Declare June 4th National Day of Healing

Esther Armah

An Open Letter to Civil Society Organisations’ leaders

Dear Civil Society Organisation Leaders,

June 4th. A party knows it as a revolution, some people consider it a liberation, and for others it is a massacre. It is a date etched in a nation’s history

During Jerry Rawlings burial with military honours at Black Star Square, President Nana Akufo-Addo’s eulogy spoke of June 4th – what he described as “that defined day” which he said won Rawlings “passionate admirers, vociferous critics and lifelong enemies all at the same time”.

That defined day can be redefined, reimagined as a national day of healing. This Open Letter is to engage and encourage you to make that bold declaration, and begin work towards such a reality.

I write to you leaders of Civil Society organization because we both know the nature of our politics guarantees that, while this should probably come from a President, the depth of the politicking that would result would bury intention and highlight – even escalate – political division. Suggestions to simply leave this alone should not be heeded. Nor should we cower under this predictable politicizing that will attempt to hijack what is a question of human rights, trauma and healing.

“Farewell comandante!” That’s how President Akufo-Addo’s eulogy began to the late former president and military coup leader. He spoke honestly of what he described as “open animosity” between the two of them that characterised his political appointments and ascent, as he scaled a ladder that would eventually land him this current position as president. He said that he and Rawlings “did not see eye to eye,” but that “with time things changed, we came to see each other’s different perspectives”. That seeing of perspective must extend to harm and lingering trauma, and specifically necessary action to help heal such trauma.

Last week, I wrote in a column entitled ‘Jerry John Rawlings: Truth, Healing and Emotional Justice’ that we as a nation needed such a healing due to the legacy of untreated trauma sustained from the years of the bullet that was Rawling’s leadership. Such a naming would insert healing into our national memory of this day, and the deeds of this man. I wrote of the judges murdered by Rawlings and his regime, there were of course also families who lost livelihoods, transforming their trajectory, shaping their children’s journey and future. The price was paid in lost life, lost livelihoods with lasting repercussions.

A National Day of Healing need not be a politicized reckoning. It offers something deeper, more powerful, profoundly necessary, and fully human.

It requires courage, willingness, and a visionary leadership to honour those parts of this history, legacy and final resting that damaged, devastated and traumatized.

President Akufo-Addo announced moves were afoot to create and name the ‘Jerry John Rawlings University of Development Studies, Tamale.’ He explained his conviction that such an honour was worthy of such a leader. Some may quarrel with this action and naming. My ask of you is different – that in honouring him, we equally honour and acknowledge those on the receiving end of a violence whose legacy we as a nation live with, even though it is silenced, repressed.

A day of healing does not relitigate what is passed and done. It simply offers a fresh future.

Declare June 4th a Day of National Healing. You can do this – collectively, collaboratively – this can be done.

Yours sincerely,

A Full History-Telling, Nation-Loving, Healing-Seeking Citizen.


Mixed Messages: Economy vs Humanity?

Last Sunday’s presidential COVID19 update was a study in mixed messages. Our COVID numbers are up dangerously. All 16 regions report cases. Our deaths are spiralling upward. Hospitals are filling up, or at capacity. And yet, indoor dining can continue, the president is silent when it comes to public transportation, Church is still a go-to as are funerals with limited numbers. We require clarity over confusion. Burying the beloved dead cannot matter as much as preventing more from becoming the dead. And, why the silence on public transportation? It has been there that protocols are ceaselessly abandoned, as trotro drivers and their mates pack their COVID petri dishes and threaten lives and families as a result. It is a conundrum. It is a confusion. It requires clarity. It requires a willingness to not privilege economy over humanity.

Full lockdown?  No-one wants that. Equally, if we are playing fast and loose with our own lives and those of others, what is not working is the current state of protocol evasion.

The Ghana Health Service’s latest COVID-19 update. Ghana has 772 new cases. That brings active cases up to 5,515 and eight new deaths, bringing our death total as of January 30, to 424.

Minister of Information, Hon. Kojo Oppong Nkrumah took to the podium to nimbly elucidate the clearly mixed messages that left head scratching and led to online stories that reflected the confusion in the message. He clarified the content, sadly what needed excavation was the failure to more roundly contain our ecosystems of transport, Jesus, funerals and wedding bands.

The Pastor is no more immune from this deadly airborne disease than the President. Not strictly following the protocols risks congregant and citizen alike, risks us all. No special treatment, party political favours, extra tithing or oga-nomics can save us when it comes to coro. Adhering to the protocols though, can certainly help us all.

On Monday, on the pages of this very newspaper, doctors rallied to communicate the danger, remind us of the fragility of our healthcare sector and invite us to better understand the extent of the spike and its threat to the lives of so many.

In 2020, Ghana followed the science and the doctors.  Our numbers were comparatively low and our approach powerfully humane – a far cry from the disastrous approaches in the West – particularly the US and the UK, and nations like Brazil where health and science were politicized and racialized igniting heightened fear, risking more life and creating escalating death tolls.

Certainly, our economy has suffered. Without a doubt, industry is flailing. However, for any of those industries in Ghana urging the President – and calling for a nation – to think about, and focus on, the economy over our shared humanity, know this. You cannot make a living if you do not have a life.

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