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Democracy must move beyond ballot box - Asantehene charges

BY: Kwame Asare Boadu
 Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, the Asantehene, addressing the durbar
Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, the Asantehene, addressing the durbar

The Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, has said democracy in Africa should not be all about the ballot box.

He said no system of governance would survive in Africa unless it was deeply rooted in and nourished by the culture of the people.

Delivering a lecture at the University of Memphis in the USA last Thursday, the Asantehene said it was refreshing that Ghana was evolving a convergence between the traditional authority, giving the state its cultural roots and the essential structures of the modern democratic state.

"It is still work in progress but we are happy and proud of the acknowledgement both nationally and internationally of the traditional rulers' role as the critical support mechanism for the sustenance of the democratic order, " he said.

Lecture

The lecture was part of activities lined up for the Asantehene who is leading a delegation to attend the 44th Memphis in May International Festival, which, this year, is devoted to celebrating Ghana.

Otumfuo Osei Tutu, who spoke on the topic:" Challenges in US and Africa Relations," said Ghana was on the right path in democratic governance and deserved the full support and collaboration from the United States.

"We have a vibrant media to hold authority to account," he said of Ghana.

Elegance

Wearing an elegant kente cloth and adorned in gold ornaments, Otumfuo's entry to the Rose Theatre of the university saw the gathering which included academics, students, university administrators and the Ghanaian community rise to their feet to welcome him.

He also received a standing ovation after delivering the 25-minute lecture.

Greater understanding

Otumfuo Osei Tutu called for greater understanding between Ghana and the United States in their engagements to enhance the relations between the two countries.

He posited that creating understanding among the youth was the surest way to secure the future of the world.

He said that was why he had made it a policy to seek to engage the youth in an educational setting anywhere he went in the world.

"It is only right that we make the most of the opportunity to foster greater understanding as a contribution to the enhancement of the relations between the peoples of our countries, " he stated.

"I look forward to initiating collaboration between the University of Memphis and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi," he said.

Black Star

The Asantehene said Ghana, rightly so, had been referred to as the Black Star of Africa and had proved to be the heartbeat of the continent.

However, the Asantehene noted that freedom did not lead automatically to the fulfilment of the aspirations of the people. "Ghana and most of the newly liberated states have had to grapple with overwhelming challenges against which the post-independence leadership could not survive.

"We have gone through political and economic turbulence of frightening dimensions. We have tasted one-party state and tasted military rule.

Those experiences have informed the choice of the people of Ghana for a multi-party democracy, buttressed by the rule of law," he stated.

‘Education, my priority'

The Asantehene said since he ascended the Golden Stool 22 years ago, he had made education a priority.

He said a foundation he set up to support the education of children from poor backgrounds had supported over 200,000 people.

He described the free Senior High School policy as one of the boldest policies in the nation.

"But it also brings its challenges. It puts a huge strain on the national budget and raises further challenges about the creation of jobs for the increasing number of graduates," he stated.

Vaccination

Otumfuo Osei Tutu said it was refreshing that vaccination had brought hope to the world in the fight against COVID-19.

"It is vaccination which is giving mankind the protection from COVID-19. It is a vaccination that has saved and protected the world from previous viruses. We are boundless in our gratitude to the scientists who pioneered the use of vaccines and particularly those who, in the face of COVID-19, produced the vaccines in record time," he said.

Nevertheless, the Asantehene indicated that long before scientists discovered vaccination, Ghanaian traditionalists were using simple incisions to apply herbs to boost the immune systems of the people against various diseases.

Asanteman convocation

In a related development, a durbar of Asanteman was held in Memphis, USA last Saturday as part of activities of the festival.

A procession of chiefs and queen mothers in their beautiful kente outfits started from 126 Beale Street ending at the Handy Park, some 300 metres away where the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II sat in state to receive homage from his subjects and well-wishers.

Among those who paid homage were Ghana's Ambassador to the United States of America, Hajia Alima Mahama; Ghana's Consul General in New York, Atta Boafo; a former U.S. Ambassador to Ghana, Stephanie Sanders Sullivan, and the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Memphis in May International Festival, James L. Holt.

Also, hundreds of Ghanaians, mostly Asantes, travelled from all parts of the US to participate in the durbar.

Durbar

The Fontomfrom and Kete ensemble provided rich traditional music for the ceremony which could be likened to a durbar at Manyhia.

Miniature flags of the Asante kingdom which feature a gold horizontal stripe symbolising the mineral wealth of Asante, a green horizontal strip representing the rich rainforests, two thin-white horizontal strips and a black horizontal stripe surmounted by the Golden Stool, were distributed to people of all race and colour, who had lined the streets, and as Otumfuo walked to the durbar grounds, they waved the flags in excitement.

In an address, James A. Holt said Memphis was honoured with the royal presence of the Asantehene at the festival which was devoted to celebrating Ghana.

He said Ghana was a respected country within the international community and praised the Asantehene for adding to that image.

Speaking on behalf of the Asantehene, the Juabenhene, Nana Otuo Siriboe II, said Ghana and the United States had a lot to learn from each other.

He urged Africans in the diaspora to invest in Ghana, where a lot of opportunities existed.

Nana Siriboe said the festival reflected the beauty of Memphis and expressed the hope that it would further strengthen Ghana, US relations.

He expressed gratitude to the organisers of the festival for putting Ghana on the map of the festival.