. In Ghana, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has continuously monitored manufacturing companies and advises the general public and other stakeholders to comply with the environmental standards of waste management. Despite this, it is quite common for people to burn plastics to avoid hauling it onto local disposal sites, especially in areas where there are no municipal waste collection services. Burning inadvertently has become the only way that many rural and urban people have to get rid of their plastic waste. However its associated health effects are enormous. During burning of plastics, carbon monoxide and furans are released directly into the atmosphere without passing through any form of treatment or filtration process. Apart from this, other toxic emissions are released into the atmosphere, leading to serious health problems whose symptoms might not be immediately visible or known. When plastics such as PVC's are burned, harmful quantities of dioxin, a group of highly toxic and dangerous chemicals, are emitted, which can be accumulated in body-fat and even affect babies through the placenta. Dioxins also settle on crops and in waterways where they eventually end up in food, accumulate in our bodies and are passed on to our children.

Open burning of plastics can increase the risk of heart disease; aggravate respiratory ailments such as asthma, damage the nervous system, kidney and liver, and destroy the reproductive and development system. It can also affect the eyes and mucous membranes. Research also indicates that long term exposure can affect the central nervous system causing headaches, fatigue, weakness and depression. The resulting ash from burnt plastic is also toxic and can easily get into the ground and underground water. Pollutants transported into the air by burning of plastics can travel long or short distances to pollute land and water bodies. The longer plastic burning continues, the more poison is accumulated in the body. Because plastic is created by combining petroleum or natural gas with oxygen and chlorine, which requires the burning of large amounts of oil, a recycling approach could reduce oil consumption and save about 25 percent of our landfill space. Let us learn to separate our plastic waste from other waste materials and return plastics to producers for recycling. Let us prefer paper rather than plastics. It is our duty to protect the environment and ensure a sustainable development. Let us consider a recycling approach to conserve our natural resources and reduce pollution drastically; it begins with you.


Improving The Lot Of Refugees

 If statistics from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, is anything to go by, then, the future looks bleak especially for developing countries. They currently host 81 percent of the over ten million refugees worldwide. The current refugee population is said to have reached an all time high in eighteen years, as of the beginning of 2012. Fifty-five percent of current refugees hail from Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Sudan and recently Syria. The figures are indeed frightening. Political instability, which culminates into civil wars and until a decade ago acts of terrorism have been identified as key factors that are accountable for forced displacement. The fallout from civil wars and its subsequent dent on socio economic activities are many a time not quantifiable. Thousands of valuable able-bodied men and women are displaced and in many instances, wallow in poverty in foreign lands and are buried with ideas that can change lives or turn fortunes around. The United Nation through its agencies such as the UNHCR has over the decades helped in providing displaced persons with some of life's basic necessities. Some of the Refugees are also resettled back in their countries, as is the case with the Ghana Refugee Board's partnership with the UNHCR in connection with our West African neighbours Liberians and others. The UNHCR spent three point five-nine dollars in 2012 to cater for Refugees. Some of the services they render include offering assistance, capacity building and emergency response to situations.

In the last 20 years the West Africa sub-region has witnessed a wave of civil wars which witnessed an influx of refugees into Ghana. The country now has about 18 thousand refugees from 29 different countries. Previous governments and the present one, as well as Ghanaians should be given a pat on the back for showing love and concern to displaced persons and above all for their hospitable nature. This year’s World Refugees Day is themed "One family torn apart by war is too many". It seeks to bring to the fore, challenges with refugee populations which comprise the family. And also raise public awareness on refugee issues. The displacement of persons as a result of war cannot be overlooked. Just as various countries have warmly received Refugees with open arms, the refugees must also reciprocate the gesture by abiding by the laws of such countries. Also political actors must be careful about how they handle national issues so as to limit misunderstandings which by and large fester into conflicts. More-so, refugees must be seen as partners in development. They must be equipped with requisite skills that can be harnessed to serve beneficial purposes. Perfection is said to be an impossible human goal. But we must always aspire to learn from experiences because history gives us a hindsight into the past an insight into the present and a foresight into the future.


Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Tackle Fire Outbreaks

The country in recent times has unfortunately recorded unprecedented mysterious fire outbreaks which have triggered off so much fear, panic, pain and outrage among the public. What is even more worrisome and intriguing is the frequency of the fire outbreaks especially in major markets. It is a sad situation which has robbed hundreds of Ghanaians particularly women their means of livelihood to the extent of traumatising them. In all these there were graphic pictures which showed the victims weeping inconsolably to express their grief over the loss. The spate of the fire outbreaks continue to send chills running down the spine of most Ghanaians. In all these tragedies our attitudes and reactions were predictable just as they have been anytime a calamity of such scope and degree happened in the country. The rumor mongering machine was set at full throttle while suspicions and groundless conclusions were set at full gear. The media living to their calling to get information across to the public have created the platform for discussion of the issues. The court of public opinions, experts and self-imposed specialists on firefighting were heard all over as they tried in a desperate attempt to diagnose the problems and prescribe an anti-dote. The blame game machine was activated as to who should have done what and who did not do what. After several days and weeks of rhetoric, just like the proverbial vulture we reverted to our comfort zones.

Interestingly, we seem to know the solutions to all the problems which confront us as a people. Ironically the naked truth is that most of these solutions are not result oriented.
Is it not probably because we seem to diagnose problems from only a narrow angle or perspective and eventually tackle them in the best way we only perceive and appreciate them? Could it also be said that we lack the political will and discipline to carry out policies programs and plans to their logical conclusions? Is it also possible that we have become so religious and so sacred in our beliefs that we expect things to happen anyway and any how just like manna from heaven? It is heartwarming that President John Mahamah has visited the site of the latest fire outbreak where he expressed concern about the incident at Agbobgloshie. Much as this shows an expression of sympathy it still remains an unavoidable truth that rules and regulations which govern the location of markets are dead. We are all aware of the wanton illegal connections at our markets .We are also witnesses to the use of naked fires in the markets with impunity. Are we not also aware that the architectural designs of our market today do not meet standards? Have we not witnessed with shock and dismay when fire tenders struggle to find access routes to places of fire outbreaks? So why do we always attribute that attitudinal issue to spirituality or occultism, always blaming the devil for the least problem or even saying that the country is under a spell. Let us for heaven sake for once face reality. We have made mistakes in the past. However it is just natural and normal for human beings to commit blunders as this goes to emphasize our imperfections. But on the contrary, we need to draw lessons from the past so that we become better persons and not bitter people. One time German chancellor, statesman and soldier, Otto von Bismarck stated, “The problems of today cannot be solved by long speeches and beautiful rhetoric but with iron and blood.” I am not by any stretch of imagination recommending any militant and radical approach to the problem which confronts us today where people’s blood will be shed. We should adopt a very serious approach to dealing with the fire outbreaks by cracking the whip, no matter whose ass is gored. As appropriately noted by Motivational Writer, Napoleon Hill, “anything we conceive in our minds and believe in we shall achieve.” It is fact that as a people, we do not have the luxury of time to do anything casual, because it has the tendency to cause casualties.


Friday, 7 June 2013

AU’s Rapid Reaction Force

The announcement by African Leaders to establish a Rapid Reaction Force at the just ended AU Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia is welcome news and should be embraced by all peace-loving people who believe in the principles of democracy. This will help mitigate the rampant rebel security threats across the African continent. Africa's inability to achieve economic emancipation could partly be attributed to these threats due to its repercussion on political and socio-economic growth. Barely 72 hours after the African Leaders' decision was announced, the Nigeria Army and Spy Agency discovered on armoury belonging to the Lebanese group Hezbollah in a warehouse in the city of Kano. There have been concerns that Boko Haram could be receiving backing from al- Qaeda militants in other countries. The discovery has buttressed President Mahama's exclusive interview on BBC that Islamist Militancy could destabilise the whole of West Africa. Who knows the number of armouries hidden in other African countries. As President Mahama said, though Ghana has not been directly affected, no country is safe if insurgency is allowed to take hold elsewhere. When Nigeria based Jama 'atu Ahl as - Sunnah il Da'awati wal-Jihad, commonly known as Boko Haram emerged, many were those who thought it will not last. Unfortunately, it has emerged as one of the recognised rebel group in Africa. It was responsible for the August 2011 car bomb attack on a UN facility in Abuja, Nigeria, which killed at least 23 people and injured 80. There are a number of rebel groups littered across the continent whose aim is to draw the clock of progress back. The good news is that Boko Haram has been officially banned by the Nigerian government and declared a terrorist network. The move follows an announcement by the US that it will pay an unprecedented bounty for the capture of key leaders of the networks in West and North Africa. The UN Security Council has also blacklisted Syria's al - Nusra Front as a Friend of al-Qaeda in Iraq, a decision that will subject the group to sanctions including arms embargo, travel ban and assets freeze. Even a women rebel group known as Black widows has emerged causing suicide bombings.

It is inhuman and disheartening to hear rebel groups boldly claiming responsibility for undertaking deadly bombings. Recently, Security Experts across the globe met in Accra to deliberate on International benchmarks for quality training and education in security sector reform. Deputy Minister of Defence, Ebenezer Okletey Terlabi assured Ghanaians of government's commitment to support key institutions in the security sector for greater peace and stability through the rule of law. It is the hope of Ghanaians that the assurance by the Deputy Minister would be fully implemented but not be kept in the archives as a political statement. The proposed Rapid Reaction Force could be effective in monitoring the surveillance if it is well resourced. Loyalty and Commitment are also needed from members of the Force as they could be coerced to form rebel groups if they are not well remunerated. Security experts who participated in the training and education in Accra should collaborate with the Rapid Reaction Force so that in unison, they can formulate strategies to combat rebel attack. The discovery of armoury made in Nigeria should be a lesson to African leaders. It should also encourage them to speed up the process and remove whatever barriers that may affect the establishment of the Rapid Reaction Force. There is a saying that when fire catches your friend's beard, you draw water closer to yours. Though Ghana and a few other countries have not experienced any terrorist attack it is worth to note that no African country is safe as far as militancy and rebel threats are concerned.


June Four Uprising

The June 4 uprising will go down in history as the most significant event that rejuvenated politics in Ghana. Thirty four (34) years ago, a young Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings and a handful of other ranks of the Air Force were held in security cells for their roles in a failed mutiny on May 15. They were released by their colleagues, and this culminated in the over throw of the then SMC II junta headed by General FWK Akufo. Ironically, General Akufo had also come to power through a palace coup which unseated General Kutu Acheampong. Even though short lived, there is a school of thought which hold the view that June 4 placed Ghana on the road to political stability, social integration and economic freedom. Most importantly it opened the doors to people at the grassroots to contribute to the decision making process. The PDCs and WDC's that June 4 brought in its wake undoubtedly mobilised the people towards national development. If today the fourth Republic has given Ghana peace, stability and rule of law to the extent that the country's democracy has become exemplary for the rest of the African continent to emulate, then we owe it to the June 4 uprising. That the uprising was the event that sparked a new era and paradigm shift in the socio-economic and political transformation of the country is not in doubt. June 4 gave birth to the 31st December revolution which crystallised into the 4th Republic Constitutional rule. Nevertheless, the success chalked up by June 4 uprising in trying to put a spanner in the wheels of corruption by ensuring transparency, probity and accountability in the body politic seem to be tethering.

Yesterday Flt. Lt. Rawlings, the architect of the uprising in an address to a cadre forum in Accra reiterated his concern about the scourge of lies, corruption, cheating and injustice growing in both private and public spheres which he stressed need to be checked since they do not augur well for the social and economic progress of the nation. The fact is many people seem not to have learnt any lessons from the June 4 uprising. If corruption, nepotism and injustice are still pervasive in the Ghanaian society then June 4 is a far cry. Nevertheless for those involved in June 4, more specifically those who spearheaded the event on that fateful day in 1979, they will forever go down in history as the men who ushered in a period that gave meaning to people's power. We must learn to honour our heroes for no matter the mistakes made in the cause of June 4 its heroes need not to be forgotten. Their names in history must be written in gold. In appearing before the National Reconciliation Commission in 2009, one of the main architects of June 4, Major Boakye Djan called for the establishment of a monument in honour of all those who laid down their lives fighting for the freedom and liberation of Ghana. This must be given serious consideration. Probity, accountability and volunteerism which were the tenets of the uprising and subsequent events must be made more relevant in our national discourse. Through that we give meaning to the toil of public spirited citizens who were mobilised into task forces to clear refuse, repair railway lines and move cocoa from the hinterland to the Ports.

Today as we mark June 4, the focus should be on eradicating every stain on the otherwise memorable event. Flt Lt. Rawlings and other key participants in the uprising must be decorated with national honours. Even though they might have erred in prosecuting the event, to err our elders say is human. To people whose toes might have been stepped on, they must find a place in their hearts to truly forgive and forget. National Reconciliation which the erstwhile NPP administration set upon to achieve must be carried to the letter. The recommendations of the National Reconciliation Commission must be moved from the dusted shelves and implemented. The June 4 uprising now belongs to history, Let us not create situations that will engender calls for another June 4 with its repercussions. Democracy is the path we have chosen and must endeavour to respect its tenets.