Kufuor Adds Vigour And Charm To West African Politics

Lusaka- Zambia (PANA) -- Ghana's John Agyekun Kufuor, a newcomer in West African politics, says he can discern signs of emerging stability in the subregion, known for frequent military coups and cross-border wars that have scarred its landscape.
He also believes that the fiercely antagonistic leadership of the area is beginning to understand each other more than ever before.
"A week or two ago, President Eyadema was talking to me about opening our borders for 24 hours," Kufuor told PANA in an interview in Lusaka where he is attending the summit of African leaders.
He was referring to the warming up of relations between his country and Gnassingbe Eyadema's Togo, which have been at each other's throat for many years.
"This is a step forward," he says, referring to the entente between him and Eyadema, unheard of in the years of his predecessor, John Rawlings.
As a matter of fact, Kufuor's NPP party chided him for accepting an invitation from Lome to attend Eyadema's inauguration following the latter's disputed election victory, a few days after he himself was sworn into office in Accra.
"In time I would want us to appreciate the transitional nature of our situation in West Africa.
"We first came out of colonialism, finding ourselves in little pockets of statehood with artificial boundaries dividing us, with all the colonial languages impeding our understanding of each other," he said.
Analysts view this extremely reconciliatory move as a feat, considering the animosity that reigned between Togo and Ghana for many years, fuelled by mutual accusations that each was harbouring dissents bent on toppling their governments.
The Ghanaian leader says African leaders must imbibe the culture of reconciliation in order to speed up economic integration and improve the lot of his people.
He demonstrated this doctrine by making sure his first outings after his inauguration on 7 January were to the neighbouring countries.
He has literally made friends with all his peers in the subregion.
"We are human beings.
I think ideology, professions and occupations come after.
So my policy in the West African neighbourhood is good neighbourliness and I find it is working.
"I have very close relations with President Obasanjo, President Blaise Compaore, President Eyadema, President Gbagbo, President Kerekou, President Tanja of Niger, President Konare of Mali, President Tejan Kabbah, President Jammeh of Gambia who has been very very nice to me, President Wade of Senegal.
"We were stuck on the first time and we maintain very good relations," he said.
After 40 years, Kufuor said countries of the subregion moved from the immediate colonial era and entered a period of military strongmen who lorded it over the people in the poor countries.
Now, he added, they are ushering themselves into the information technology era.
"We are getting to know each other more.
We are getting to appreciate the necessary economic underpinnings for viable economic growth.
We are appreciating the forces of globalisation working on us, driving us to embrace each other more and more.
"So when we look at ourselves in such a continuum, we see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel," he added.
Kufuor wants to see more progress in ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States.
The Community's peacekeeping force, ECOMOG, has been involved in helping end the Liberian war.
It is also involved in the current peace efforts in Sierra Leone and in the border skirmishes pitching Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
He says the situation in Sierra Leone was stabilizing after rebels of the Revolutionary United Front agreed to participate in programmed elections.
Kufuor also appealed to international partners to help provide material support to enable the positioning of peace troops along the common borders of the three Mano River countries.
Ghana and Nigeria agreed last year to float a common currency in a "Fast Track" project to join the majority Francophone states in a bigger plan to set up a West African currency.
The Ghanaian leader talked about plans to facilitate easy movement of persons and goods across the borders of the 16 countries of ECOWAS.
Kufuor, 62, is a lawyer by profession.

10 july 2001 18:12:00

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