President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has called on people of African descent and supporters of the African cause to come home to Ghana as the country marks the 400th anniversary of the commencement of the slave trade.
He gave an assurance that the focus of activities commemorating the beginning of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, known as the Year of Return, would showcase not only the dehumanising trade and its consequences but also the achievements, creativity, ingenuity and resilience of the African people over the ages.
Addressing a state luncheon in his honour at the Baridi Benab State House in Georgetown, President Akufo-Addo said Ghana and Guyana had signed a three-month visa waiver agreement.
The Ghanaian delegation was pleasantly surprised when they were treated to familiar dishes, such as grilled tilapia, fufu, sweet corn on the cob, jollof rice and kenkey.
The state luncheon was attended by the Foreign Minister, Mrs Shirley Ayorkor Botwchey; the Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mrs Barbara Oteng Gyasi; the Secretary to the President, Nana Asante Bediatuo; the Director of Communications at the Presidency, Mr Eugene Arhin, and the Chief Executive of the Ghana Tourism Board, Mr Akwasi Agyeman.
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The President is visiting Guyana, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and Jamaica.
Earlier, Ghana’s delegation, led by President Akufo-Addo, and their counterpart from Guyana, led by President David Granger, had held bilateral talks on education, visa application, free technical support for Guyana, oil and gas management.
President Akufo-Addo extended a hand of friendship to all Caribbean people eager to visit Ghana in the Year of Return and assured them of the ease of returning through the free movement protocol under the visa waiver agreement.
He indicated that the two countries were bonded by common blood, history and ties, which required them to work together and ensure their permanent emancipation from dehumanising conditions and slavery.
Providing a brief history of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, the President said it commenced with about 20 slaves from West Africa, who were sent to the Commonwealth of Virginia, now America.
He said over 36,000 voyages to and from the continent resulted in over 20 million people from Central and West Africa being sold into slavery in the Americas and the Caribbean.
He said it was unfortunate that about two million of them lost their lives at sea during the voyages.
President Akufo-Addo said after those heinous crimes, the African continent was subjected to centuries of colonisation by the same people who assaulted the identity and personality of Africans;
He added that the imprints of colonialism and imperialism were woven deeply into the lives of African people, even today.
He said it was in view of that that he had proclaimed 2019 as the Year of Return to Ghana.
The President said the symbolism of the proclamation was to mobilise Africans, persons of African descent and well-wishers and lovers of freedom to strengthen their commitment to ensure that what happened to Africans would not recur.
President Akufo-Addo noted that the Year of Return commenced with a launch in Washington, DC, in the United States last year and continued with other activities such as festivals and visits by a large number of African Americans to Ghana.
He said those who had visited had had a lasting impression of the continent and Ghana .
President Akufo-Addo said activities lined up for the year-long celebration included homecoming and the investment summits, the African-American Investment Forum, the Pan-African and Emancipation Day and the Durbar from James Town in Accra to James Town in America.
He said the commemoration would also be an opportunity to consolidate and strengthen ties with Africans in the Diaspora and extend the free movement protocol to all those who wanted to come and see or stay in Ghana.
Oil and gas
The President said with the discovery of oil in commercial quantities in Ghana, it could collaborate with Guyana, which has also found oil and gas.
He, therefore, proposed the establishment of a joint vehicle to assist in the initial management of oil and gas revenues.
“I believe Ghana is well equipped to share with you the dos and don’ts in the area and make available fee-free quality technical assistance to you.
He expressed the hope that the proper management of oil revenues would help finance the spectacular development of the two countries.
He disclosed that Ghana and Guyana had signed an air services agreement, a visa waiver agreement and an MoU on investments, all with the view to strengthening the bilateral relations between the two countries.
The Director General of the Ministry of the Presidency of Guyana, Mr Joseph Harmon, told the media in an interview that among the agreements was one in which Ghana had agreed to help Guyana establish a Ministry of Energy and other agencies to help it manage efficiently and effectively its oil resources.