Friday, July 29, 2011


By: Ryan Millward

A recent research study has shown that the quality of sandcrete blocks in the Central Region of Ghana do not achieve the minimum required compressive strength of 2.8N/mm2

A Block factory
The study, carried out by Emmanuel Bamfo-Agyei of Cape Coast Polytechnic, shown some sandcrete block  to be as little as 30% in strength of the compressive strength. He made the revelation at the West Africa Built Research Conference that was held in Accra where more than ninety papers were presented by academicians from West Africa and South Africa.

This is of obvious importance to residents who live in houses as well as the factories people work in; with these structures being made of sandcrete blocks, there are numerous dangers that can come to fruition - a simple seismic shock could see buildings collapse and lives end.

This research show sandcrete block producers to be in violation of government regulations; The National Building Regulation LI 1630:1996 Clause 29(1) and (2) noted that any material used in the erection of building shall be of suitable nature and quality for the purposes and conditions in which they are to be used. Section (2) stated that the use of any material should conform to an approved Ghana Standard Code of Practice. 

.A block producer said they mould the block with strength that is 2.8N/mm2 for inspection by the Ghana Standard Board but do not produce that same strength for the public. The reason why they do this is because the price to put every block up to a safe standard is too much. This shows sandcrete block producers are putting lives at risk in place of a heftier profit. But responsibility must also fall to the Engineering Department of Standard Board who are there to monitor and make sure the building materials are safe for the public; the research shown that according to the records of the standard board more than 70% of the producers in Ghana do not meet the standard however no company has been closed down due to achieving standard.
Some of the block factory

The research worked on the principle that for sandcrete blocks to be safe to the public, a strength of 2.8N/mm2 density is required; however, some of the inspections of sandcrete block factories around Cape Coast shown results on inspection to be between 30 and 40% of the quality required; At Abura Asebu Kwamankess District (AAK) the block factory recorded 0.91N/mm2 instead of 2.8N/mm2; Cape Coast metropolis two blocks were tested from the same factory and recorded different strength 1.13N/mm2 and 1.37N/mm2 respectively representing less than 50% of the standard crushing strength; at Komenda Edina Eguafo Abrem (KEEA) 1.29N/mm2 and 1.12N/mm2 were recorded and the standard crushing strength of 2.8N/mm2 was not achieved; Mfantsiman municipality recorded the least crushing strength of sandcrete block 0.20N/mm2 and 0.29N/mm2 respectively representing 7%.

All in all these results show the quality of bricks being used to be of poor quality which again, highlights the risks involved in the continual shoddy production of these building companies; some of the supervisors of the sandcrete block factories that the research was conducted indicated that they lack equipment to determine the strength of the blocks produced, instead they measure the strength based on visual test or how long the block can absorb the water determines the strength. This is not the way to be acting when lives are realistically, put in the building companies hands.

Structural failure of the uncompleted building
The study by Emmanuel Bamfo-Agyei will draw memories back to recent structural collapses in Ghana -precisely Kumasi and Accra in 2007 where the quality of brick was below standard causing the buildings to collapse and injuries to ensue. Recently there was a structural failure of an uncompleted building closer to the total filling station in Cape Coast.  The fact that it is the most used in the Central Region means the production of the sandcrete blocks should be of high standard to ensure safety. If this study has shown us one thing besides the quality of the building materials to be below standard, it is that apart from this, there must be action by the Government to ensure that the Engineering Department of Standard Board perform their duty of ensuring all the building materialstr in Ghana are up to a safe standard. At the end of the day, building collapses cost lives and with the slightest tremor, many lives could be taken by these poor quality blocks.
One of the sandcrete block being tested

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


By: Ryan Millward

The Food and Drugs Board (FDB) have revealed their ongoing efforts in the quest to ensure that Ghanaians receive food, drugs and chemicals that meet the official standards set by Government.

The FDB moderate and monitor the quality of food and drugs in Ghana; since being set up in 1997 in Kumasi, they operate under law 305B to improve the quality of food and drugs whilst using the motto that 'the prime objective is the consumer so that they are protected'. In such, they exist to deal with food, drugs, medical devices, cosmetics and household chemicals to ensure they are fit to be purchased and used by the general public.

At a press meeting in Cape Coast on the 26th of July, the working officials disclosed their information and efforts in managing the quality of food and drugs throughout the regions of Ghana. Their aim to regulate manufacturing, importation, exportation, distribution and advertisements that are all involved in a variety of food and drugs that are available to the public. The Head of the Food and Drugs Board for the Central Region reported the processes and applications that the FDB undergo. Joseph Y.B Bennie told how: "By exercising our mandate, the board ensures the safety and wholesomeness of food and drugs." Starting with food, Mr Bennie said: " If food is sold that is unwholesome, poisonous or adulterated, it is illegal and we can shut the sellers down." "The boards role is to ensure the consumer is not lied to about the quality or type of food and in such, the consumer is protected." From the commitment and enthusiasm evident in all the staff's voices and efforts, it certainly seems that the quality of food in Ghana is being intensely looked at by the board.

Some of the press at the meeting
 After detailing their efforts in monitoring food, the Head of the Food and Drugs Board for the Central Region moves on to their processes in monitoring drugs that are available to the Ghanaian public. Some of their efforts include regulation of sellers, staff, advertisements, importation, doses, samples and the registration of herbal and homeopathic drugs. Joseph Y.B Bennie said: "We want to ensure that all the processes that lead to the manufacture and distribution of drugs are safe so that yet again, the consumer is protected." The FBD went on later to warn people about fake medicines with alleged 'spiritual powers'. One medicine claimed that if you take it 'you would get everything you want'. The board are constantly warning people about this and aim to shut these medicines down. Undoubtedly the FBD seem equally committed to ensuring that the drugs and chemicals that reach the public, are just as monitored as the food we eat daily; after all, as the past has shown, lives are at stake.

Spot the difference, Fake food next to Real food

Later on in the meeting the Head of Communications for The Food and Drugs Board, James Y.Lartey, added to Mr Bennie's comments. Mr Lartey recalled: "In Nigeria people walk around selling medicine out of baskets on their heads with no license or regulation upon them." "This is what we are completely against; we need to act fast and make sure fake medicine and food are off the market." The Head of Communications then told how investigations by the FBD shown buildings used to contain food and water were covered in filth and dirt with rodents and insects infesting the area. A bottle of water uncovered from the place was then shown and although water usually remains clear, this one, as obviously evident to the press at the meeting, was brown.

The press meeting was very reassuring to see that there was a lot of work being done in looking after the health and well being of the general public. The scope of the FBD's activities looks to be ever expanding; they now do Post Market Surveillance where they go out into the market , buy some drugs or food, take them to the labs to inspect them and then evaluate them to see if they meet the standards required for them to be sold. Other activities include random premises inspections, documentation, label evaluation and advert evaluation. The latter remains one of their strongest policies with the board having the power to fine media houses  20,000 Ghana cedis fines that show misleading adverts about drugs or food.

All in all the meeting in Cape Coast showed the press that the FDB are thoroughly active in their operations in steering the Ghanaian public to safer, cleaner and better food and drugs. By operating with clients such as the Ghana Health Service, Police Service as well as local governments, the activities the board undergo is ever increasing. The Food and Drugs Board now call out to the public to get involved in improving the quality of food and drugs; in the words of the Head of Communications, James Y.Lartey, "If you want us to investigate something, inform us and we will work with you." Here's hoping the public respond and Ghana's quality of food and drugs continues to improve in the future.

Monday, July 25, 2011


By: Ryan Millward

The 2011 Panafest festival got underway in Cape Coast as dancers, musicians, chiefs and special guests all got involved in the celebrations on show.

Victoria Square on July 25th was the host for the day as over 600 people witnessed the launch of festival that aims to "Re-unite the African family". The sun baked down upon the square as rows of colourful tents lined the borders of the area with a huge open space in the middle for all the performers to revel in; there was dancers in seas of masks, musicians giving traditional Ghanaian performances, men on huge, steep stilts and special guests being paraded as the banging of drums whirled out across the square.

Some traditional leaders in Ghana
Part of the square was for all the special guests to step up to the podium to pronounce their statements on the launch of the 2011 festival. Rabbi Kohain Nathanyah Halevi stepped up first to express: "I am honored to perform this duty of speaking to you today." He continued: "Let our presence today let us open the doors for the African family to be reunited, let's embrace each other spirituality, let's love each other." The strong words were met with a rapture of cheers and claps as the atmosphere of the festival integrated itself exponentially. Next up was the Minister of Chieftaincy and Culture, the Hon. Alexander Asum Ahensan. He arose to the microphone with hundreds of people watching and expressed: "On behalf of the Panafest festival I would like to thank everyone who contributed to keep the foundations in tact." He also set his sights to the future and added: "We start organising the 2012 festival in August so we have a massive and exciting festival, we have the support and institutions that can make it happen."

It certainly promises to be a big one but it's hard to focus on next year when the celebrations for this year's festival are taking place in grand style before the Minister's eyes. During an enterlude groups of dancers and acrobats perform a energetic dance routine that sees three men balance on each others heads, dancers drape each other in flags while people with skipping ropes skip whilst doing a variety of moves. The music, once again, is ever loud with drums and chanting reigning out across the square. After the performance more speakers take to the podium as the climax of the launch sees the Vice President of Ghana, John Dramani Mahama, declare his statements on the launch of the 2011 festival. He started by saying: "I am delighted to be here with you today as we open Panafest festival." "I am happy to be part of this ceremony to remember our brothers and sisters who were separated by evil doings in human history." The Vice President went on to say; "The African race has been witness to some of the most gruesome happenings but yet, we survive. It's time to turn the door of no return at the slave castle to a door of return, a door of rebirth."
Vice President  John Dramani Mahama

The Vice President words were met again with cheers and claps from the people lining Victoria Square. He went on to promise that the festival remain a crucial part of the cultural calender and will keep being supported by the government. As John Dramani Mahama's words came to a close, it was clear that the festival was well and truly underway. The day had been a success and countless people had engaged with the fun and celebrations that were offered by the organisers.The 2011 Panafest festival had begun - the door of no return, was well and truly open for all the African family to return.


By Ryan Millward

A professor at the University of Cape Coast has stated that governments and chiefs need equal power in their roles to help prevent conflicts.

The statement came from Alhaji M.N.D Jawula at a conference on social behaviour and conflict management. The professor pointed out the pivotal roles chiefs play in helping to settle disputes; he stated "Conflict exists - some are negative issues, some are positive. It keeps us aware and thinking but causes tremendous loss. People and conflict must learn to live together and chiefs are vital in helping settle local disputes between communities."

However, while chiefs are useful for being figureheads in local communities, their powers - and their scope in which they wield them - are limited. The University of Cape Coast professor compared and contrasted the extent to which the government and the extent to which chiefs can resolve and manage conflict. Alhaji M.N.D Jawula started by saying: "During times of conflict and change, chiefs and government worked together to prevent conflict to a minimum." However, he continued to express his concern that conflict would be more efficiently managed if chiefs had more 'official' power.

The obvious differences are there already; chiefs are often poor normal people who live in very small communities whereas big western style governments are anything but. Evidently it's the lack of authority chiefs have that lessens their functions of conflict management. The professor told: "Power that chiefs have could be taken away by higher authorities thus making conflict less sustainable." He added: "Conflict exists between chiefs and governments because governments don't understand small conflicts like chiefs do. Chiefs know what is best but the government has more power." You can't help but agree; the thought of comparing a police uniform to a chief uniform illustrates it quite well - I know which one strikes authority into most people.

Evidently the problem is power, or there in lack of; if a chief wants to arrest or prosecute someone, it's just not possible whereas the government authorities can do what they desire. As pointed out before, governments may not be as well positioned to settle disputes in small local communities than chiefs. This is where the professor pointed to small groups of people who feel marginalised due to government authority not settling disputes. This is why chiefs need more authority as to better manage conflict. Professor Alhaji M.N.D Jawula said: "Chiefs should be brought into courts and government so conflict can be better managed." He continued: "It takes longer for chiefs to prevent conflict - people have to listen and come for advice. It's old fashioned and there is also transport problems for chiefs." The study found that the key to managing conflicts was the following four processes - Antaginism, Regulance, Intervention, Action and chiefs and governments must have equal power and work together as to prevent conflict.

The study was part of the University's Department of Sociology which remains at the forefront for combating conflict. The course is obviously very helpful and resourceful in helping Ghana manage conflict and all the effects that come with it such as death, injuries, loss of land, marginalisation and so on. Clearly the study shown a huge eye opener that chiefs are more vital than people think in helping settle disputes.

With the amount of officials and guests on show for the conference, as well as the Department's credibility in their research, it may come to pass that the work and study put forward by Professor Alhaji M.N.D Jawula will become influential in Ghana's management of conflict and all the trouble and loss it brings.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


By: Ryan Millward

As laws over male gay relationships remain heated, Ryan Millward heads out to the streets of Cape Coast to find out what the public really think.

Laws are tight over same sex male relationships in Ghana; the government makes it clear that "Whoever is guilty of unnatural carnal knowledge— (a) of any person without his consent, is guilty of first degree felony; (b) of any person with his consent, or of any animal, is guilty of a misdemeanor." However while this social stigma is not only contradicted by female same sex acts being legal as well as many Ghanaians not believing that homosexuality even exists, it is also quite clear that many people don't know the full facts surrounding the issue.

As I interview a range of people on the streets of Cape Coast it becomes clear that the Ghanaian community only have one stance on the issue; out of the 23 people I asked, every Ghanaian said the same response - "illegal" or "banned". Reasons why were blurred; often many people said "I don't know why but it's not good." Other responses included "Men and women shouldn't have same sex counterparts, it's no good" and "It should be illegal because it's not natural." It became increasingly clear that there was no real clear thought around why it should be illegal but just like a game of Chinese whispers, people believe it should be illegal because they have been told. Perhaps the stigma and worry around the issue was evident in the fact that no one wanted to give their name for report, only their thoughts.

One man who did was Ogyatsa Mickey, a local trader around the slave castle; he told how "men with other men is not good because they can't have the babies, it's not cool you know." The first answer I got where his view had a logic behind it. But again it was contradicted with his next statement where he exclaimed that women with other women was a good thing and should be allowed. Once again it became clear that the whole issue was fuzzy and could only move forward in terms of information being spread.

Gay issues are no new thing in Ghana; in 1994 it was reported that a homosexual man from Ghana was granted temporary asylum in South Africa after persecution for his sexual orientation. According to an August 2004 Afrol News report, Prince MacDonald‚ the leader of the organisation for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals in Ghana, commented that "there are lots and lots of people in our prisons who have been caught by this unfriendly law." He said that "the police beat and punish people who are found to be gays." In 2010, The U.S Department of State's Human Rights Report found that "strong sociocultural beliefs discriminated against and stigmatized same-gender sex. There were no registered Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) organizations. LGBT persons faced widespread discrimination, as well as police harassment and extortion attempts. Gay men in prison often were subjected to sexual and other physical abuse." As the years have gone on, not much has changed and male same sex relationships are still frowned upon just as they were decades ago.

But that doesn't mean homosexuality doesn't exist within Ghana; infact figures show it to be increasing! As I speak to an American traveller from Senegal, it is made clear that there is traces of gay communities in spite of the Ghanaian law. He tells how openly gay men operate in Accra and that there is still some underground gay bars - he has even seen someone walking around as a cross-dresser! He said the following: "A lot of times if you ask people they say it should be illegal - but when faced with it they don't protest, I've seen a cross-dresser at a restraurant being left alone as well as gay people in Accra." Once more these experiences show the sketchy nature of the national thought cloud around homosexuality.

It remains a strange issue to me, a British traveller where in the country I come from people have gay marriages that are legal and kids at school openly walk around reflecting their homosexual status. People here obviously feel very passionate about the issue even though there seems to be no general one reason as to why it should be illegal. Perhaps reflecting the Western African values, all the European and American people I asked said it should be legal; Hannah Remo, a 16 year old American volunteer said: "If someone likes fish or chicken it's their choice. If that doesn't affect anyone else then people should be happy together." Liam Sharpe, a 22 year old volunteer from England, added: "It doesn't matter - it doesn't affect anyone" while James Quinn, another volunteer, 19 from England said: "It should be legal, why should it matter at all?"

My time asking the local people of Cape Coast shown a social stigma that is representative of the general thought consensus taking place around Ghana; while the subject remains a tentative and often cloudy issue, as a Western traveller I can only hope that homosexuality becomes an issue that is reviewed to atleast be taught so that people are more informed about the matter to form their own opinion.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


By: Ryan Millward

Plans were heard in Cape Coast the other day to mark out and help improve Ghana's water management.

Currently there are many problems with the country's water supply with poor management and broken pipelines being among some of the hindering factors. A scheme dubbed 'The Way Forward' was heard at a meeting in Cape Coast on July 15th that plans to put a comprehensive national development program on water. The way to going forward is in their view to have a sector wide approach, maintenance of water bodies, institutional reforms, sustainability of rural water schemes, harvested rain water and to increase public awareness so people look after water better.
Alban S.K Bagbin

The program is part of Millennium Development Goals that aims to provide improved water to 78% of the Ghanaian population by 2015; currently it stands that around 63% of Ghana's population had access to improved drinking water by the start of this year. At the meeting the Minister for Water Resources, Works and Housing Alban S.K Bagbin stated that it was not the quality or quantity of the water available that was the problem, but the management and interventions in which water undergoes before reaching the public.

It is a known fact that the huge Volta lake in the center of Ghana could supply enough water consistently for the entire country. It is also known that Ghana Water Company make and provide good quality of water for distribution. But it's everything in between those facts that causes the problem; often water is wasted, stolen or contaminated before it arrives at it's destination. Some of the issues Minister Alban S.KBagbin told were as follows:

"There are so many NUs all performing water sustainability techniques in different ways meaning a collaboration of the 118 NUs throughout Ghana is needed to be more efficient."

"Local governments don't handle the sanitation so it is just down to independent organisations."

"The fish famine has caused caging which puts chemicals in the water as well as the irrigation of dams"

"People are using water wrongly - do we need to wash our cars every day and bath 4 times a day?"

"Communities need to be willing to maintain, pay taxes and be sustainable which many choose not to."

"People need to stop paying 60 pesewas for 500ml bottled water when it is only 80 pesewas for 1000 litres of tap water. Water belongs to god; people shouldn't be making money from it." 

"33% of community ownership management systems break down in 2 or 3 years."

It became clear that there are many concerns and issues around the management of water in Ghana. But things can, and have, been improving for the country's water issues; although there was problems with the coastal regions water supplies having slight salt content in, it was pointed out that the central region had achieved a 75% efficiency rate when drilling for water. In terms of communities getting involved, the minister pointed out that many communities around Kumasi in the Volta region had harvested rainwater successfully in dugouts; because of the success of this, the dugout technique was implemented in 23 surrounding communities.
Some participants

The Water Resources Commission remain intently committed to providing Ghana's communities with good quality water to live off. They remain optimistic in reaching that aforementioned millennium development goal statistic of 75% of the population having improved water sanitation and sustainability by 2015. Their ongoing efforts and actions includes setting up governing bodies to ensure proper management of water in regions, getting the media involved to increase pubic awareness, resolving and preventing conflicts of water and systematic water quality monitoring amongst many more.

As the meeting drew to a close it was apparent that the Ghanaian water companies and governing bodies had many more plans to implement with 'The Way Forward'. Water is of huge importance to people around the world and even more so in a developing country such as Ghana. In the words of the minister "Water is life". If that's the case it appears that the Water Resources Commission are working not only for a better quality of water, but also a better quality of life.

Friday, July 15, 2011


By Saul Sebag-Montefiore

Presentation of the water equipment
The  National Youth Employment Program has introduced a new module on sachet water production.
 The scheme  will see all 17 districts of the Central Region supplied with water sachet producing machines. This new project will supply jobs for the unemployed young people of the districts to produce hygienic water throughout the Central region in an ambitious attempt to kill two birds with one stone.

The distribution of clean, pure water to every Ghanaian home has been a longstanding issue in the Central Region. Many Ghanaians still drink unprocessed, contaminated water that often results in the contraction of diseases such as, guinea worm or cholera. It is the right of every human being to have access to a clean, safe supply of water and that has been recognised by this scheme. The Regional Minister Ama Benyiwa Doe launched the programme in Cape coast. 
She said the  project aims to tackle another of the Central Regions’ pressing issues, unemployment. There is an unacceptable amount of young people who leave school only to find that there is no work for them in the adult world. This means that a whole sector of young people are condemned to a life of struggle, begging or street crime during the peak years of their physical and mental capability to work. The project plans to eventually introduce an influx of trained young people to operate the machines that will supply the accessible, pure water that Ghanaians need to survive without the fear of contracting a serious illness. Her speech was read by the Presidential Aide responsible for the region Patrick Aniagyei. 

The Regional Coordinator Nana Osibi explained that each machine produces 2,500 sachets per hour and is the ‘most efficient machine in the country today’. Therefore, in an 8 hour working day approximately 20,000 sachets of liquid life can be produced. This would make a major difference to the accessibility of clean, cheap water that may prevent people from hacking into pipes in order to steal clean water that often results in the contamination of the entire water supply. Chairman Derry then stated, ‘the machine was assembled here meaning that it is environmentally friendly and there are plans to organise the recycling of the plastic sachet’s.’ This shows the concern of the organisers that this is a green, sustainable program.
Patrick Aniagyei

At market value these machines cost 12,000 GH cedis, however, the government have supported the program by lowering the amount that needs to be repaid to 2,500 GH cedis. An agreement has been made that a monthly payment of 70 cedis will be repaid to the government until the debt has been paid off. Hon. Ama Benyiwah Doe made it clear that this would be a ‘self-sustaining business that has been facilitated by the government’. The Government and the organisers are eager that debts are repaid as quickly as possible so that the program can be extended to other regions of Ghana that are also facing similar issues.

In this trial stage only two out of Ghana’s ten regions will benefit from the machines. She also stated, ‘It is also important that the managers of this project will be transparent enough so that when it comes to the paying of the debt other members of the group will not say that they did not understand the facts.’
The launch was Chaired by Peter Derry the Coordinator of Cape Coast Metropolitan Assembly, he appealed to the beneficiaries to make good use of the equipment and to generate employment in their communities. 

The sachet water program has now been officially launched and the production of water sachets should begin soon. Hopefully this ambitious program will deliver all its claims and the wider distribution of safe, pure water will significantly lower the risk of contracting disease and sicknesses from contaminated drinking water.
Presentation of water tanks by NYEP

The National Unity Games

Saul Sebag-Montefiore

The Central Regional sports development Director,  Wilson, remains defiant despite being struck by a series of injury blows in the run up to this year’s Unity Games.

Boxing practice for Unity Games
The Unity Games is a tournament that is annually organized by the sports authorities in Ghana to unearth sporting talent. The recruited sportsman could potentially be included in prestigious international competitions, such as, the Olympic Games or the All African Games. A wide variety of sports and disciplines are competed, including: Athletics, Tennis, Boxing, Basketball, Handball, Volleyball, Table Tennis, Rugby, Badminton, Football, Hockey, Taekwondo, Chess, and even Scrabble.

Mr. Wilson expressed his disappointment at the less than perfect preparations for the tournament, ‘its not the best. There are so many more shortcomings to what we expected [to have going into the tournament]. I am having a problem getting funds. Also quite a number of sportsmen are still at school writing their exams and therefore cannot be part of the team. So we will be without all of those first choice athletes. We will be handicapped with our team but all the same we will do with what we have and make a good impression.’

It is not just school exams that have damaged the Central Region’s team this year as injuries have also struck Central Region’s team hard. Mr. Wilson stated, ‘We had a few injuries here and there: the best sprinter in the region and one of the best sprinters in Ghana has been knocked down by injury. One of the top boxers is down with Malaria. Other than that we’ve had a few knocks here and there but we will pull it together and be in shape by the time the games begin.’

Despite the disappointments Mr. Wilson remains resolute and determined that the Central Region will still be successful. He defiantly declared, ‘for the region, we have always been strong in certain competitions and with what we have we are still going to make an impact. I had wanted an overwhelming victorious squad. But we are going to battle.’

Mr. Wilson went onto thank those of who have supported his team. ‘The Anglican Church has supported us greatly. A friend of the name of Alfred Kofie has helped somehow – he is the chairman of the Regional Tennis Association so the team is having a special training period with one of the top coaches in Ghanaian tennis. So it is likely that we will get two good medals from tennis.’

There is much to be positive about despite the number of heavy blows that have been dealt to the team. It is only Mr. Wilson’s exceedingly high standards that have left him frustrated and the fighting spirit still burns strong as Central Region is expected to make an impact in the competition.  The best of luck to Mr. Wilson and the Central Region Unity Games squad.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


By: Ryan Millward

As the upcoming Panafest festival aims to 're-unite the African family from home and abroad', many people of African heritage overseas may not have the money to visit due to a steep increase in airline costs.

The fact that some flights cost well into the  thousands  (US $) will mean that the very message of the festival will be undermined by big corporate flight companies. The purpose of the festival is to celebrate and bring together the African family that has been dispersed around the world due to the slave trades of past ages as well as increased migration.

Rabbi Kohain Halevi
In the official launch of the festival at Elmina on July 13th, the Executive Secretary of the Panafest Foundation told of how the festival in Ghana may be hindered by travel costs. Rabbi Kohain Halevi said: "Increased airfares mean people abroad can't reach here" He added: "Some flights from the US will cost in excess of $2500 to $2800 for an economy seat". With the global world already facing tough times due to various recessions in economies, the cost of these flights will only add to the money worries of would be festival goers.

In the launch there was a gasp of shock when the Rabbi Kohain Halevi read out the figures for flight costs; it certainly is hard to ignore that the reason why there is large groups of people with African heritage abroad is inescapably down to the slave trade. The ambassadors of the Panafest festival will feel that the western countries who took them out of the African continent are now keeping them there as many who look to visit their African heritage will be hindered by the shocking air costs.

Panafest festival has existed in Ghana since 1992 and each year it aims to celebrate, remember and fight challenges of African culture whilst bringing together Africans from around the world; it aims to bring back the integral connections of all Africans that, in the words of the chairman of the meeting Ben Ohene-Areh, have been victims of 'forced transportation'. The chairman added: "It's time now for the African family to come together - from home and abroad. There are millions of African sheep abroad." He continued: "We are here to champion the development of the black man here and on the other sides of the Atlantic."

Some members of the LOC
This is a bold statement that is representative of all the members, associates, contributors and supporters of the Panafest Festival who are quite clearly intently passionate and committed about the message that the festival displays. It was with a sense of anger hidden under an optimistic conviction that Rabbi Kohain Halevi called out for the airlines to get on board instead of exploiting African travellers looking to return to their land of origin.

All in all the high costs that these corporate western companies put on air costs will only give a stark reminder of the oppression of African people by the western world. It really is time that these issues were recognised and the airline companies reacted to this barrier that threatens to stop and hinder the very purpose of the Panafest Festival.

The Panafest festival will start it's first programme on Friday, 22nd July and will continue for ten days where it will finish on August 1st for Emancipation Day. More information is available at


By Saul Sebag-Montefiore
The world famous PANAFEST festival and Emancipation Day was officially launched in Elmina  by the Deputy Minister of Tourism, Hon. James Agyenim-Boateng.
The chairperson of the event, Osabarima Kwesi Atta II, declared that PANAFEST 2011 is going to be an opportunity to reflect on the history of the festival and decide how best to move forward and develop this international celebration of being African.
Acultural performance

In the mid-1980s PANAFEST was mooted by the late Efua Sutherland as, ‘a cultural vehicle for bringing Africans on the continent in the Diaspora together around the issues raised by slavery which remain suppressed.’ PANAFEST is a cultural event dedicated to the enhancement of the ideals of Pan-Africanism and the development of the African continent. It is an opportunity for Africans and people of African descent to return to their ancestral homeland and come together and establish the truth about the history of Africa. It also provides a forum to promote unity between Africans and affirm the common heritage of African people throughout the world. The festival is also a major political event as it ensures that there is a thorough annual review of Africa’s development and the objectives, strategies and policies are openly scrutinised and consensus for the formulation and implementation of potential alternative options for development can be organised.

The official opening of PANAFEST will be on 25th July and the smiling Executive Secretary of the PANAFEST Foundation, Rabbi Kohain Halevi, promised, ‘a taste of the old PANAFEST’ with chiefs from all 10 regions of Ghana formerly invited. This will immediately add an extra dimension of grandeur to year’s festival with royalty, pomp, tradition and power on display. On the 26th July there will be an official visit to Elmina castle for historic remembrance of slavery. On the 27th and 28th a ‘moving emancipation day forward’ conference will be held following by a river crossing. The 31st will be a traditional day where renaming ceremonies and repeating marriage vows will occur before a traditional walk to Cape Coast castle.

A major subject that was risen by every speaker at the launch was their hope that this years PANAFEST will again reunite the displaced African family. Nana Kwesi Atta II stated, ‘One day a Sheppard took his flock to a field to graze, he left them there and after they had finished grazing he counted his flock. It was then that he realized that one was missing.  He searched far and wide but it was nowhere to be found. This is like our story and now I invite our missing brothers and sisters spread across the world to reunite with us in the homeland. They are part of us.’ Nana Kwesi Atta II then went on to declare his desire that talented Africans will return and stay in the land that they belong and act as ‘agents of change’ that will aid African growth. In the past, major African-American stars such as Stevie Wonder and Public Enemy have supported the festival by attending and making live performances as they wish to promote the festival and reconnect with their roots.

Rabbi Kohain Halevi
Rabbi Kohain Halevi announced that the theme of the 2011 festival is ‘challenges and prospects’. This is a change from past festivals as the organisers seek to encourage attendees to reflect ‘soberly on past years’ and ‘look upon PANAFEST as an institution’ in the build up to next years special anniversary of PANAFEST in Ghana. There have been some other changes made to this year’s festivities as the women’s day and youth forum will not be carried out. Rabbi Halevi explained, ‘They will not be carried out bust discussions will take place on how to enhance these parts of the festival. This is a review year for the future.’ For the same reason the formal Homecoming to Elmina event where the chiefs sail from Cape Coast to Elmina has also been left out of the schedule for this years festivities – much to the disappointment and concern of many in Elmina. A message was also sent out to potential sponsors as Rabbi Halevi stated PANAFEST’s intention of finding ‘permanent partnerships’ for the long term in the presence of a representative from rLG Communications who have decided to form an agreement with the PANAFEST Foundation.
Dr. Abdallah

The Chairman of the PANAFEST organization, Dr. Abdallah, criticized the airway industry and accused them of exploiting this year’s PANAFEST for their own gain at the expense of foreign Africans who want to return to take part in the proceedings. He stated, ‘the airway industry has pulled the rock from under our feet’. The airline prices for an economy seat from the US to Ghana has gone up to $2,500 and there is much concern from the PANAFEST Foundation that this may prevent Africans from being able to make the pilgrimage back to their original homeland. Another concern that was expressed is the decline in patronage of the festival that has left the organizers’ in desperate need of sponsorship and funds to maintain the quality and develop the PANAFEST festival further.

James Agyenim-Boateng
The Deputy Minister for Tourism, Hon. James Agyenim-Boateng, official launched the PANAFEST festival. Mr Agyenim-Boateng made a point of countering accusations that the Government is not behind the festival by emphasizing the Government’s ‘upmost commitment’ to PANAFEST and Emancipation day. He then went on to state his wish that the ‘events [PANAFEST and Emancipation day] complement each other rather than compete.’ The issue of funding came up again as Agyenim called to the business community and sponsors to help fund the event as he stated, ‘there are very limited resources and funds meaning sponsorship is vital to the success of the event.’

There is a real desire to increase the size of this event in order to increase its international reputation and make it the place where all Africans from around the globe congregate to annually celebrate and reconnect with their roots. Therefore in the words of the Minister for Tourism, ‘make this event very successful and a springboard to the future.’     


By: Ryan Millward 

From the distance it appears a grand structure. Standing tall and almost proud on the Ghana coastline, the castle can be seen adorning it's rows of cannons amongst an environment of solid white walls, dungeons, metal bars and all the things that represent the cruel and shameful past of the slave trade.

The slave castle in Elmina is now a museum and tourist attraction that yields the historic structure to help visitors remember the past - a past that many people would like to forget but whose victims must not be forgotten. It was a time of inhumanity and evil and walking around the castle as an Englishman it is inescapable not to feel the embarrassment and shame of what acts our ancestors committed.

The dungeons are dark and filthy. The courtyards still display the posts to which humans were chained and the confinements in which humans were thrown. Human is an important word here; the lack of humanity that weeps off the castles walls and dungeons hammers home the fact that African slaves really were treated like lambs to the slaughter. Many slaves starved to death in tiny cells with a peep hole of light that was little more than that of gazing up at a single star in the sky. The women were taken up to the nice comfy bedrooms only to be raped and beaten by their British, Dutch and Portuguese callous capturers. It's easy to see why Barack Obama shed a tear when visiting Elmina's neighbouring castle last year. With the irony of having a church of Christianity situated high up on the castle where the dark dungeons lay below, it truly is hard not to feel the anger and guilt that the castle resonates.

Charles Adu-Arhin
However the castle remains a vital entity in helping people from all around the world remember the victims of the slave trade. With the number of visitors consistently increasing, it appears more and more people are coming to experience the dark and tragic past of the Ghanaian castle. Figures released by the castle's manager, Charles Adu-Arhin, show a high number of visitors coming through the castle's doors. He told us that a total of 31,427 people had visited so far in 2011 with last month gaining 6574 visitors alone. All months apart from March and May shown an increase from the following year; the biggest of which was January where 5481 people visited compared to the 3839 of last year.

It's clear that the castle is now attracting a wealth of people from all around the world who come to remember the past of the slave trade. The exit of the castle has a comments book in which people can leave remarks about their visit; evidently with nationalities from all around the world leaving their comments, the castle does a good job in helping make sure that people from far and wide experience the sights of the castle. A group of 22 British people stated: "Very moving, great guide. Remember that whilst this terribly sad, it is also history and white people disagree with this as much as everyone else. God bless". Another added: "Though it was such a bad experience for our brothers and sisters, we choose to forgive the west. God bless Ghana."

After leaving the castle I was surrounded by young Ghanaian kids all being friendly, asking what football team I supported before one of them made me a wristband with my name on and a shell that had written on it: "To my British friend Ryan Millward". Looking back at the huge white castle behind me it felt weird; only two centuries ago my ancestors had these friendly people chained in the dark starving only to be taken across the Atlantic to live out their short lives as slaves to us white people. Truly sickening, we can only be thankful that people finally woke up and realised the true nature of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Perhaps it's apt that the castle's walls are gleaming with white paint - it remains a subtle reminder of the burden of guilt white people have.

It is an absolute must to visit the slave castle's when in Ghana to uncover the past. We must always remember those who fell victim to the oppression that the white western people injected into Africa. We need to remember. We need to appreciate. We need to seek forgiveness. This is one visit I won't forget.

The Beautiful Game Turns Nasty

By Saul Sebag-Montefiore

Football is known as the beautiful game, however, in the division 1 qualifier between Elmina Sharks and the All Blacks things turned nasty as players, management staff and fans poured onto the pitch as violence erupted at Sudu Park.

Hooligans running riot
The Chairman of the Reginal Football Association (RFA), Mr. R. S. Doe, later commented on the violence as being ‘appalling and sad’. He made a statement saying, ‘I do not think football should degenerate into hooliganism. Football is the king of sports in the world and it must be played fairly. We must not make football look as if we are at war with each other.’

He continued, ‘I don’t know why the players had to fight at the end of the match. I know that supporters lose their heads but the players are brothers to each other and they should never do such a thing. I do not think what happened with the penalty merited a player attacking another player. The penalty was taken, whether rightly or wrongly, and the other side were aggrieved because they where going to lose and indeed they lost after the kick had been taken. After the spot kick they did not attack anybody, so I do not see why players should go and attack players.’

On the subject of whether further action will be taken against the perpetrators Mr Doe stated that, ‘the match commissioner’s report, the referee’s report, and the reports of the two clubs will be pieced together and we will decide whether to take action from there.’

Both teams huddle before kick-off
The match started innocently enough as the Elmina Sharks dominated the first-half while the All Blacks looked powerful but lacked cutting edge upfront. On the other hand the Shark’s nifty number 5 managed to wriggle free from the All Black’s defense on numerous occasions and had a few good efforts on goal. The Elmina Sharks played good football, limiting the All Blacks to a series of wild, futile long distance efforts that skidded and bounced haplessly wide of the post. Eventually, the number 5 sped into the box and was taken down clumsily by the All Black’s goalkeeper and a penalty was awarded. Shouts and cries of displeasure rained down on the referee’s decision from fans who believed it to be the incorrect decision. The discomfort of the All Black’s fans was increased when the first attempt that was saved by the keeper was ruled void by the referee because the keeper strayed from the goal line before the spot kick was taken.  The penalty was converted on the second attempt and shouts of ‘Corruption! Corruption!’ were chanted in the stands. The black, bubbling pot of anger against the referee was brewing in the hearts of the All Black’s supporters.

After conceding the goal there was a sudden burst of urgency from the All Blacks. This resulted in a significant improvement in their attacking play. For the first time in the match the Elmina Shark’s goal was being threatened as the powerful number 66, Francis, sent a header flashing just wide of the left hand post. However, while all the All Black’s held possession the better chances fell to the Sharks as they counter-attacked effectively, keeping the All Black’s shot stopper busy. A notable opportunity was a quick break away that ended with a venomous, accurate strike from the Shark’s number 7 that the keeper did well to palm away. The half-time whistle blew and the Edina Sharks walked off with a deserved 1-0 lead.

Powerful All Blacks striker challenges for a header
The second half was a different story as the All Blacks came out fighting and they looked a different team. There was a spell of intense pressure which pushed the taken aback Edina Sharks to retreat almost to the goal line as the desperately tried to preserve their slender lead. There was a great strike from the All Black’s nippy number 27, Charles Appaieh, that cruelly, smashed into the woodwork. The Elmina Sharks manager saw the danger and made an attacking substitution when putting the speedy winger, Samuel Boateng, on to encourage the Sharks to break out of the wall of pressure that they were being put under. The Black’s deserved an equalizer and it came just minutes after the substitution when Appaieh, who had been a constant menace to the Shark’s defense during the second-half, calmly slotted the ball home into the bottom right-hand corner. From this point on, the second half was like a mirror image of the first with the Sharks coming on strongly after conceding but with no end product and the All Black’s counter-attacking effectively with some good strikes on goal. It looked as though the All Black’s would go onto clinch the victory but the frustrations and claims of injustice from the fans rose further as the referee gave a series of decisions against the All Black’s. The match descended into chaos after the referee gave a second penalty to the Elmina Sharks. There were waves of dissent and vicious abuse aimed at the referee as the All Black’s management staff and players surrounded the referee accusing him of corruption and bias. Play was stopped until the outraged management staff were removed from the pitch. The tension of the situation was not helped when the penalty was calmly put away by the Elmina Shark’s goalkeeper making the score 2-1 with hardly any time for the All Black’s to recover. Sure enough the final whistle blew and then the bloodbath began.

Management staff and players chase the referee

The violence began as the All Black’s players chased after an Elmina Shark’s player attempting to kick and maim him. The other players joined in and then yet again the management staff entered the fray, followed by angry hooligans. The beautiful game descended into a full on brawl and the referee’s were quickly ushered away from the pitch under the protection of armed police. It was absolute bedlam: players were fighting players, fans were fighting fans/players, and staff were fighting staff and referees as they argued over the penalty decisions. Eventually the stadium was cleared of hooligans and the bloodied and wounded were gathered up by the medical teams. This is not the image of football that Ghana wants to project and it was a savage, and distasteful end to a competitive, interesting football match.

The Bakatue Women’s Gala Competition 2011

 By Saul Sebag-Montefiore

As the Edina Baktue festival reached its climax the women’s football gala competition commenced. Women’s football is considered by many to be worthless, boring and ridiculous; however, this gala competition definitely showed these opinions to be terrible misconceptions and was a fantastic advert for the value of women’s football.  

Soccer Internationals strike at goal
The match itself was a close, tough, physical battle between the Bafana Ladies and Ghana’s second best girls team at U17 level, Soccer Intellectuals. The players put everything they had into their performance and as a result merciless, crunching challenges occurred all over the pitch.

The Soccer Intellectuals bossed the first half with their skipper and star player, Mary, sailing down the left flank like a fishing boat effortlessly cutting through water with smooth unbridled ease. The Intellectuals missed a penalty early on before converting a well-worked goal to give them a deserved 1-0 lead to take into halftime. The Bafana ladies were never out of the match and possession between the two sides was almost equal because neither team’s passing and movement was at a level that would allow them to avoid the tough tackles that were coming thick and fast. However, they did not make much of an impact in the first-half as they did not create any noteworthy opportunities.

Soccer Intellectuals 
In the second-half Bafana Ladies came out with all vuvuzelas blazing after an inspiring team talk from manager, Jerry John Mensah. The tide had turned and Bafana Ladies’ quick start to the second half switched the momentum back into their favour. The woman of the match, Milicent Mensah, playing a major role in this as she single-handily seized the centre of the park with a gargantuan, Viera-like performance. Mensah was the rock of her team; repeatedly winning the ball and distributing it with finesse - she was the major catalyst for Bafana’s spirited reaction. Bafana Ladies equalised within five minutes of the restart and continued to pile pressure onto the Soccer Intellectuals’ crumbling defence. However, the Intellectuals made some carefully calculated counter-attacks, one of these resulted in a shot being cleared off the line by the Bafana defence that was slowly growing in confidence.

Bafana Ladies
Although, after Bafana’s impressive fight-back, the quality and national experience of the Intellectuals started to show as they found their way back into the game. Towards the end of the match there was a 10 minute spell of pressure from the Soccer Intellectuals which ended in a freak goal from 18 yards that bounced beyond the wrong footed Bafana defence and static goalkeeper into the bottom right hand corner. This turned out to be the winning goal in a 2-1 victory for the Soccer Intellectuals. Both sides deserve as much credit as the other in a tightly fought battle between two competitive teams.

After the match both managers’ Mensah and Botse expressed their pleasure at the competitiveness of the game and congratulated each other sportingly. Bafana Ladies manager, Mensah stated, ‘We wish to aid the growth of the women’s game and change people’s perceptions of the women’s game in Ghana’. He then went on to point out that for the women’s game to flourish better funding is needed as he pointed sadly at the scruffy, battered ball and dusty uneven pitch that the match was played on. Botse echoed these statements and emphasised the need for investment in women’s football to improve coaching and equipment. The Bakatue Ladies’ Gala was a positive event and hopefully will help to raise the status of women’s football in Ghana.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


By: Saul Sebag-Montefiore

The two-week special volunteers spend their last day at the school with the sweet taste of success on their lips.

Some volunteers painting a school building
The volunteers arrived to find a bare, boring, empty shell of a building that nobody would want to learn in and after two-weeks of hard work they leave behind a beautifully painted school ready to teach and nurture Ghana’s youth to greatness and beyond.

Projects Abroad country director, Tom Davis, stated, ‘the volunteers have done a great job in their time here in Ghana. Their hard work will ensure that more children want to come and learn here’. Three of the volunteers that will be leaving this week, Mora Rejali, Malissa Trotti and Ciara Frank from England, commented positively on their time in Ghana. They said, ‘It was a lot of fun and the time went incredibly fast. When we first arrived it was a shock and we had no idea what we were doing here but after spending a bit more time and experiencing Ghanaian culture we feel very sad to be leaving so soon!’ They also stated that the best thing that they did while here is Ghana was taking care of the children and leaving them with a great place to learn and develop.

Tom Davis explained, ‘projects abroad have several different buildings around Ghana that volunteers come and paint and help to look after the children. The special two-week volunteers come with the specific task of completing one project and experiencing Ghanaian culture. The project costs around 2000 GH cedis and is a really good thing for the community.’ Looking at the results of their short stay they have had a major impact; the walls look smooth and brightly coloured in shades of green and blue. A major thank you has to go out to all the two-week special project abroad volunteers for all their fantastic work for the benefit of Ghana.

Some of the School children with the Projects Abroad team