CNN, the American television news organization widely known for its piercing and incisive documentaries, on Saturday night did a number on Ghana; in a span of less than five minutes, it brought the sad and damnable tale of child slaves in Africa's most promising democracy to the comfort of living rooms around the world.
It was an embarrassing television moment; the look of fear and shock on the faces of the child slaves, mainly young preteen boys being harshly supervised by a stern looking man on a fishing boat on the Volta river was enough to melt your heart and make you angry all at once.
That this is happening in the 21st century and in a nation that claims to be the most democratic in Africa is mind boggling.
The NPP administration's reaction to the CNN bombshell was predictably lame, weak and hypocritical. It protested vociferously through its information minister, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, who fired off a letter to the global news organization demanding a correction and a chance to set the record straight.
What galls me endlessly about the administration's protestation is the fact that the government was not unaware of the exploitation of children by some unscrupulous fishermen on the Volta Lake.
The administration, like other Ghanaian administrations before it, just did not care enough about the welfare of child slaves to even suggest meaningful and lasting solutions to the problem and better still, to prosecute those fishermen cum slave drivers until the CNN expose which then compelled it to suddenly spring into action, to deny charges that it looked the other way and to demand a chance to redeem its soiled reputation. How hypocritical!
The government's response was shocking because the use of child slaves on the Volta lake is common knowledge. It has been going on ad infinitum. Numerous NGOs and foreign and domestic news organizations have over the years made it their sole mission to project this agonizing issue.
When it is all said and done, child slavery is a blot on our national conscience and a stain on our hard earned reputation.
It has been allowed to fester largely because our politicians would rather the problem disappeared from their radar, wishing that it would just go away.
But the CNN expose will forever associate Ghana with the horrible image of young boys cowering before their tormentor. The country has become the laughing stock of the world.
It is widely acknowledged that child slavery is caused by acute and severe poverty; parents who lack the financial ability to adequately provide for their children often aren't left with too many options but to entrust them to the care of shady fishermen who abuse and exploit these children.
There is the tendency to blame parents for things that always go wrong with their wards but in this instance as much as we would want to point accusing fingers at the parents of the boys under discussion, let us also be mindful of this all important fact: the onus rests entirely on government to do something profound and drastic about the high levels of poverty in our country if the issue of child slavery and other related problems are to be solved once and for all and confined to the scrapheap of history.