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Miss Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), I presume?
Frank Tekpeno

August 22, 2009

I am inclined to think that Ms. Sheila Jackson Lee does not understand the meaning of democracy. Either that or her claim of Jerry John Rawlings as the father of Ghana’s democracy is a delusional statement.

Surprisingly, Ms. Lee does not remember (her own) President Obama’s statement, made on his last visit to Ghana, that history would not remember coup makers – a declaration many thought had Rawlings as the usual suspect.

So here was Representative Sheila Jackson Lee of the US Congress, who along with others, came to Ghana for a visit. And what did she have to say about our democracy? It was bequeathed to us by Rawlings!

The thought of Rawlings as the father of democracy was a curious one. Why would Ms. Jackson Lee, a member of the U. S House Judiciary Committee, promote a coup maker as the father of democracy?

Perhaps, the excuse may be that she wasn’t in Ghana during the 80s when women were stripped naked in the street and whipped; when judges were snatched from their homes in the middle of the night only to be discovered the next morning dead, with their bodies fatally charred.

The above conditions, certainly, are not those that Ms. Shirley Jackson Lee, an avowed civil, women, and human rights advocate, should associate with the workings of democracy, or should she?

If the answer to the question is in the affirmative, then Sheila Jackson Lee must harbor some secret resentment, some subliminal hatred, for Ghanaians; which also could be that she has no good will for our republic; unless she was delusional at the time of her statement.

This is Ghana, once called the Gold Coast, also part of the region formerly known as the Slave Coast. We do understand why a minority of African Americans do cringe at the thought of having originated from this region. and why this group has a better appreciation for South Africa.

But note, for all the inhuman crimes that were committed against blacks in South Africa by the apartheid regime (far worse than any committed by a civilian regime in Ghana), President Mandela had no resentment or grudge against whites when he assumed the presidency in 1994. Rather, he proposed and implemented reconciliation principles for rule in South Africa.

In Ghana, vengeance and bloodletting became the order of the day after each coup; and a reminder of what we did to ourselves during the slave trade. This disregard for human life must not be the emblem of our democracy.

And, as much as that part of our history must be seriously regretted, it also has to be remembered that it cannot be that just because somebody held a gun to our heads, or held us in chains, or applied  - a brutal force to our lives as black people, he has by that reason created a sufficient foundation for democracy for us; on both sides of the Atlantic, I should add.

As a proud representative of the U.S. Congress, Yale educated, and a lawyer, Ms. Sheila Jackson Lee should have known better, unless she harbors a subliminal resentment for the people of Ghana.

In Ghana as well as the rest of Africa, the use of reason (not brutal force) among rational men and women, by which process consensus is arrived at for good governance, is what must be applauded.

Ms Jackson Lee knows that “coups” have never formed part of governance in her United States of America, the “land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Assuming we should cite Rawlings “stellar” work as an example for the rest of Africa, then what to do with Charles Taylor. Why is he in prison?

Or what do we tell a young Ghanaian army officer who wants to follow the Rawlings example of 1981 today; must he go to Ms. Jackson Lee for direction?

Our hope is that better judgment will prevail on this occasion: That Ms. Sheila Jackson Lee will not support a coup attempt by this young officer because not only does it demean our struggles, but it also diminishes what little essence there is of democracy in Ghana today.

Rawlings can be anything Ms. Jackson Lee wants him to be. She may call him handsome, brave, a giant killer, and the only man with balls in Ghana, but she should not refer to him as the father of our democracy.

Knowing that the presidency of the United States of America has never been usurped by a coup maker, because it is protected by strong institutions of government - the people, Congress, and the Armed Forces - it sounded rather condescending to hear her wish the contrary for Ghana.

In Ghana, there were several usurpers who had used force to become presidents of the Republic, thereby damning the constitution and other institutions in their quests for power. Ms Jackson must learn this fact as the reason for the retardation in the growth of our democracy.


Frank Tekpenor, USA


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