Predictably, in the wake of the ruling by the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in favor of Ghana vis-à-vis the latter country’s longstanding dispute with the leaders of La Cote d’Ivoire (or The Ivory Coast), its western neighbor, the gut reaction of former President John Dramani Mahama and his National Democratic Congress’ Abongo Boys and Girls was to burst into the sort of morally and culturally benighted jubilation that unwisely pitted a triumphant Ghanaian side against a losing Ivorian antagonists. At least that appeared to be the mindset of the leaders of Ghana’s main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), as was widely reported by nearly every one of the print and electronic media outlets in the country.
Naturally, I heaved a deep sigh of relief and thanked Divine Providence for having generously supervised the massive electoral victory of the erstwhile main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP). In all likelihood, had the Mahama-led rag-tag regime of the National Democratic Congress retained power in last December’s poll, the ITLOS verdict would have been roundly disputed or even flatly rejected by Cote d’Ivoire’s President AlassaneDramaneOuattara.
Refreshingly, President Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo took the diplomatically savvy approach of assuring the Ivorian leadership that the ITLOS verdict was not one of an “Us-Against-Them” proposition, as it were, but rather one that was firmly predicated on the fundamental reaffirmation of the longstanding bonds of kinship and sororal friendship that link the common destiny of our two nations together.
For, at the end of the day, even as Nana Akufo-Addo poignantly and aptly observed, it takes two to tango. It also took the laudably mature, albeit quite painful, gesture of acceptance by the Ivorian leadership that, indeed, Ghana had not slyly or mischievously veered into their internationally and globally recognized territorial waters to exploit their natural gas and crude oil resources. Out in the open seas, it goes without saying, territorial demarcations or boundaries are not easy to determine. We also know for a fact that the erstwhile colonial administrator of La Cote d’Ivoire, France, had staunchly backed its former subjects, obviously for self-serving reasons, even when it became indisputably clear that the Ghanaians had not strayed into their territorial waters.
In deciding to accept the invitation of Ghana’s former Foreign Minister and, before the latter portfolio, Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, President Ouattara admirably demonstrated that he fully appreciated statesmanship and Afrocentric good neighborliness. This is what clearly differentiates morally and psychologically mature Messrs. Ouattara and Akufo-Addo from an embarrassingly morally jejune and callow Mr. John Dramani Mahama. The preceding embarrassing state of affairs is hardly surprising, in view of the fact of what we uncomfortably know about the morbid narcissism of the former Rawlings Communications Minister, as eerily and sinisterly demonstrated in the wake of the passing of then-President John Evans Atta-Mills.
For Nana Akufo-Addo, even while duly congratulating the key legal lights on state side who had been involved in the ITLOS litigation with The Ivory Coast, what mattered most was that the losing side had been morally strong enough and honest, as well, to pragmatically accept the fact that the people and citizens of the two countries could not exist qualitatively at each other’s throats. In the final analysis, as bona fide members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the residents and citizens of both countries stood to gain and/or share in the good fortunes of one another. Of course, Nana Akufo-Addo was also addressing the epic sweep of the history of the immediate postcolonial era between the two closely related countries, when the Ghanaian leader solemnly observed that “there are a lot of things that we need to do to bring our two nations into greater intimacy than we have done in the past.”
Even more significantly, Nana Akufo-Addo shrewdly demonstrated his leadership flair by exhorting Mr. Ouattara to join hands with him in ensuring that the “technical decisions” arrived at by the ITLOS judges are promptly put into concrete practice for the mutual benefit of the brotherly and sisterly citizens of the two countries.
Author: Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.