Fifty-four years ago, Ghana became the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to gain its independence.
On March 6, 1957, Ghana gained its independence and Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first prime minister and later president, said, “The independence of Ghana is meaningless unless it is linked up to the total liberation of Africa.”
His words spoke to the world. He did not merely say, “Wow, look what we have done” or “Let’s celebrate our own accomplishments.” Rather, he made a commitment to the rest of the African continent.
He said we have been liberated, and now we must liberate our brothers and sisters around the world. It is not enough to be free in isolation. Isolated freedom is meaningless because economically, politically and socially we thrive when they are free.
Democracy around the world is great for human rights but also for the economy. Free people are more successful, they are less afraid and as a result they are more productive.
Free people are the people who invent important things that help us live better lives. As I celebrated the Ghanaian Independence Day with friends this weekend, I couldn’t help but think about the concept of independence in the current context of revolution in North Africa.
Nkrumah’s words may be more than 50 years old, but they are still relevant to the issues we are facing and the imperative nature of re-evaluating our foreign policies. In dealing with the revolutions occurring in North Africa, we must realize that Libyan and Egyptian freedom from oppression means better lives for everyone.
By helping Libyan citizens in this time of unrest and uncertainty, we can help them achieve their goals and create a more stable future for ourselves.
However, it is unlikely that we will do so because we do not perceive North African interests to be in line with our own.
Instead we merely produce speeches that preach democracy as the answer, without providing the necessary help to bring about this change. Instead of acting in the ways Nkrumah describes, our actions seem to essentially repeat the empty words of the Queen of England on the day of Ghanaian independence.
Though she could not make it to the ceremony, she sent the Duchess with her words. She wrote, “The hopes of many, especially in Africa, hang on your endeavours. It is my earnest and confident belief that my people in Ghana will go forward in freedom and justice.”
This message mirrors many of the speeches President Obama and other Western officials have been making in the aftermath of the revolutions in Egypt and Libya. Their words consist of a lot of talk but not very much commitment to action.
Yet, establishing the reality of freedom and justice in the Middle East requires a lot more than merely voicing the hope and confidence of the West. We cannot merely say that we care about democracy in these countries without providing them the means to conduct with their peaceful democratic revolutions.
Rather, we must make a solid commitment, as Nkrumah did in 1957, toward ending the tyrannical rule of dictators like Muammar Gaddafi and bringing true
democracy to those who demand it.
Freedom is not a gift, it is a basic human right. In our fight for freedom for all, we should follow Nkrumah’s lead facing forward and always looking out for the freedom of our fellow men and women.
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