Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Just how independent is Ghana?

March 6th marked the 57th anniversary of the Gold Coast Colony’s independence from the UK, and the birth of the Ghanaian nation. Today, just as British colonial officials were doing in March 1957, our team of British volunteers are also packing our bags and preparing to take our leave.

However, as I partook in the Independence Day celebrations down on the coast at Busua, near Takoradi, I was struck by a quirk of historical irony. The towns nestled along Ghana’s beautiful, tropical coastline are teeming with Dutch, British, Scandinavian, and German people, just as they had been throughout the 17th and 18th Centuries as Danish, Dutch, Portuguese, Prussian, Swedish, and English colonists tussled amongst themselves to establish forts along the Gold Coast in order to guard natural harbours and act as staging posts for expeditions into the hinterland in search of gold and slaves.

Fort Metal Cross

I was lucky enough to have the chance to explore one such colonial fort during my stay in Busua, and Fort Metal Cross, which changed hands a number of times between the Dutch and the British, serves as an imposing reminder of Ghana’s colonial past, sat atop a rocky outcrop, overlooking the town of Dixcove.

Today, most of Ghana’s European visitors compete amongst themselves for the best spots to surf on the beach, or to be served first at the bar for a refreshing beer, rather than pillage its natural resources. Indeed, many of the foreigners I met, with backgrounds as diverse as California, Slovenia, and New Zealand, had come to volunteer and make a positive contribution to their host country. Most of the others I encountered were backpackers, simply there to admire and enjoy Ghana’s beautiful scenery and welcoming people, “taking only pictures, and leaving only footprints”.

However, it couldn't help but make me wonder, how independent is Ghana, in reality? How much does it rely on the contributions of overseas support, and how well would society function if it was retracted? Coupled with allegations that many influential Ghanaian politicians are in the pay of large, Western corporations, which are in turn granted artificially cheap access to Ghana’s sovereign assets (oil, in particular), it can be tempting to become very cynical about the concept of Ghanaian “independence”.

British cannons still loom over the town of Dixcove
Nevertheless, although I don’t think it can be denied that Ghana is affected by at least some level of neo-colonial influence, my experience of living in the Upper East, where the influence of the central government in Accra is barely perceptible, fills me with hope. Living here, in Sandema, where I have met so many incredibly strong, devoted, inspiring individuals, who rely on nobody but themselves, whilst at the same time, are always willing to extend a helping-hand to those in need around them, has left me in no doubt that a form of independence, or at least dignified inter-dependence, truly exists in Ghana.

Indeed, in the globalised world in which we now live, perhaps independence is a redundant concept. All the same, the incredible example set by the countless people who work so tirelessly and with such pride, has really inspired me since my arrival in this fantastic community, and humbled me with the realisation that I myself am so dependent on other people in every aspect of my life.

I will not mention any names, because there are too many to list and I would hate to miss one out, but the people who have made me feel so welcome and at home in Ghana know who they are, and I would simply like to thank them all whole-heartedly for everything they have done for me, taught me, the love they have shown me, and for all the amazing memories.

By Ollie Buxton

1 comment:

  1. Hey,Liberia was not colonized. It was formed as a result of returned slaves from the Diaspora. Another country that was not colonized is Ethiopia. There is no competition here. Ghana's independence was a beacon of hope that ignited the flames for African countries to fight for independence. However greedy people and stupidity have made those efforts meaningless cos most African countries are either in turmoil or are financially inept and do nothing but blame Western countries for their plight.Thanks to all!!