An officer, a lady and diplomacy.
Considering that the IGP wears a perpetual picture-perfect smile, he might be a nice person as his smile seems to suggest. He does not come across as the smiling villain Shakespeare talks about in HAMLET. With some prepping in gender dynamics, he, and others of similar high stock, will do better the next time they find themselves in gendered situations.

A: Introduction

I loved DCOP Kwesi Ofori.[1] He was the most resilient public servant I knew in Ghana. Under one political party’s reign, he was the face and voice of Ghana Police Service. Under another party, he disappeared into oblivion, never to be seen or heard again. But as sure as day follows night, he will come back. In one instance, I had almost completely forgotten about his existence when an ill-fated youth fracas in a community on the main Kumasi road to my hometown momentarily gave my man a 30-second appearance in the media. That was when I got to know he was then a District Commander in the outback, far from his previous perch at the Police Headquarters, Cantonments, Accra. Then a few years ago, a new political game came to town and my beloved DCOP returned with a bang, carrying on as if he had never been away.

Resilience aside, one other attribute that endeared me to Mr. Ofori was his PR prowess. He had adequate and appropriate grammar to answer every query and question about the Police Service. Whether the subject was a policeman found embedded in a gang of thieves, or extorting monies from the public on the highway, or arrested on suspicion of attempted coup d’état, DCOP Ofori was always on hand to give a fitting explanation or reply. His answers were always short, crisp and to the point. He stuck to the script, no matter how pushy a journalist deigned to be.

The script was usually along these lines: “The Police administration is a professional institution committed to ensuring peace and security in the country. We take all security issues seriously and, therefore, the IGP has ordered that investigations start immediately. I wish to assure all stakeholders and the nation that, we are doing our best to bring the situation under control. Any body found culpable will be brought to book.” Simple and sweet.


B: The offending tweet

Thus, recently when the British High Commissioner to Ghana tweeted, in a single sentence, about the arrest of an activist,[2] it was the expectation that the PR unit of Ghana Police will tweet in reply, if necessary at all. After a day or two, no such tweet in reply came and we thought that interregnum had come and gone with the ebb and flow of life. But apparently, not.


C: The prodigious letter in reply

As it turned out, the IGP of Ghana - the head triumphant - had this time decided, selected and elected himself to do the deed. And the deed he did, indeed. It was a monstrous 4-page letter, written and signed off by the Chief personally. Talk about a Caterpillar truck set in motion to kill a ‘kakalika’![3]

For the avoidance of all doubt, Chief’s Ph.D Degree was neatly tagged to his name in his letter-in-riposte, in case anyone was in doubt as to how he came to know about the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Now, when Madam High Commissioner read Chief’s massive missive, she was reportedly shocked at the reply her tweet, which she considered harmless, had generated from the IGP’s desk, no less. She is reported to have appeared on a TV programme to ‘explain’ herself.


D: The gender agenda

As if the 4- page monstrosity was not bad enough, Chief also set down 15 questions for Her Excellency’s reflection and self-education. Now, mark this. An accomplished woman, a career diplomat who had risen to the rank of High Commissioner of Great Britain to Ghana (the first woman to hold the position, I should add) was now a little girl, being admonished to go and ‘reflect’ on lessons specially set for her by Mr. IGP. Shorn of its pretense of conveying information on the need for peace in the country, the IGP’s reply was very typical of the condescending  disrespectful mmeon. cs, he will better next timebout in HAMLET.  hat this unfortunate incident will help brinand sexist attitudes in our social, professional and general body politic in Ghana.

Since 1957 when we gained independence from Britain, this is the first time a female High Commissioner has been posted to Ghana. And this is the first time a High Commissioner has been attacked and berated in this manner. So, please connect the dots. Craig Murray was here. Jon Benjamin was here. Benjamin wore Ghana-made clothes and lived on Twitter as if he was an ordinary citizen of Ghana. He tweeted about Presidents, ‘asofo,’ celebrities and ordinary citizens. He reveled in innuendoes in condescension. Not a whiff was heard from any of the ‘subjects’ of his tweets. Other males have come and tweeted and left with no fuss. So, what has changed this time? Gender. How sad. A political commentator has been reported to have even added that Madam High Commissioner must look for a Ghanaian boyfriend for herself. Oh, yes. Where women are concerned, it can be that gross, rude and outright disrespectful.


E: Lessons for My Lady and her diplomatic friends

My heart goes out to the High Commissioner for such an unexpected turn of events. For such a simple tweet on an issue that was already in the public discussion mill to generate such an overkill of a reply must be truly traumatizing for her. But, Your Excellency, welcome to democratic Ghana and the everyday life of the Ghanaian (and African) woman. The speed with which you organized yourself to go on TV to tell your side of the story means that, you were beyond perplexed. Unfortunately, for the countless women who face such disparate treatment on a daily basis, they have no access to the media and no support. 

            Ghana has successfully handed over power from one government to another for three decades. We are touted as Africa’s beacon of democracy. We are every western nation’s star ‘pupil’ to cite as example for others to follow. We organize elections, many more women form queues to vote for many more men to take political power. And the men take fellow men to fill political positions and form the ruling class. Of course, there is a sprinkling of women in Parliament, as Ministers of State, as members of Boards of State institutions. Western diplomats are happy to report back home that all’s well with the gender agenda.

With such reports sent back home, western governments are more than happy to withdraw or, at best, drastically reduce their funding for supporting women’s rights advocacy groups and campaigns. In the 1990s and 2000s, women’s advocacy groups such as FIDA, AWLA, Abantu, NETRIGHT, Women’s Manifesto, WiLDAF, etc. flourished because they received funding to support their activities. DFiD, USAID, CIDA, Save the Children Fund, European Union, UNICEF, UN Women, and many others, supported them. These days, most of the women’s groups have collapsed for lack of funding. They do not come out when women and children’s rights are under attack. Patriarchy now reigns supreme. Even a Gender Minister in Ghana is not spared the onslaught.

The Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection has reportedly been away from Parliament due to, according to her, some pressing family issues. A male MP first called her out in the media, blaming her for the ruling party’s difficulties in getting the required number of votes in Parliament for Government business. Days later, a second male MP, alleged to be a first-timer in the House (the Gender Minister is in her third term!) also angrily berated the Minister in the media for her absence from Parliament. Yet again, a third male MP, also took his turn on the airwaves to tell ‘Madam Honourable’ his piece of mind.

As it turned out, the Gender Minister was not the only absentee MP this side of the House’s term. Not one, but two other MPs, including the first MP who came to castigate the Gender Minister in the media for her absenteeism, were culprits of the same offense of absenteeism. Strangely, the two MPs who deemed it their bounden duty to berate the woman MP/Gender Minister said nothing about the two male MP absentees! Oh yes, this is democratic Ghana where there are equal rights. Women’s rights groups are either dead or dozing off so this young woman has to fight the political establishment alone. Not a single diplomat has also come to her aid, to the best of my knowledge from daily news headlines.

Not too long ago, two female journalists had the rare pleasure of meeting in person, at a TV auditioning show, a bloke who had developed a unique skill in insulting and bullying female ‘celebrities’ online. The lady journalists seized the opportunity to exact their pound of flesh to their hearts’ full content on TV, to the joy and admiration of many social media users.

Apparently, the boy’s disgrace on national television felt like an assault on Ghanaian manhood. The patriarchs would not let the ladies live as victors, of course. So they ‘organized’ for the ladies and the boy to meet and patch up. Why didn’t they seek out the boy and warn him to stop the foolishness when he was misbehaving under the cover of social media anonymity? Not surprisingly, it is the same old ‘come and patch up’ approach the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Regional Integration adopted in the IGP/High Commissioner situation. Instead of the Ministry to call out the IGP that, for someone who cites the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations with glee, his conduct was undiplomatic, they rather issued a half-hearted letter with a promise to resolve the matter. Which matter is there to be resolved?


F: Conclusion

So, Your Excellency, as we say in Ghana, you have seen it “fiili fiili,” to wit, ‘with your naked eyes.’ Or to sound more medieval, ‘in flagrante delicto.’ If, as a High Commissioner enjoying diplomatic immunity, the head of a state security institution can adopt such bullying and intimidatory tactics towards you, we can well imagine what ordinary Ghanaian women go through every day. Who knows? May be it was good omen that it happened this way to bring one of the main challenges women face in Ghana – discriminatory treatment just because they are women – to the fore.

Just as women’s rights advocacy has died down, disparate treatment of women has shot up. We hope that this unfortunate incident will help bring back women’s rights advocacy and training. Considering that the IGP wears a perpetual picture-perfect smile, he might be a nice person as his smile seems to suggest. He does not come across as the smiling villain Shakespeare talks about in HAMLET. With some prepping in gender dynamics, he, and others of similar high stock, will do better the next time they find themselves in gendered situations. 




[2] A Ghanaian lawyer and Ph.D student at Cambridge University, UK

[3] ‘Kakalika’ means cockroach in the Ga language.

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