MONETARY POLICY ANALYSIS AND OUTLOOK: TOP 5 FACTORS BEHIND THE RECENT GHANA CEDI APPRECIATION

And he concludes:
“My conclusions regarding all of the fiscal and monetary tactics and strategies that the government of Ghana is employing to address the myriad of economic issues facing the nation can be broken up into two main categories and they as follows: Socio-Economic and Political”

Anang Tawiah

This article simply seeks to explore the nature and reasons, behind the current Ghana Cedi appreciation against the US Dollar and its potential impacts on the Ghanaian economy and its citizens.

  1. Second Tranche of the IMF Balance of Payment Support: The Ghana government recently passed the first review of the US $918 IMF Program based on perceived positive benchmark performance of the programs key metrics on fiscal and monetary consolidation. As a result, the second tranche of the cash inflows from the IMF to the Government of Ghana is scheduled to be released in august as planned. The $115 million due in August is vital to shore up a currency that has fallen to record lows and also to convince international investors.
    Ghana received $114.8 million in a Balance of Payments support in the first tranche of the program. It is important to note that, the initial cash injection from…

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Sierra Leone: No Touching, No handshaking – Ebola; Stealing Our Humanity

Chlorinated Water

Chlorinated Water: Most buildings demand that you wash your hands before entering. FI-Bank, Lumley, Freetown

Monday July 6th I flew from Schiphol Airport via Casablanca to Freetown. My first trip back to Sierra Leone since the Ebola Disease Virus broke in April 2014. I was in Sierra Leone and Liberia during the months of April and May when the cases begun to appear. I left because my wife and I were expecting a baby in June – we had a beautiful girl who turned 1year a few weeks earlier.

During the rest of 2014, I have looked for ways to return to be part of the non-medical workforce in either Sierra Leone or Liberia but as fate would have it, I was not successful, not for the lack of trying but fate decided otherwise. You see, I am a strong believer in fate – I will explain: in 2009, I had a dream of plane crashes involving me and two other friends who were based in different parts of West Africa. I called them and they too had the same dreams during the week like me. We resolved to tackle the vision we had spiritually – we did what had to be done. I refused to fly the rest of the month and did some meditation. I am not party to what my friends did.

During the Ebola crisis I dreamt on two occasions that I would not return if I went. So the one time I was close to clinching a job, I left the decision to “If I will go and return, then this job was going to be it”. I did not get the job and my sister and mother also had dreams and called to postpone travelling.

For the first time in four years, I was apprehensive to travel. My spirit was disturbed. I was worried about many things travelling to Freetown after I am a believer in fate and destiny shaping my life. Others say its God, I just say it is “energy”. Well, lets not delve into metaphysics or religion.

July 6th I was on Flight AT 853 operated by Royal Air Maroc. I arrived at Lungi Airport on the Morning of July 7th. It was humid and wet – the ground crew looked unhappy. After a short shuttle ride to the entrance to the airport, it begun!

Buckets of water were placed at the entrance for us to disinfect before going through passport and security check. Some passengers tried to escape washing their hands but the guards refused to let those people pass.

The meet-and-greet was awkward, people that know each other were hesitant to shake hands or be affectionate. It was the awkward misstep to hug, the extended hand in mid-air; or in my case the apology: “I want to shake you but they say not to touch”, followed by the standard response: “Yes o!”

I have a staff of two in Freetown and in the nearly two weeks I have been here, we have not shake hands! I wish to have hugged them and say something nice to them having gone through a very traumatic time. While we have talked and keep joking about the “No touch” rule, I can feel the distance as the days went by; it is a jungle. Everyone just want to survive and anything will do. But what is important is that, we are HUMANS! We are programmed to touch – Sierra Leoneans like the rest of West Africa and people that love to shake hands! The streets are busy and bodies milling around and bumping into each other is normal but walking on the streets of Siaka Stevens Street, or the centre of the ; the pace is slower, there is less bumping and shoving. With the heat and sweat you do not want to touch.

Ebola has redefined how we live. It is defining how we love, can love, show affection and communicate. A gentleman I had not seen in 2 years and when we met, he was excited and run towards me, hands extended to embrace but I had to coldly remind him we can not hug! I was sad all day! I could not forgive myself for hurting him – by refusing to hug him, I have suggested he could have Ebola. While we all know that is not the case, the thought lingers.

Just the other day two young men, not older than twenty; they may have been relations or long lost friends. They see each other and one runs across the street to hug the other. The one being hugged stood limp, trying not to hug. I watched and felt the enthusiasm dissipate from the “huger”. It must be hard on both of them. But what do I know? And I can cite more than 20 instances where this had had to be repeated over and over again.

Why question is, will these basic things we take for granted leave us? The basics of a handshake, of a pat on the shoulder, of a touch of the arm, of a hug, of a kiss on the cheek…

Will people become desensitised and detached?

But I was shocked by the school children – they were lost in their little world. It was end of the school day and they are prancing and playing along the street. Some walking in twos and threes with arms linked at the shoulders. I have seen others race and lift another off his feet and I wonder… is it their innocence or is it my paranoia?

School kids on Main Motor Road, Brookfields, Freetown

School kids on Main Motor Road, Brookfields, Freetown

I am afraid to shake the hands of the little kids that come to my door and say hello. I could not shake my neighbours whom I have not seen in 12 months!

If Ebola continues, we will lose our humanity here in Sierra Leone (maybe just me). We will become loveless, heartless, emotionless people. Drowning our emotions in bottles and bottles of alcohol as the sirens of the ambulances once again return to haunt us.

Dear God, please take this cup away from us!

Commodity Analysis Report: The Ghana 2014-2015 Cocoa Main Crop Failure, the Possible Causes and Potential Impacts to the Global Cocoa Commodity Markets..

Anang Tawiah posits:
“Upon critical evaluation of this whole cocoa harvest fiasco, it becomes obvious to the discerning analyst that this spillover was caused by externalities such as fluctuating commodity prices on the international commodity markets and poor local policy management with respect to the runaway public sector wage bill (Single Spine), and an ever increasing government expenditure bill stemming from many poorly planned projects. This in effect caused the government to go broke at a very sensitive time of the cocoa season cycle thereby setting in motion, a series of negative ripple effects in both the cocoa sector and the economy in general.
Playing possum should NOT be our recourse to such an important national economic and social issue.”

Anang Tawiah

Ghana 2014-2015 Cocoa Main Crop failure, Possible Causes/Reasons and Possible Solutions…

 

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Brief history of Cocoa in Ghana

Cocoa originated from around the headwaters of the Amazon in South America. Its cultivation and value spread in ancient times throughout the Central and Eastern Amazonian region and northwards into Central America. Cocoa beans were used by the Native Americans to prepare a chocolate drink or chocolate and also as a form of currency for trading purposes and payment of tribute to the king. After the conquest of Central America in 1521, Hernan Cortez and his Conquistadores took a small cargo of cocoa beans to Spain in 1528, together with utensils for making the chocolate drink.

By 1580 the drink had been popularized in the country and consignments of cocoa were regularly shipped to Spain. The popularity of chocolate as a drink spread quickly throughout Europe, reaching Italy in 1606, France…

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How 2 Gay Men Live in a Country Where Homosexuality Is Illegal

“In Ghana, a country often regarded as among the most progressively democratic nations in Africa, homosexuality remains illegal, punishable by up to three years imprisonment”

TIME

Some 37 African countries criminalize homosexual relationships, with penalties ranging from misdemeanors to death sentences, according to a Human Rights Campaign Foundation and Human Rights First report released Tuesday. The report, which analyzed LGBT rights in 54 African countries in total, paints a picture of a continent in crisis.

In Ghana, a country often regarded as among the most progressively democratic nations in Africa, homosexuality remains illegal, punishable by up to three years imprisonment. A recent Pew survey of various countries, not all African, reveals that 98 percent of Ghanaians feel that homosexuality is “morally unacceptable,” the highest percentage of any country surveyed.

“In Ghana, everybody is culturally and religiously blinded,” says Fred K., an openly gay man living in the Ghanaian capital of Accra who didn’t want to share his last name for fear of criminal and social repercussions. “They think that it’s demonic … so I just pray…

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5 Things Sierra Leone and Liberia should Be Doing Post Ebola

Ebola virus has caused much damage to societies in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. Businesses, economy, education, etc. have suffered. The World Bank and other institutions are still working on a definite number, however it is estimated in October 2014 that the region of West Africa will experience an economic downside of US$25billion. In January 2015, that figure was reduced to a low of US$500million and a high of US$6.2billion. These figures the World Bank claim is for the whole West African region and not just the three affected countries.

According to the WHO, current total Ebola infections stands at 26,628[1], resulting in 11,020 deaths. Figures 1 and 2 show cases/deaths recorded as at May 3 2015 and how they are distributed across the affected countries.

 

Figure 1: Shows Global Infection as at May 3 2015 

Figure 2 below shows that Liberia topped with the highest deaths of 4,716 account for 42.79% of the total deaths with Sierra Leone following second with 3,903 accounting for 35.42% of the total death and Guinea with 21. 65%. Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Spain, United Kingdom and the United States together account for 0.14% of the total Ebola deaths recorded.

Figure 2: Shows Global Deaths resulting from Ebola as at May 3 2015

On May 9th 2015 Liberia became the first of the 3 heavily affected countries to be declared “Ebola Free”. The WHO in a statement on its website said: “Forty-two days have passed since the last laboratory-confirmed case was buried on 28 March 2015.”

But the declaration for Liberia does not mean Ebola is over. Ebola can come back to Liberia from across the border with Sierra Leone or Guinea where there was at least 35 new cases in the last few weeks.

I have written about what may have caused the crisis in Sierra Leone to drag. I also discussed the political issues that may have contributed to further worsening the crisis in that country.

As the numbers of infections reduce, the next question development experts have started asking is: “What next?”

Indeed the problem created by the Ebola crisis is bigger than the deaths of 10,000 people. Ebola led to the disruption the vaccination programmes for Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. Key timelines to vaccinate children were skipped. This has created huge immunity gaps and a large pool of children that would die from future preventable diseases.

Dr. Walter Gwenigale, Liberia’s health minister says: “measles vaccination dropped by 45% in August-December 2014 compared to the same period in 2013[2]. There are similar stories in Sierra Leone and Guinea as well.

Millions of school-going children across the three countries for months have been left idle. There are fears that many of these children may have become sexually active and without access to contraceptives, many fear not only a spike in teenage pregnancy but also HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

I propose 5 – things that should be done to prevent the remission of the virus.

  1. Perform a holistic national needs assessment: So far, there is no comprehensive “needs list” for post Ebola work. Many governments, ministers and international organisations are throwing numbers around without any scientific backing. For instance, what is required for students to catch-up on lost time? How much would it cost?
  2. Fix education: Poor Human Resource capacity as a result of poor education has very much affected how the countries were able to manage the crisis. The crisis itself has severely affected education. It is important to not repeat the post-war mistakes where people were promoted en masse. Bureaucrats must find creative ways of solving the backlog of schoolwork and students in their final years should be expressly supported to write their Junior and Senior High School exams. Hopefully we do not have another “lost generation” if the estimated 300,000 children fail their exams due in April and June.
  3. Transparency in the Constitutional Review Process: Sierra Leone and Liberia were both in the process of reviewing their constitutions, the Ebola crisis allowed everyone to take their eyes of the ball for a while. This has raised pockets of issues in both countries. Indeed Sierra Leone has a case before its supreme court to determine the constitutionality of the removal of its Vice-President. The sanctity of the constitutional review process will add value to the economy that has already lost value due the Ebola crisis. A transparent constitutional review process will bring confidence in the country and thus shore up investment outlook.
  4. Do not borrow more Money: Already the World Bank Group (WBG) has released US$650million to support the three-affected countries. This will only further impoverish the people as these loans and grants come with stingy rules that does not allow the proper organic growth of nations. All of Africa is a testimony of how WBG and IMF policies have failed the region.
  5. Invest in Training, Capacity Building, and Development: The Sierra Leone and Liberia Civil Services are still yet to recover from the war. Governments’ planning and implementation has not factored the role, growth and development of the Civil Service. In Liberia, the government “imported” highly qualified Liberians living outside the country to come back and take leadership roles. These “imports” earn multiple times over what their local counterparts earn. It is rumoured directors and ministers in that group earn between US$15,000-20,000 per month. Local directors and middle level Civil Service staff have a base of US$156[3]. According to the Government of Liberia’s Civil Service Restructure Strategy (CSRS) 2008-2011, “Salaries of civil servants have eroded dramatically since the 1970s. For example, a new college graduate employed in the Civil Service in 1977 earned a net monthly salary of US$416.66 inclusive of transportation and housing allowances and could save part of the salary. Today no civil servant receives a base salary higher than US$156.00 per month, and college graduates entering the Service today earn less than US$75 per month” (CSRS 2008-20011 p24) On January 28 2013, the AllAfrica.com[4] website reported President Johnson-Sirleaf approving a US$25 wage increase across board in annual message to the joint session of House of Representatives and Senate. The story is not different in Sierra Leone where the most qualified and forward thinking Civil Servants have been lost to international organisations, Non-Governmental Organisations and the UN systems and agencies. Sierra Leone and Liberia must consciously develop a measureable, effective and efficient system of investing to improve the delivery and quality of its Civil Servants. Importing citizens and paying high wages often to people that have no connection to their government or country will fail as we have seen these people abandoned their offices during the peak of the crisis in Liberia.

While the fight against Ebola is being won, the West African region including the affected countries cannot continue to do things as usual.

Our governments must make conscious effort to fix their borrowing, spending and implementation habits. Sierra Leone and Liberia particularly must give thoughts to the points given above or the next epidemic will be worse.

Note:

S. Eyram Tsike-Sossah holds an Msc Political Science from the University of Amsterdam and an MA in Development Studies from the University of Cape Coast in Ghana. He is the author of “Youth and Local Governance: Youth Participation in Local Governance: Bringing Youth to Decision Making in Sierra Leone“. Simon works for ACIPP West Africa as its Executive Director and also leads its Consulting work in Sierra Leone and Liberia.
This blog is the private work of Simon Tsike-Sossah and do not represent the views of the organisations he works for.

[1] This number also includes cases in the USA, UK, Spain, Senegal, Nigeria and Mali as of May 3, 2015

[2] See: http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/ebola-virus-outbreak/liberias-ebola-free-not-out-woods-yet-n357301

[3] See http://www.emansion.gov.lr/doc/Liberia%20CSR%20Strategy%20June%2008.pdf

[4] See: http://allafrica.com/stories/201301291164.html

Occupy University of Amsterdam

Note:

Some students and faculty of the University of Amsterdam have taken on the school on a list of issues. I have personally experienced some of those issues while a student there.

Having carefully considered their campaign and hoping that other students (especially those from Africa) will not experience my plight during the academic year 2011-2012 (I will post either audio or written statement later) I am posting the groups’ demands to the University and hope that the school stands and begins to become what makes it one of the best in the EU and in the Netherlands!

The Groups List of Demands:

In recent months De Nieuwe Universiteit, Rethink UvA and Humanities Rally have fought hard to democratize the university and put an end to the commodification and precarization of academia. These are worthy ideals and we fully support their demands (You can find their demands here and here). However, we believe that autonomy and democratization are meaningless without decolonizing and properly addressing the exclusionary mechanism within the institution towards women, people of colour, LGTBQIA+, people, economically disenfranchised and differently abled people. With these demands we want to put forth a concrete roadmap towards decolonized and diverse universities.

Critical Studies Department.

A new study department is needed to develop decolonial and non-eurocentric literature with specialized teaching staff. Until now decolonial knowledge and approaches remain marginal. Therefore it is an important step in ending ongoing colonialism. We thus demand;

  • The establishment of a new department that integrates underrepresented critical studies such as postcolonial/decolonial studies, subaltern studies, critical race studies, women’s studies, queer studies, intersectionality, postcolonial studies and Orientalism.
  • In offering new courses and setting up research programs, attention should not only be paid to already existing university programs abroad, but also to subjects that apply specifically to the Netherlands (e.g. African-European studies, Caribbean studies, black Dutch writers etc.).
  • The courses offered in this department also need to be integrated into other university degree programs. Therefore, each bachelor degree should include 18 ECT from the Critical Department courses as mandatory modules for their degree.
  • This department should include courses on precolonial history, as this would prevent the notion that the history of for example black people started with colonization and enslavement.

Decolonized Curricula.
Currently, university curricula are primarily Eurocentric, indoctrinating and exclusionary. The goal is to include non-eurocentric and intersectional perspectives and ideas that can challenge ongoing colonialism, sexism, ableism, queerphobia. People often feel excluded and alienated by the Eurocentric tendencies of the curricula.
We thus demand;

  • The inclusion of non-Eurocentric perspectives in all university curricula. This also means acknowledging that the history of science is generally taught without referencing to practices of colonization, appropriation of indigenous knowledges and with the continuing exclusion of other epistemologies.
  • An active awareness of the fact that most required readings are written by predominantly white, middle class, hetero cis-gender males from Northern America or Europe. As practices of referencing in papers, presentations and essays are the way to build knowledge infrastructures, reading lists should therefore include literature written by coloured people, women, trans*, queer and differently abled scholars.
  • Offer a course to all beta students about the history of science, in which attention is also given to non-western influences on the dominant scientific paradigms. This will enable students of the beta department to realise that they are working on something within a large and diverse scientific history.
  • Alternative Pluralistic Economics or Heterodox Economics courses should be developed. With special attention to discussing the economic imperialism that has affected and continues to affect much of the Global South.
  • Offer a course to medical students about non-western medicinal practices in order to widen their appreciation of the concept of medicine.

University without Borders: accessibility and diversity of higher education.
Universities remain relatively inaccessible to different groups. Therefore, it is necessary to ensure that excluded groups can express themselves and their views with ease and have better access to the institution. We thus demand;

  • In order to break with the logics of the white-old-boys-network and unconscious practices of ‘cultural clothing’, hiring processes should be radically transparent. This includes the advertisement of vacancies as wide as possible (also internationally), the use of external review of the hiring processes and the banning of overly specified vacancies designed only to fit specific acquaintances of the hiring committee.
  • Despite the potential pitfalls of tokenism, affirmative action and quotas are needed on every level (assistant professors, professors, management board etc.) to break with the above mentioned logics.
  • Banning of university rankings as criteria for attracting staff and students and PhD’s. The University of Amsterdam should discourage the use of rankings by never advertising its own ranks.
  • Free education for all, regardless of immigration status. A first step towards this goal should be to make tuition fees dependent on income and free for students from lower income households (including those without legal immigration status).
  • Use of anonymous grading systems (mark the work, not the names).
  • The establishment of a clear and binding code of ethics that aims to make the university free of harassment, racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia and religious discrimination.
  • All current and future teaching staff should be obliged to take a mandatory training on intercultural sensitivity and intersectionality.
  • All university buildings should be accessible for differently abled people.
  • There should be gender neutral restrooms at all university locations.
  • There should not be an obligation to state one’s gender in any university documentation.
  • Easing restrictions that limit the transition of applied sciences to university.
  • Decrease the age of eligibility for taking the colloquium doctum from 21 to 18, the average age other students are able to enter the university with their VWO exam.
  • Rather than requiring the obtaining of VWO ‘deelexamens’ as part of the colloquium doctum, universities should develop degree specific exams which test the knowledge required for the subject at hand. Additionally, free training for these exams should be offered (if cost is too much, establish a fee which is dependent on income).
  • An end to Bindend Studie Advies (BSA).
  • Establishment of support programs that aid high school students of colour, LGBTQIA+ students, economically disenfranchised students and differently abled students to enter universities and work their way up the ranks from there.

Towards an Ethical University.

The university should be a public space free from oppression and with an active and conscious commitment to avoid engaging in colonialist, imperialist and generally damaging practices. Therefore we call for;

  • An independent investigation into the contribution of universities to the Dutch arms industry.
  • Universities should cut their ties with exploitative and destructive organisations, such as those involved in wars, military occupations and the destruction of the planet. This includes, but is not limited to, immediate divestment from the fossil fuel industry and from all companies which make a profit from the Israeli state’s occupation of Palestine.
  • Universities should actively build the infrastructure for open-access journals.
  • A reduction of the pay- and workload- gap between different staff positions (whether academic or non-academic).
  • Abolition of the gender pay gap.

Specific curricula proposals for the UvA will be made soon. For more info or if you want to join the University of Colour contact Universityofcolour@gmail.com, place Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Deconstructing the Youth Development Agenda: Putting Young Women First | INCLUDE Platform

My contribution to Dutch Foreign Policy formulation in (West) Africa.

“There are no singular straightforward answers but first we do need to understand what we are dealing with. Much of (West) Africa’s problems are what we call “wicked problems” – they are ingrained, systemic and multi-faceted. You do not solve “wicked problems”, you “re-solve” them – like the onion, you get to the problem by peeling one layer at a time. By trying to reach the core in one attempt you create more problems – hence the challenge faced in the development discourse in (West) Africa.”

Read the full brief here: Deconstructing the Youth Development Agenda: Putting Young Women First | INCLUDE Platform.

Muslims Call to Worship: A Believers’ Perspective On wearing of hijab and morning devotion in schools.

One tends to come from a measured approach on such matters for obvious reasons. By way of disclosure, I am not neutral on this subject. There are matters on which we tend to hold views in a particular way. Some of those views we share publicly, others we share them privately and yet some we keep to ourselves. Then there are matters in which we tend to be ambivalent. I am not ambivalent on the current matter. However, I would like to look at it from a measured approach.

The requirement for Muslim students to attend church service or morning devotion is not limited to mission schools. There are schools that were set up by Kwame Nkrumah to absorb students from other secondary schools who were sacked (from mission schools?) for associating themselves with some national issues. Then there are schools that were established by communities through community mobilisations and the instrumentality of chiefs and philanthropists. Some of the schools are also set up by groups and associations. An example is Asanteman Secondary School in Kumasi which was formed by the Asanteman Youth Association partly to demonstrate their love for Asante culture. And of course mention can also be made of the University Practice schools. But Asanteman Secondary School does not, for instance, require students to pour libation, invoke Nananom or to go to the shrine. That would have been much closer to the Asante traditional form of worship as we have come to know it.

Therefore the discussion is not all about the missions. Granted that the missions may be in charge of most of the schools, the discussion is not all about them. They are only using the current discussion to re-introduce an old subject – the return of the “mission” schools to the missions. That is another matter altogether.

Islam, requires parents to train their children in a way that by the time they attain the age of puberty, they know the rudiments of the faith. At the age of puberty, the Muslim is accountable for his actions. Both parents and young Muslims who attain the age of puberty are aware of the fact that they are accountable to Allah for their actions. They therefore find the restrictions to the practice of their faith unconscionable. The age for puberty, if I may add, is somewhere around 13 years or earlier if some other factors are accounted for.

One shares the view of maintaining discipline in schools. It is however difficult to decipher how imposing a religious practice on Muslims, which is foreign to their faith, can guarantee such discipline.

There is the view that other Muslims have endured it in the past. Why then are some refusing to endure it now? Rather than question that, see it as a significant demonstration of the fact that Muslims have been very receptive and accommodative of such impositions and curtailment of their duty to worship Allah without associating partners to Him, unfortunate as it may be. This is particularly important when some people hold to the stereotype that Muslims are intolerant and violent.

In the early decades, most Muslim parents shy away from English-based education because their kids might end up being Christians. And rightly so, there are many examples of people, who as a result of such education are no longer Muslims. Some had to change their names to include a Christian name before they could get admitted into schools. Over the decades some parents still feel they were justified in not allowing their wards to attend the English-based schools.

Talk of English-based schools brings to mind the notion that Muslims are illiterate. That is far from the truth. Most Muslims are educated in Islamic schools (Madrasas, if you like, Makaranta) and can actually read Arabic. And can write too. Some of the Imams we see around actually have bachelors and masters degrees and some have doctorates. However because the medium of instruction was in Arabic our present society does not have much space for them except to be instructors in the Madrasas or Imams in the masjids within the communities.

In the past, Muslim students were made to attend “worship” on Wednesdays and in some schools, they are also compelled to learn the hymn book on Fridays. Today however, they are required to attend morning devotion on a daily basis. Just within the past week, a nephew of mine reported that he has been asked to buy a hymn book for GHS4. That amount is not much, but for a Muslim parent, it is too much to ask that I buy a Christian hymn book for my ward.

So the discussion should rather be seen as one of tolerance, diversity and inclusion and the recognition of the need not to impose our religious views on others simply because they seek education from institutions we founded. I am rather surprised that human rights activists and the Ministry for Social Protection is loudly silent of the matter. We tend to find their voice only when the subject regarding Muslims is about their pet topic of “supressing the right of women in Islam”.

For those of our compatriots who say if Muslims are so minded about the restrictions to their religious practice then Muslims should construct their own schools, there is a simple way to help them assess their suggestion. They are in fact suggesting we segregate our society based on religious affiliations. It is sincerely hoped that is not what they mean because that will portend a much complicated trouble for us all. Segregation is what has brought several countries to their knees and some of them have still not fully recovered from its effect. The way forward is for diversity, inclusion, tolerance and accommodation.

Our workplaces too must begin to create the ambience for Muslims to observe the basic requirements of their faith especially in relation to times for worship and clothing. In the countries we so quickly want to cite as examples, employers are being sued for discrimination based on religion and that has made them to begin to make the necessary adjustments. And currently Abercrombie & Fitch, a well-known clothing company in the US, is battling a similar issue in the US Supreme court in a case involving Samantha Elauf. In 2013, Abercrombie had to settle two cases of religious discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in a matter involving two Muslims.

And please, it actually hurts when you use events happening elsewhere to tag Muslims. What you are saying is that if pro-democracy forces are fighting in Ukraine or Egypt or Greece for reasons known to them, then pro-democracy people in Ghana are going to fight too, for whatever reason.

So before you begin to make generalisations about Muslims, take a moment and reflect on your thought. Maybe, just maybe, you would see your way clear through the issues.

It is in this regard that one expects leadership at all levels and from all persuasions to maintain calm and demonstrate a commitment to helping address the concerns articulated by Muslims in these matters so we can continue to live as a safe, peaceful and cohesive Ghana. And as adherents, Christians or Muslims and other orientations, we should be able to detect it when leadership, by their utterances, statements and publications are sowing the seeds of discord and be able to influence a change from within.

Editorial Note:

Saeed Musah-Khaleepha is an Employment Relations and Dispute Resolution Executive at the Gamey and Gamey Group. The views expressed in this piece are his and not not reflect the views of his employers or tsikesossah.com

Contact: raafani@gmail.com

Ebola=System Failure: Why A Grassroots Response is Necessary

A Presentation by Simon Tsike-Sossah to:

Africana Studies, Office of International Education And The Modern Languages Department

Metropolitan State University of Denver

11th February 2015

Key Words:

Governance, Regionalism, West Africa, ECOWAS, systems, corruption, failure, Grassroots, accountability, politics, discrimination, enforcement, answerability, human rights.

Why is Ebola a system failure?

We cannot talk about a system failure without first talking about what that system is – in the view of Kant; it is “an organized set of interrelated ideas or principles”; as in the feudal system, it could be social, economic, or political organizational form.

For Talcott Parsons, it is the matter of “social order”, that is, “the nature of the forces giving rise to relatively stable forms of social interaction and organization, and promoting orderly change”. [1]

Various other sociologists such as Auguste Comte, Karl Marx, Herbert Spencer and Emile Durkheim, have all been consumed by the concept of system or order in our society.

Some have seen it as an issue of hierarchy, while others have seen it as relationships in the case of Marx[2], who saw it as class issue – a relationship between classes involved in economic and political power.

I will like to contextualise failure and in particular, system failure as ‘inability to function in or for the intended purpose’.

Health facilities – hospitals, clinics and community health centres were annexed to care for Ebola patients. Pregnant women, children and everyday people with everyday sicknesses could not access health facilities, either because they have been annex or are afraid to go there because they could catch the virus. People fear to go the one place they can get better from sickness – unless of course you had Ebola.

Government offices shut down – you could not access government offices in many towns and cities. In the capital Freetown and Monrovia, only the barest essential visits to government offices were permitted. One had to wash their hands before entering and after leaving government facilities.

Banks worked from 9am to 2pm or less; in a context where temperatures are always in the upper 20s, it was difficult not to sweat; or have that sweat not rubbing off another person. Imagine not touching people in a capital where 2.5million of the 6million live.

Public transport was a hazard even before Ebola. People rode on motorbikes, popularly called “okada”. Imagine that sometimes you had 3 or 4 people on a bike. Imagine that in Liberia, taxis took 6or7 passengers – the driver in the, and two others in the front and between 4 and 5 at the back depending on the size of the car. Now since something as normal as sweating could transmit the virus, picture the situation and imagine how many of the 20,000 or so cases could have been from public transport?

Farms and farming cooperatives shutdown as the famers died, lost farm hands or as whole cooperatives grind to a halt because of death of its members. Imagine not being able to go to the farm to harvest or plant.

As the virus raged on, tough emergency powers in Sierra Leone and executive powers in Liberia were invoked and implemented and further curtailing the rights of the people. Inter-region or district travels were banned, businesses grinded to a halt. Buying and selling – the main businesses in Liberia and Sierra Leone saw a decline and prices went up by up to 40% in the cities and even higher in the interior as less and less transportation of goods and services reached those parts of the countries.

Schools were next, from crèche to University, with little or no infrastructure to provide education beyond the classroom, the state resulted to limited broadcast of lessons via television and radio, but with no means of evaluation and testing, those services were quite useless. Of course there was the challenge of providing constant electricity with which people could watch the television or listen to the radios.

Ebola was not just a health crises; it affected transportation, health, administration of justice, finance, agriculture and anything “under the sun” for the Liberian or Sierra Leonean.

The government and people could not function. It was a failure! A system breakdown!

But why is it a failure?

After only 12 years of peace, it is understandable that Sierra Leone was in a hard place regarding its institutional preparedness; however, we cannot discount that fact that, Sierra Leone has been working on the Lassa fever since the mid-70s at the Kemema Government Hospital (KGH)[3]. The Lassa fever is transmitted, or spread, to humans by rodents through their urine and droppings. The virus is contracted though touching objects or eating food that is contaminated with these materials or through cuts or sores[4],[5]. Lassa Fever in all its manifestations is the cousin of the Ebola virus – it is also a haemorrhagic fever.

So the problem is not a poor understanding of Ebola or haemorrhagic, but rather, a lack of turning knowledge into action. There was a gap between the knowledge development process and turning that process in to real people-centred policy making.

The KGH’s research on Lassa was and is funded by the Government of the United States through the CDC from inception till date. Until August 2014 when a media speculation emerged New Orleans based Tulane University has been refused funding for the continuation of its $15milion Lassa/Ebola testing/research project at the KGH[6].

Map of Sierra Leone

Political Map of Sierra Leone

What is difficult to process is the fact that, the government of Sierra Leone has no budget lines for this important work given that people in the Kenema and its surrounding areas suffer from the Lassa fever. A few kilometres from Kenema (in Kono) are the diamond mines that could easily fund a $15million facility.

According to the website of the Viral Haemorrhagic Fever Consortium (VHFC),

“Overwhelmingly, Lassa Fever is a disease that affects the poor living in rural housing without proper sanitation and pest control resources. The cost of treatment can therefore be a huge deterrent for sick individuals seeking medical attention. The VHFC continues, patients with Lassa Fever receive treatment free of charge at KGH. Due to the highly contagious nature of the virus and its ability to spread rapidly through entire communities, the government has wanted to ensure that everyone has access to the necessary drugs and care. All medication is provided free of charge by the government and even food is made available to the inpatients of the Lassa ward.”[7] – Viral Hemorrhagic Fever Consortium

Because of the lack of accountability of the government of Sierra Leone to its own people, they have a system that they have no control over; had not protocol for accidental contamination, indeed the Ebola virus exposed the government and the line ministry – the ministry of health.

There is lack of accountability when UN and government statistics show that the first case was in Kenema following a miscarriage at the KGH by a young woman on 24th May 2014. However, while I was in Freetown in April through to May, there were reported cases (rumours) of people dying in the outskirts. Bo, Kenema, Kailahun and its environs were particularly problem areas because of their political colouration; but these areas also have huge political significance in Sierra Leone. Bo, Kenema and Kailahun are seen as the strongholds of the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), and thus politically discriminated against by the All People’s Congress (APC) Party. Kailahun more particularly because that was the part of the country where the rebels launched their attack from during the assault on Freetown during the civil war.

Back in Freetown where I spent 6 weeks during the months of April and May, Ebola was discussed with political lenses, the APC led government gave the impression the problem was limited to Guinea and the places along the borders. From monitoring the media landscape, the impression was that, “this will not reach Freetown and will be limited to the regions that are opposition areas.

In the meantime, there were on going rifts in the ruling APC. President Koroma, just two years into his second term was exploring elongating his tenure by tinkling a third term agenda. The party was therefore divided among three lines – the supporters of the President, the second group supporting the Vice President who has been stripped of all of his powers and the third group led by Dr. Richard Conteh, then the chief of staff and later relieved of his position. So while the people died in the interior, the chess game was rife in the capital on who takes control of the party.

By end of April, the popular slogan in Freetown was “After U, Na U”, to wit, “the next President after President Koroma will be himself.”

After U Na U

The 3rd Term Agenda Paraphernalia

The opposition’s response to that rhetoric was “After Gbagbo Na U” to refer to the demise of the former President of Ivory Coast – Laurent Gbagbo who tried to elongate his presidency in 2011. Mr. Gbagbo is currently facing trial in The Hague at the ICC for crimes against humanity following the violence that followed the 2011 elections in that country.

The Economic Community of West African States – ECOWAS

The ECOWAS is a 15 member[8] economic and political regional organisation founded in 1975 with the mission “…to promote economic integration in all fields of economic activity, particularly industry, transport, telecommunications, energy, agriculture, natural resources, commerce, monetary and financial questions, social and cultural matters …..”

Note that…

The West African Health Organisation (WAHO) was formed in 1987 when the Heads of State and Government from all fifteen countries in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) adopted the Protocol creating the organisation. The Protocol, which was subsequently ratified by each government in the sub-region, grants WAHO status as a Specialised Agency of ECOWAS and describes the organisation’s mission as follows: “The objective of the West African Health Organisation shall be the attainment of the highest possible standard and protection of health of the peoples in the sub-region through the harmonisation of the policies of the Member States, pooling of resources, and cooperation with one another and with others for a collective and strategic combat against the health problems of the sub-region.” Article III, Paragraph I 1987 Protocol of WAHO (in French)

The driving force behind WAHO’s creation was the incongruence of the agendas that were being pursued by the two existing inter-governmental health organisations in the sub-region, the Francophone Organisation de Coordination et de Cooperation pour la Lutte Contre les Grandes Endemies (OCCGE) and the Anglophone West African Health Community (WAHC). It was determined that, as matters of health are not bound by linguistic difference, it would benefit the organisations to synchronise their efforts and combine resources to enhance the impact of their programmes in West Africa. Thus, the OCCGE and WAHC merged to form WAHO, an organisation committed to transcending linguistic borders in the sub-region to serve all fifteen ECOWAS Member States. In October of 1998, the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government established Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso as the site of WAHO Headquarters and appointed the Organisation’s Director and Deputy Director. In March of 2000, WAHO began active operations as a leading health authority in the sub-region, serving ECOWAS Member States[9].

The visions and strategies are captured as:

WAHO is a proactive instrument of regional health integration that enables high-impact and cost-effective interventions and programmes by:

  • Maintaining sustainable partnerships
  • Strengthening capacity building
  • Collecting, interpreting and disseminating information
  • Promoting cooperation and ensuring coordination and advocacy
  • Exploiting information communication technologies

During all the Ebola crises, there were three key moments for ECOWAS: first was a March 25 ministerial meeting where the ministers of Mediation and security council[10] “authorised” the Commission “to take appropriate action in collaboration with the relevant health institutions in the region to mobilize stakeholders and resources to stem the spread of epidemic.”[11] The second was on August 1 when the President of the ECOWAS Commission His Excellency Kadré Desire Ouédraogo said at a meeting of the ECOWAS: “We consider it (the outbreak) as a regional security threat and under the directive by our Heads of State and Government to the Commission and the West African Health Organization (WAHO), an Ebola Solidarity Fund has been set up to ensure that all affected countries are supported to rid our region of the disease…”[12].

The third and real effort to do something about Ebola that had hit 3 of 15 members with real treat to the other countries only happened on August 26th in Accra during the Health Minister Conference[13] after 3,069 cases and 1,552 deaths had been recorded. Again, the Ebola solidarity fund was mentioned, but till date there is no record of how much was raised, made available or spent. A part from some obscure publication[14] stating that Nigeria made a pledge of $3million to the fund and earmarked thus: Guinea ($500,000), Liberia ($500,000), Sierra Leon ($500,000), WAHO ($500,000) and ECOWAS Pool Fund for Ebola ($1 million). There is no documentation of that pledge being redeemed or if the funds were ever released, neither was this highlighted on the ECOWAS website.

The scenario is not different from the AU and other regional organisations on the Continent.

The Change in the lexicon of Ebola Affected Countries

The lexicon of the countries affected by Ebola have seen dramatic changes; new words and phrases have emerged:

  1. Partial Lock-down
  2. Lock-down
  3. ETC – Ebola Treatment Centre
  4. ETU – Ebola Treatment Unit
  5. ABC – Avoid Body Contact – think of the many other ABC’s of public health discourse
  6. APC – Avoid Peoples’ Compound
  7. Ebola Corruption

It is this last one I want to talk about – corruption related to Ebola. In the news, from our networks and donors, the issue of fund misuse is well documented.

Dr. Oyewale Tomori, president of the Nigerian Academy of Science is extensively quoted in a Journal of Science in Berlin, charging West Africa was “swimming in an ocean of national apathy, denial, and unpreparedness”[15].

He went on to say: “GAVI [a public-private partnership that funds vaccines for low-income countries] just sanctioned Nigeria after a critical audit report. GAVI gave us money to do certain things, and we could not account for $2 million or $3 million of it. GAVI insisted that Nigeria must pay back that money, and the government agreed. But our government should not just agree to pay back the money, the government should find out who misused the money, get the money back from those persons and not from public coffers. And those people should be brought before the courts to answer for the deaths of the children who did not receive the vaccines that the GAVI money would have provided.”[16]

In Sierra Leone, the Minister for Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Mr. Peter Bayuku Konteh (now resigned) was accused of scamming Italian organisations to the tune of over €25,000[17]. Mr. Konteh resigned his position and has not been investigated. His resignation was on health grounds.

There were social media photos of staff of NGOs and UN agencies stealing food supplies to sell on the black market in both Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Accountability (in) Governance and Answerability

According to Rick Stapenhurst and Mitchell O’Brien, “Accountability ensures actions and decisions taken by public officials are subject to oversight so as to guarantee that government initiatives meet their stated objectives and respond to the needs of the community they are meant to be benefiting, thereby contributing to better governance and poverty reduction.”[18]

With “accountability” comes with the concept of “Answerability” or “Blame” as is reflected by Angela M. Smith (2012) in her work: “Attributability, Answerability, and Accountability: In Defense of a Unified Account”. But unlike Smith, there is no opportunity for the heads of government (in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone) to justify themselves. All heads of states in the three countries swore oaths to protect and defend their citizens and yet failed to do so. The structures that were to guarantee their oaths; these structures that they oversee did not work when the demand was made of them. As an external agent, and for the citizens of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, there is no need for moral evaluations and are therefore excused of “evaluative judgments.”[19]

The essence then of answerability is to understand; where there is a “relationship where an individual or body, and the performance of tasks or functions by that individual or body, are subject to another’s oversight, direction or request that they provide information or justification for their actions” – Stapenhurst and O’Brien (undated).

How Communities Helped Worsen the Transmission

Certain traditional practices such as washing dead bodies, traditional birthing, etc have helped spread the virus.

Communities have also prevented agencies and aid workers access to sick relatives because the misconception that the agencies and their staff made things worse for the sick. In Guinea, we have heard how some aid workers were killed[20] because of the suspicion that they help spread the virus.

Communities Mobilizing for Themselves

Dr. Peter Clement is quoted telling Chiefs and People of Lofa county in Liberia: “In many years, you have not fought with these people,” he told them. “Now you attack them. They are not the enemy, Ebola is the enemy. If we don’t chase Ebola, it will kill us. You have to know Ebola to fight Ebola. Mobilize your people. Let’s get to know Ebola.”[21] This was in October, in that time, DERSWA was in its final formation. Agreements were being reached with partners on how to work, etc. And we felt the best way to overcome Ebola was to work with the communities. So it is exciting for us to hear that our call for community involvement was not only being advocated by the local organisations, but the UN and its systems were seeing the light too.

Our partner, Shalom[22], was already providing home care to suspected patients and helping secure their homes and getting external help.

Since then, the trajectory changed; people were themselves organising, policing their own communities and supporting each other.

Grassroots organisations found their ground again and have helped to bring the numbers to where they are now.

While many organisations were looking at providing education via television and radio, DERSWA/ACIPP were asking different questions: “how to you measure the effectiveness of the teaching and learning that was happening over airwaves”? It turned out there was not systems to understand if the children understood what was happening. Classes were short and too fast. Very few families had televisions or radios so we shipped 120 pieces of radio to Freetown. This month, we will be buying in-country another 200 or so to further distribute. This radio distribution is a part of 500 pieces we secured from Ears to Our World. We estimate that this project will reach 2,000 people; letting children in different levels to access education and entertainment while parents and adults can access public health education related to Ebola.

But this is not enough – we are obsessed with measurement; testing so we have found a US based organisation we are working with to help send 500 preloaded tablets to help bridge the gap of what the children get over television and radio to actually measure what they are learning.

We have thought about the issues of how to charge the tablets, to what content to put up, training and evaluation among others. We hope this pilot will help us understand how to support the children further and help them be ready when the next West African Examinations are due. Note that, the UN, its agencies and the big International NGOs have no such programming while they have the largest pot of money coming to them. Their work, in the context of post Ebola strategy does not scratch the surface of the issues the local/grassroots organisations let us.

Conclusion

Ebola has deepened poverty in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. Human rights were abused; many rights were taken back by the state. The social, political, economy and the cultural spaces have been affected and changed in many ways.

With nearly 10,000 deaths, tough questions must be asked even as we fight to contain and wipe out the virus.

We must think fast and hard, of how to extract answers (not blame). The ways to find those answers are varied and many. Many authors have espoused various ways of extracting accountability and answerability, however, I believe the best way is a people-cantered, community-led storytelling and documentation process that allows history to be re-written in a way that is personal to the people and help in identifying and shaming the people with the most responsibility while at the same time, providing healing.

The best people to lead this process of healing and extracting answers are the local organisations; what they need is for us to WALK with them, support them and not usurp their roles and spaces.

Thank you.

Note:

S. Eyram Tsike-Sossah holds an Msc Political Science from the University of Amsterdam and an MA from the University of Cape Coast in Ghana. He is the author of “Youth and Local Governance: Youth Participation in Local Governance: Bringing Youth to Decision Making in Sierra Leone“. Simon works for ACIPP West Africa as its Executive Director and also leads is Consulting work in Sierra Leone and Liberia. Currently, Simon is leading the efforts of grassroots organisations in Sierra Leone and Liberia to help fundraise for them to implement Ebola related projects.
This blog is the private work of Simon Tsike-Sossah and do not represent the views of the organisations he works for.

[1] See: Shils, E., Naegele, K. D., & Pitts, J. R. (Eds.). (1965). Theories of society: Foundations of modern sociological theory. Free Press.

[2] Marx, K., & Engels, F. (1848). The communist manifesto. Karl M

[3] See: http://vhfc.org/consortium/partners/kgh

[4] See: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/spb/mnpages/dispages/fact_sheets/lassa_fever_fact_sheet.pdf

[5] http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/lassa/

[6] See: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/08/07/us-health-ebola-funding-exclusive-idUSKBN0G72C220140807

[7] See: http://vhfc.org/consortium/partners/kgh

[8] ECOWAS was a 16 country organisation until Mauritania left in 2000

[9] From the website of the WAHOOAS: http://www.wahooas.org/spip.php?page=rubriqueS&id_rubrique=24&lang=en

[10] see: http://news.ecowas.int/ – Release N°: 056/2014 28 March 2014 [Yamoussoukro – Cote d’Ivoire]

[11] ibid

[12] http://news.ecowas.int/ Release N°: 145/2014 1 August 2014 [Abuja-Nigeria]

[13] http://news.ecowas.int/ Release N°: 153/2014 29 August 2014 [Accra-Ghana]

[14] See: http://www.worldbulletin.net/haber/140474/ecowas-sets-up-solidarity-fund-to-fight-ebola

[15] See: http://news.sciencemag.org/africa/2014/11/nigerian-virologist-delivers-scathing-analysis-africas-response-ebola

[16] ibid

[17] See: http://news.sl/drwebsite/publish/article_200526849.shtml

[18] Rick Stapenhurst and Mitchell O’Brien http://siteresources.worldbank.org/PUBLICSECTORANDGOVERNANCE/Resources/AccountabilityGovernance.pdf

[19] Angela M. Smith: Attributability, Answerability, and Accountability: In Defense of a Unified Account, Ethics, Vol. 122, No. 3 (April 2012), pp. 575-589 (pg 578)

[20] See: http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/19/health/ebola-guinea-killing/

[21] http://www.who.int/features/2014/liberia-stopping-ebola/en/

[22] Shalom is into HIV/AIDS care and support programming including providing palliative care

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