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Disrespecting our President abroad


president_mahama_scotlandThe anger is palpable; Ghanaians are understandably upset at the crass treatment of President John Mahama in Scotland last week by a group of minority MPs. The MPs reportedly walked out of parliament during the President’s a speech in protestation of his gay policies.

Without doubt, the behavior of the MPs was an ugly episode in international relations. It was also an affront to the sovereignty of Ghana and an assault on diplomatic niceties and norms.

I doubt if the Scottish Prime Minister were to visit Ghana, Ghanaian MPs will dish out similar treatment, no matter how they perceive his policies on LGBT issues. Our MPs will accord him the respect and reverence he deserves.

But before we get carried away by hysteria, let’s pause and reflect deeply on why the Scottish MPs displayed such tactless and abhorrent behavior. Mahama’s treatment was not an ad-hominem attack. Rather, it was a rebuke of our nation’s poor treatment of gays and lesbians.

And by walking out during Mahama’s speech, the MPs were sending a clear message to the President, “Please, Mr. President, get your house in order, be more progressive on social issues, particularly the issue of LGBT in your country.”The MPs want the President to be more forceful on an issue that has steadily gained rapid acceptance in some parts of the world but which has met violent resistance in Africa.

Additionally, the MPS would rather M.Mahama denounce the steep rise in homophobia in Ghana and the ugly anti-gay utterances than maintaining a deafening silence that has created an atmosphere of fear and intimidation in which members of the LGBT community in Ghana are threatened with violence and imprisonment.

One thing I know for sure is that Mr. Mahama does not take his marching orders from foreign legislatures. He takes them directly from Ghanaians to whom he owes his office. If the Scottish MPs therefore expect Mr. Mahama to be more vocal and call for tolerance towards the LGBT community in Ghana, they couldn’t have been more wrong.

The Ghanaian society is unapologetically traditional. Traditions have always guided and shaped our behavior. It is thus really a steep climb, indeed a formidable task, to get the Ghanaian society to shed its inhibitions and tolerate and accept a lifestyle that many view with repulsion and unhealthy.

As the elections draw nearer, I very much doubt if Mr. Mahama is going to stake his political survival on the chance that Ghanaians will heed his call to show tolerance towards gays and lesbians. Suffice it to say that the LGBT issue is a highly sensitive and controversial one.

Let’s look at the other side of the coin just to be fair and objective. Ghanaians are fiercely proud of their democratic credentials. We have since 1992 been one of the most stable democracies in Africa and this trend, from all indications, will continue for the foreseeable future.

Nonetheless, democracy does not necessarily mean conducting free and fair elections, having a free press and allowing an independent judiciary. It also entails respecting and preserving basic human rights, especially the rights of minorities. The fundamental principle of constitutional democracy is embedded in our national constitution.

Unfortunately, the rights of members of LGBT in Ghana are constantly violated by some in society who see the group as an aberration and an imposition of a foreign culture on a predominantly traditional society.

But the loathing and fear of the LGBT community in Ghana are grossly misplaced. And these are the reasons; the community is weak, poorly organized and its numbers few and far in between and largely insignificant.

Besides, the group is poor and does wield considerable influence nor does it have much wealth to affect public policy. To date, the group has kept to itself and has not tried to impose its lifestyle on the rest of Ghanaian society.

In our globalized world of today, whatever we do and how we treat our minorities are constantly under scrutiny. If we are found wanting in the human rights department, our hard earned democratic bonafides will be called into question and reputation battered.




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