Ghanaians in Stockholm mark Ghana's Independence Day

(Click here to see images from the day)

Many people, including non-Ghanaians, defied the cold weather to attend Ghana Union’s function to mark Ghana’s 53rd Independence Day celebrations at Kista Träff. The day luckily coincided with the day Ghana got independence – 6th March which fell on a Saturday this year. The night consisted of two parts – a lecture series on AIDS and political and economic developments in Ghana and then the usual disco night. The hall filled up slowly but when the dancing started, it was difficult to ask the revellers to leave the hall in order for the place to be cleaned up when it was time to close. Agoroma entertained the crowd and the Friendship Association Cultural Troupe gave a scintillating performance of the adowa dance that went down very well with the crowd.

The first part of the day started with Suberu Salam, President of Ghana Union, welcoming all to the function and regretting three deaths that the Ghanaian community suffered in the past few days: Agya Darkwa’s daughter who was barely 17, Barbara Turkson’s mum and the death in London of Chief Mensah who was a founding member of the Ghana Union in Stockholm. The gathering observed a minute’s silence in their honour. Anthony Turkson then talked about the political developments in Ghana and noted that there was a lot Ghana could learn from Sweden. He mentioned the Swedish system of mass education through ABF which Ghana could also copy. Ghana, he said, could also help other African countries in various ways. He called on Ghana to call for the protection of Africans leaving the continent to Europe for economic reasons. Baba Ibrahim-Nabigah talked on the economic situation of the country and called for the improvement of domestic investment as a means of solving our problems. Ms Angela Tarras-Wahlberg, in her speech, commended Ghana's peaceful existence since its independence and noted that the country has not had any civil wars and has its former presidents still living peacefully in the country.

Prof Sven-Britton gave the keynote address on the HIV/AIDS situation on the continent and in Ghana in particular. After commending Ghana for successful general elections that was better than that of the US eight years ago, he said, for once, he had some positive news to say about Aids in Africa. He said it has now been firmly established that the virus originated from the African chimpanzee somewhere in Congo and Cameroon but that even though Congo has been ravaged by war and poverty, with a prevalence rate of 5-6 %, it is not the country with the highest incidence of Aids on the continent. Researchers don’t know why that is so but he surmised that it may be due to the long presence of the virus there and that, perhaps, in a thousand year’s time, human beings would also be immune to the virus just like the Congo chimpanzees who carried it but were not sick of it but gave it to humans who got ill by it. The highest rates today are found in South Africa and Botswana where an awful 25 to 30 per cent (mostly women) could be carrying the virus which give the lie to the fact that it is a poor man’s disease. He mentioned the activities of miners in the country as a probable culprit. He lamented former South African president, Tabo Mbeki’s utterances on the disease and the behaviour of the present president, Jacob Zuma, with women. He said there are now 13 strains of the virus. The variant common in West Africa is Hiv2 which comes from the African green monkey and it is of a more benign type. It is dying by itself but being taken over by the more dangerous Hiv1. He said the Arab countries in Africa have the lowest prevalence rates with Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia having a rate of 0.1% which is almost like that in Sweden with a rate of 0.07%. In Ghana, the rate is 2.8% which is far better than in South Africa and Botswana or nearby Cote d’Ivoire which has double that rate. That rate has been stable in Ghana in the past 5 - 8 years meaning the message is getting home. Prof Sven-Britton commended Ghana’s efforts at fighting the disease and told his listeners that there is now a new slogan in the country: “Know Your Status” which encourages people to go for a free test to know whether they are carrying the virus or not. There are now many testing centres in Ghana and all who have tested positive to the virus are given free medicine. He has, himself, worked with the Aids clinic in Hohoe in the Volta Region and commended the clinic for doing a good job. He said many people on the continent, especially in the urban centres are, getting the message and the spread of the virus is being checked with rates coming down in East Africa. Answering a questioner, he agreed that circumcision has been shown to reduce the risk to contract the virus and that there were no differences between black and white persons in susceptibility of getting the virus.

Rishala Njie, President of AFRIS then gave information about the activities of the organisation. He called on his audience to take advantage of the opportunity to host home parties paid for by the organisation in which people are informed about Aids and other sexually transmitted diseases. Joe Etbon, President of Friendship Association, also spoke and urged AFRIS to extend its activities beyond Aids awareness information since that was not the only problem affecting the African community in Stockholm. He also suggested that the churches in Ghana be taxed as a way of raising revenue for the country since there are so many church organisations engaged in various activities.

The evening ended with a dance session that went on until 0100 hours when the remaining revellers were asked, against their will, to quit the floor so that the organisers could clean up the place. It was, all in all, a most successful evening. Many people met friends they had not seen for a long time. Enoch Ablorh prepared the kenkey that was enjoyed so much by all. There was not much left over for people to take home. There was also rice and chicken sauce but no salad. The beer was only of the strong type, 7.3 percent. Union secretary, Theophilus Kuranchie emceed the occasion and did a mighty good job at it.

(Click here to see images from the day)

Report and fotos - Kofi Sapathy

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