- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 3, 2006

You don’t have to be a student of the Bible to know the history of Africa or the Middle East. Unless you were misbehaving or trying to decide how to spend your weekly tithe, you’d have to agree with Ghana’s president, John Kufour, who said over tea on Wednesday: “The Middle East is such a complicated and intractable situation, we would all do well not to say too much … [It’s] one of the long-lasting problems our world has faced.”

That problem won’t disappear in our immediate future, because the warmongers and the purveyors of intolerance won’t permit it. That is why it’s important that we cast our eyes toward the potential in countries like the West African nation of Ghana.

When President Bush announced the development of the Millennium Challenge Corp. in 2002, he said that good government, the rule of law and freedom are essential to maintaining peace and uplifting poor and developing nations. And he was right. Open governments are the keys that unlock the doors to trade, global security and economic development.

In his speech four-and-a-half years ago, Mr. Bush also pointed out our moral obligation to uplift human capital, to be our brother’s keeper, so to speak. “Successful development also requires citizens who are literate, who are healthy, and prepared and able to work,” the president said. “Development assistance can help poor nations meet these education and health care needs.”

While Mr. Bush did not cite Ghana by name, that nation remains the best example of not only the potential of the Millennium program, but the difficulties facing a democratic state on a continent and as a neighbor in a region — the Middle East — that tosses and turns at the hands of hate, terror, civil war and dictatorships. In fact, Mr. Kufour and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is spending considerable time and valuable resources on the Middle East, just this week signed the Millennium agreement, which will grant $547 million to aid the fledgling Ghana.

Mr. Kufour — who, like Mr. Bush, is constitutionally prohibited from seeking a third term — remains as steadfast in helping Ghana “help herself” as he was when he first succeeded Jerry Rawlings as president. Indeed, Mr. Kufour both appreciates the challenges of meeting the dictates of Ghana’s compact with the Millennium program and is committed to ensuring that his homeland remains the gateway to democratic Africa.

As the first sub-Saharan nation to win independence from the British, the Republic of Ghana is preparing to celebrate its 50th anniversary in that part of the world which has been practically torn asunder by civil war, terrorism and dictatorship, and illiteracy and disease. 2007 will indeed be a historical testament and time to showcase Ghana. Like the biblical stories of the birthplace of humankind, the modern-day history of West Africa is chocked with the realities of rulers and the enslaved, colonial disputes and tribal disputes, jealousies and vengefulness. Even after Ghana became independent, the warmongers were determined, but fortunately unsuccessful, in their attempts to undo the republic. And while instability in North, East and West Africa threaten Ghana, the Bush and Kufour administrations, and the African diaspora, know very well what could happen to our ally if the turmoil isn’t kept in check.

The violence leads the news everyday, but the social ills only seem to hit the top of the news rounds if Bono or Oprah becomes interested. Indeed, I heard someone the other day say that if it weren’t for Bono, no one would know how bad off “the Africans” are. No fully grown American man should be so ignorant in 2006.

The triple threats of poverty, illiteracy and disenfranchisement in and of themselves don’t breed killers and terrorists; they do breed hopelessness. And history in the Bible proves over and over again that long-term hopelessness — whether the people are Israeli or Palestinian, Muslim or Christian, or even non-believers — leads to idle hearts, minds and hands, and we all know who wreaks havoc in that workshop.

For the last decade, one of the chief goals of the people of Ghana has been to bolster educational opportunities. Mr. Kufour said 60 percent of the 21-million-strong population is farmers, and “that’s where the incidence of poverty reigns supreme.” Only a decade or so ago, “children were sitting on the floors” at school, amid broken doors and broken windows, and no doors and no windows. In recent years, 4,000 primary schools have been built or rebuilt with furniture. Compulsory education for 4- to 15-year-olds, a mandate of the Millennium agreement, is no longer mere political rhetoric.

As for trade, it doesn’t help some communities to farm cotton if there are no skilled laborers to make extremely popular kente cloth. And it doesn’t do Ghana any good to make the cloth if there are no mechanisms to market it globally. The same goes for cocoa farmers and bauxite miners.

Ghana struggled mightily to get where it is today, trying to fulfill its destiny, and the people of that republic, as it embarks on its 50th anniversary of independence and much-deserved celebration of democracy, have a clear message: Ghana has assumed its rightful and peaceful place in the international community. The same cannot be said of scores of other nations in Africa, the Middle East and clear across in the Western Hemisphere. Some of those nations, whether 50 or 60 years old, or within boundaries nearly intact for the ages, remain liabilities to their own people and threats to us all. If we don’t learn from the past, we are doomed to repeat it.

The peaceful Republic of Ghana is now middle-aged. Here’s wishing all the people in whom God has entrusted its care all the best as Ghana’s big 5-0 approaches.

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