Preaching compassion in politics

BY: Samuel Alesu-Dordzi

The President makes fine speeches. As I sat and watched the President conclude his encounter with the press, I said to myself “This man makes fine speeches.” I was surprised when he attributed the decision of the Ghanaian government to host the two former detainees of the Guantanamo bay here in Ghana to compassion. But that was exactly what he said.

Compassion is not necessarily a new theme both in local and international politics. There is a globe trotting Pope who declared this year as the year of mercy.

We saw President Obama shed tears in his interaction with victims of gun crimes. We have seen since the 90’s the rise and fall of myriad of groups who have used the theme of compassion to rally the world towards a common cause — be it debt forgiveness, raising funds for persons caught up in civil wars, natural disasters and environmental crisis, civil right injustices, global epidemics.

The most recent was the global response towards the suppres

We may deepen our search further by falling back on the quotes of persons like Martin Luther King Jnr. He is credited as stating that injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. And out of this quote has emerged other variants such as insecurity anywhere is insecurity everywhere and so on. 

Our first president, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, boldly declared at independence “the independence of Ghana is meaningless unless it is linked with the total liberation of all African states.”

As far back as independence, there was an acknowledgement of the fact that the world is more interconnected than we are willing to admit today. To that extent, he reminded

Ghanaians about how Americans have been our traditional allies in so many respect – to the point where I started to doubt whether when the decision to allow the two detainees in Ghana was out of pure compassion or compassion laced with some other interest (be they immediate or prospective).

But Ghanaians are reeling from the shock and rationale underlying the decision of the government. Charity should begin at home — some asserted. Look at your prisons and criminal justice system.Take a look at the numerous taxes that have become lead balls around the feet of many individuals and businesses. Take a look at the widening disparity between the haves and haves not.

The President must first show compassion at home. And the best way to do so is not to be passive about corruption or simply make comments about it. Like it is said, the word without the sword is of no strength at all to secure a man. It is important that he speaks. But that is fleeting. What matters is what he does.

Every era has got its worries. Today, it is terrorism. Yesterday, it was subversions and the lingering fear of governments being overthrown. But the common factor is that we have always looked upon the foreigner or some categories of foreigners with an eye of suspicion.

There is a popular Ghana constitutional law case that all constitutional law students are most likely to have encountered. It concerns a15-year-old boy who had a Ghanaian mother and a Guinean father.

He was sent to Guinea to undertake his studies. As the accounts would have it, he was maltreated and as a result, he fled Guinea to Sierra Leone where he “reported himself to the Ghanaian ambassador in Sierra Leone.”

He was given the requisite preparation and support to return to Ghana. On arrival, he was arrested and detained amongst other things on the charge of subversion.

It is not hard to see the kind of impact that such a conviction had on the life and wellbeing of the child. The state had to bulldoze its way just to ensure that he was convicted.

From afar, the message of compassion is not hard to see.

But here is the lesson: it is easy to be far from the scene of an event; and be critical, moral, compassionate and politically correct. It is a different matter all together when the issue is brought home. And the reality of the matter is usually painful.

The President has been on the roll explaining. The former detainees have been on the charm offensive; and drawing as much connection and support as they can from the people of Ghana. But the buck has to stop somewhere.

It is important, however, to remember compassion alone would not do. It has to be walled and guarded with a considerable amount of common sense, as the head of the Catholic Bishops Conference suggest, through Reverend Joseph Osei Bonsu.

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