Chairperson, Ashanti Regional Minister, Minister for Inner City and Zongo Development, Ashanti Regional Chief Imam, Chairman of Ashanti Regional Council of Zongo Chiefs, Ulama, Sarakuna, Jama, Asalamu Alaikum!
The Zongo for Peace and Development Conference is my first formal engagement for 2019, and, so, let me use the opportunity to wish you, Asanteman, and the rest of the good people of Ghana, a happy and prosperous new year. I am mindful of the fact that we are already in the fifth month of the Hijri calendar, so whether in a Gregorian sense or in a Hijri sense, I pray for peace and progress for our nation in 2019. I remain committed to the transformational agenda we have embarked on, and, Ulama, I urge you to continue to pray for the Almighty’s guidance for me and my government, so that we would take the right decisions that would inure to the benefit of our people.
I thank you for the support that you continue to offer the Ministry of Inner City and Zongo Development and its passionate Minister, Sheikh Mustapha Abdul-Hamid. Effective co-operation and collaboration amongst you can result in the realization of our shared and collective vision of transforming our Zongo communities, and, thereby, erasing the development deficit that exists between Zongo communities and other areas of our country.
As co-chair of the Eminent Group of Advocates of the 2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, I have a high responsibility, together with my colleagues, to promote the implementation and financing of the 17 SDGs, and, ultimately, to make sure that Ghana attains these goals. Indeed, Goal No. 10 enjoins us to pursue measures that will reduce inequalities. Goal No. 16 requires of us to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”, whilst Goal No. 17 summons us to “strengthen global partnerships to support and achieve the ambitious targets of the 2030 Agenda”.
Chairperson, I established the Inner City and Zongo Development Ministry precisely because of the inequalities that exist between inner cities and Zongos, and other areas of our country. My Government is determined to carry along every Ghanaian living in every part of our country on the journey to development. In doing so, we shall not be blinded by partisan, ethnic, religious or gender considerations. As far as we are concerned, all loyalties pale into insignificance when it comes to our commitment to the Ghana Project, which is about the welfare, progress and prosperity of all Ghanaian citizens without distinction. That is the pledge I have made to you and the entire nation, one which I stand by.
We have to understand, however, that these good intentions and the desire for development will come to naught if we do not engender and strive for peace in our communities. That is why Cabinet has endorsed the proposal by the Inner City and Zongo Development Ministry for the activation of “Zongo for Peace and Development Initiative.” This Conference, the first in the series, is testament to that fact. It is my hope that the speeches and discussions that will take place today will help us fashion a strategy whose implementation will result in long term, sustainable peace in Zongo communities. I live in Nima, and I refuse to accept the “anti-peace/violent” tag associated with residents of Zongos. That is not, and can not be true. I have lived at peace with my neighbours in Nima for decades, stretching back to the days of the early period of my youth in my father’s house.
On the contrary, one thing I know is that Zongo people are fiercely loyal to one another. Perhaps this attitude is premised on the saying of the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Allayhi Wa’Salam) that,
“A Muslim is a brother of another Muslim, so he should not oppress him, nor should he hand him over to an oppressor. Whoever fulfilled the needs of his brother, Allah will fulfill his needs; whoever brought his (Muslim) brother out of a discomfort, Allah will bring him out of the discomforts of the Day of Resurrection, and whoever screened a Muslim, Allah will screen him on the Day of Resurrection.”
For this reason and more, we have a basis to continue to foster peace in our Zongo communities. The theme for this conference, “Building our Zongo Community through tolerance and peace” is, therefore, appropriate. Without peace, we cannot activate the processes that will lead to an improvement in the living standards of Zongo residents. Injustice or a sense of injustice can trigger frustration in people, and result in violence or violent behaviour. The famous reggae artiste, Peter Tosh, says, “everyone is crying out for peace, but none is crying out for justice.” I am mindful of this fact, and it is precisely because of the pursuit of developmental justice for inner city and Zongo people that I set up this Ministry.
The Qur’an states that, “Oh, you who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah as just witnesses; and let not the enmity and hatred of others make you avoid justice. Be just: that is nearer to piety; and fear Allah. Verily, Allah is Well-Acquainted with what you do” (Q:5:8). I shall continue to deal fairly and justly with all Ghanains, without regard to their political party affiliation, ethnicity, religion or gender. When we have brought transformation to inner cities and Zongo communities, it will be enjoyed by all, and not only by people who voted for me or hope to vote for me.
As we seek the right partnerships for the realisation of the sustainable development goals, it is my hope that, through the Zongo for Peace and Development Initiative, Government will continue to partner Zongo communities in order to bring progress and prosperity to their residents. Indeed, residents of Zongo communities, in the run-up to independence and up to about a decade after independence, were the natural allies of the Danquah-Dombo-Busia political tradition. I want to restore that alliance. The partnership that existed between my grandfather, Danquah, his colleagues and the leaders of the Muslim Association Party (MAP), including the celebrated Kumasi lawyer, the late Cobbina Kesse, my father’s great friend, motivates me to sign a new pact with you, which will restore the great partnership that heralded the birth of the United Party (UP). We must not let the toils of Amadu Baba and Othman Lardan, which earned them deportation to Nigeria by Kwame Nkrumah’s CPP government, go to waste. They sought partnership with the Danquah-Dombo-Busia tradition, precisely because they believed that this is the partnership that will bring development to the Zongo communities.
I am aware of the concerted efforts by some to dissuade you from signing on to this partnership. I am, however, comforted by what the Qur’an says, that “truth is distinct from falsehood; truth has come and falsehood has vanished; surely falsehood is bound to vanish.” We shall continue to act in ways that will expose their falsehood. 2019 promises to be a good year for development in our Zongo communities. I urge you to give the Zongo Minister, an ardent champion of the potential of residents of Zongo communities to chart a path of progress and prosperity for themselves, the maximum co-operation and support, so that, together, we shall improve the living conditions of all our people.
Chairperson, Regional Chief Imam, Ulama, I cannot come to Kumasi and not revisit the unfinished business of the death of seven of our compatriots at the hands of some police personnel last year. As promised, we set up a committee to look into the matter. Based on the recommendations of the committee, I asked the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to interdict the police personnel involved. Processes have been initiated that will result in the prosecution of any police person who is allegedly found to have acted outside the law. I am happy, though, also to announce to you that a compensation package totaling one million, seven hundred and fifty thousand Ghana cedis (GH¢1,750,000), i.e. two hundred and fifty thousand Ghana cedis (GH¢250,000) for each of the seven (7) families, is to be paid to the dependents of the deceased. Even though money cannot replace the life of a human being, it is being offered as a way of accepting the responsibility of the State in this tragic affair. In the circumstances, I appeal to you to continue to exercise restraint as this sad, unfortunate matter is addressed within the confines of the law and due process. I know some irresponsible people are exploiting the inevitable gap between the occurrence of the event and its final resolution to instigate residents of Asawase to resort to violence. I urge you to continue to ignore these agents provocateurs, and continue to hold the peace, as you have done so admirably up to now. I assure you that justice will be served. I am determined on it.
Sarakuna, Ulama, Ladies and Gentlemen, I wish to thank you, once again, for your continued patience and support for all the initiatives being undertaken by Government to bring development to the Zongos. It is not an easy task. But, with dedication and commitment, we shall touch the lives of each of the residents of the one thousand, and eighty (1,080) Zongo communities in our beloved nation.
May the Almighty continue to shower his blessings on us all, and may He continue to bless our homeland Ghana, and make her great and strong.
I thank you for your attention.