JJ Missing At Madrid Club

The Madrid Club, the largest forum of former Presidents and Prime Ministers dedicated to strengthening democratic values around the world, yesterday started a two-day roundtable conference for the Africa Region in Accra. The conference, which is discussing the African regional perspective on the political dimensions of the world economic crisis, saw in attendance former Presidents John Agyekum (Ghana), Benjamin Mkapa (Tanzania), Olusegun Obasanjo (Nigeria), and Percival Noel James Peterson (Jamaica). But conspicuously missing from the list of respectable former leaders was former President Rawlings. Even though Ghana is hosting the programme, Jerry, who is one of the most senior former leaders on the continent, was not at the opening ceremony. No official reason was given by the organizers for his absence, but the former President’s spokesperson, Kofi Adams, told Joy Fm that Rawlings was not invited to the event though he was a member. Adams who struggled with his explanations, added that his boss, was engaged in what he described as ‘equally important assignments’ in the country, but political observers suggested his absence could be more deliberate than the mere non-inclusion the spokesperson had said. Giving a keynote address on the opening day, vice President John Dramani Mahama said it was unfortunate that a time the African continent was making positive strides in economic stability and entrenching democracy, the efforts were being stifled by very perilous global threats, including food and fuel crisis, climatic change, global economic recession, which together were having a toll on trade, foreign direct investment, remittances, and overall aid levels. According to him, it was unfortunate that even though Africa had contributed least to the global recession and environmental pollution, she was suffering most for these dangers. Vice President Mahama said this year alone, direct remittances in Ghana dropped by over $70million. He also cited the withdrawal of a 1.9million pounds annual support from the British Government to the Ghana Armed Forces due to the recession. “From this stand point, the crisis has been most hurtful. The global financial crisis has imposed heavy burdens on African nations, especially in view of our existing capacity to manage the crisis as individual nations and as a continent is being stretched to impossible limited,” he said. He attributed some of the deepening woes of the continent to certain difficulties some developed countries were grappling with at home. “Development partners’ commitment to scale up development assistance, and even the actual disbursement of resources promised before the global crisis, have seriously lagged in a situation where the same partners are understandably pre-occupied with addressing their own domestic and regional economic and social problems”. He however expressed optimism, saying that Ghana’s resolve to meet the aspirations of her people would not be shaken.