U.S. congressional delegation led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wraps up week-long visit to Ghana
BY ANTHONY YOUNG
(Reporting by Joyce Morgan)
A 14-member delegation of U.S. lawmakers led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has just concluded a week-long historical visit to Ghana as the West African nation, one of several places of origin for enslaved Africans in the Americas, marks the 400th anniversary of the beginning of the slave trade. Ghanaian officials have marked 2019 as the “Year of Return” dedicated—in their own words—to encouraging people of African ancestry to make the “birthright journey home for the global African family.”
Arriving in Accra on Sunday, Speaker Pelosi was accompanied by 13 members of the Congressional Black Caucus that included civil rights icon John Lewis (79) of Georgia’s 5th congressional district who marched alongside Martin Luther King in the sixties in the fight for civil rights for black Americans; House Majority Whip James Enos Clyburn of California’s 6th congressional district; the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, Karen Bass from California’s 37th congressional district; Barbara Lee, the eleventh-term representative from California’s 13th congressional district and former chair of the Black Caucus; and Somalian-born Ilhan Omar, the congresswoman from Minnesota’s 5th congressional district and the first U.S. legislator born on the African continent.
“Year of Return”
The Americans met with Ghana’s president since January 2017, Nana Akufo-Addo, on Monday, then on Wednesday visited the local parliament where Speaker Pelosi addressed her Ghanaian peers.
But, clearly, their visits to Elmina Castle and the “Door of No Return” at Cape Coast Castle, two slave forts where people were shipped in chains to the New World against their will, were the most poignant moments of all.
Throughout this “Year of Return,” Ghanaian officials have undertaken a number of programs aimed at attracting people of African descent in the Americas to their country in an attempt to boost tourism and ultimately establish residency.
Pelosi called the concept of Year of Return “a beautiful gesture,” but not without noting the “terrible atrocity” that was slavery. In her speech before Ghana’s lawmakers on Wednesday, America’s leading Democrat in Congress said:
“Our delegation has been humbled by what we have seen this week. At Elmina Castle, we saw the dungeons where thousands were grotesquely tortured. At Cape Coast Castle, we stood before the Door of No Return, where countless millions caught their last glimpse of Africa before they were shipped to a life of enslavement. Being here has been a transformative experience for all of us.”
Two days earlier, as he hosted the American guests, President Nana Akufo-Addo said: “This is a very significant year in our life here in Ghana because we have proclaimed this year as a Year of Return.” The president said this has to do with the relations between his country and the Americas. These relations, he stressed, were “unfortunate” at the beginning, “but are today blossoming into something very much positive and concrete.” The Ghanaian leader
So we see this year as a year where we can very much renew the relations with the United States and at the same time make some comments about the position of black people in the world about what has happened in that relation between our two countries over these last four hundred years, our determination never to get into that situation again and as well as use the occasion to be able to welcome those who were taken from our shores to make a life elsewhere back to Ghana.”
Congressman John Lewis pointed out the impact of Ghana’s becoming an independent nation in 1957—only the second African country to do so after Liberia in 1847—on the civil rights movement in the United States.
Bilateral Economic relations
The delegation’s meetings with President Nana Akufo-Addo and senior cabinet officials on Tuesday at the Jubilee House provided the opportunity to discuss a wide range of issues, as Speaker summarizes:
“Today, we reaffirmed our commitment to strengthen the ties that bind our nations: freedom, democracy, justice and security.”
The speaker underscored Ghana’s uniqueness by also saying:
Ghana stands as a shining star on the African continent, as a leader in exporting security beyond its borders and a model of a thriving democracy for the world. We salute Ghana for its security leadership, rich culture and enduring commitment to advance peace and prosperity.”
Both parties stressed the need for boosting bilateral economic relations via public-private partnerships through mechanisms such as the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).
The day ended on Tuesday with a reception hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce-Ghana headed by Joe Mensah, which brought together representatives of more than 100 companies.
Speaker Pelosi summarized it all by saying:
“America is strongly committed to economic progress in Ghana—a commitment enshrined and advanced over the course of many years from the Millennium Challenge partnership and the Africa Growth and Opportunities Act. Together, our governments must continue to support smart development strategies that spur sustainable economic growth that lifts up all families in Ghana and throughout Africa.”