Thursday, November 30, 2006

Our Jean

Ms Jean then inspected a guard of honour mounted by a contingent from the Ghana Army and thereafter interacted with the Ministers of State and members of the Diplomatic Corps.

At the end of her interaction with the Ministers of State and members of the Diplomatic Corps, Ms Jean’s attention was caught by the drumming, dancing and acrobatic display by the cultural group.

Apparently enthused by the display, she went to the group to pay her compliments but ended up dancing, to the admiration of the dignitaries.

According to the programme for her visit, Ms Jean will hold bilateral talks with President Kufuor at the Castle and visit places, including the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre and the Supreme Court, as well as Canada-funded projects.

The visit is significant, as this year marks the 100th anniversary of the first major Canadian presence in Ghana’s history.

Besides, Ghana is the first country to receive Canadian development assistance and the country is the third largest trading partner of Canada in sub-Saharan Africa.
Canada has decided to give 480 million Canadian dollars to Ghana in support of the country’s development budget annually.

The decision followed the classification of Ghana, from among 14 other African countries, as a country of concentration for Canada’s development assistance.

Receiving the Governor General of Canada, Ms Michelle Jean, at the Castle, Osu, yesterday, President J.A. Kufuor explained that Canada had decided to select a few countries to receive substantial development assistance, instead of spreading the assistance to many countries.

Out of the 25 countries selected by Canada world-wide, 14 of them are in Africa. Ms Jean is in the country for a five-day official visit.

I have to agree with John Murney on this. Our Governor General is making a difference because she is different than other GG's in the Commonwealth.

She is a woman, yep we have had them before, she is a Hatian immigrant a Quebecois and black. And she is touring Africa.
And as you can see in the picture above she is not afraid to shake her booty. To get down with the ordinary folks.

Michaelle Jean only 2nd foreigner after Mandela to address Mali's parliament

The forgotten contient. Whose poverty is exasperated by its historic exploitation by the old colonial empires and Islam, and now by climate change created by the developed world but impacting on Africa. So there seems to be no outcry against her trip to Africa unlike the outcry over the last GG's globe hopping.

She has drawn attention to accomplishments in a variety of areas including peacekeeping, successful businesses that have been launched by community savings-and-loan institutions, a new skills-training centre, and agriculture and health programs that have helped save a disaster-plagued Malian village.

Most of those projects have benefited from the involvement of Canadians, either through government aid or the help of businesses or ordinary citizens.

Jean said earlier this week that she wants to prove to Canadians that the $1.5 billion spent annually by the federal government on aid to Africa does make a difference.

Jean has been outspoken as well.Denouncing slavery as Africa celebrates the official end of Colonial based Slavery on the contient, though many countries still practice this offense against humanity.

At a state luncheon given by Algeria's president, Jean spoke of her deeply personal attachment to Africa as a black Haitian-born descendent of slaves. It was the prelude to a sombre pilgrimage Jean plans to make next week in Ghana, where she will take a symbolic step through the infamous Door of No Return.

Thousands of Africans passed through that gated archway as they were whisked from a seaside fortress onto slave ships that carried them to their fate in the Americas.

"My ancestors were torn from their lives," Jean told a diplomatic audience in a speech Monday in Algiers.

"(They were) stripped of themselves, of their language, their name, their memory, their history, of their basic dignity as women and men, and were reduced to slavery and deported to the Americas. . . .

"This trip is especially meaningful and emotional for me. And I am delighted that my first state visits have brought me to this continent - to which I feel forever bound by history, by heart and by blood."

Michaelle Jean wept softly for several minutes Wednesday as she stared out from a seaside castle that still literally reeks from the stench of slavery.

The passing of generations hasn't erased the fetid trace of bodily waste in the dark, dank dungeons of Elmina castle where tens of thousands of human beings were stored like cattle.

The Governor General, a Haitian-born descendant of slaves, triggered a chain reaction of tears from her entourage as she broke into sobs while touching the rusty iron gate of the so-called the Door of No Return.

Her ancestors left this continent in shackles, piled like "pieces of ebony" into the rickety slave ships bound for Haiti. They survived the long march to the coast and spent weeks chained in the clammy castle, before being branded with the insignia of their owners and then herded through the door to waiting slave ships.

Tour guide Charles Adu Arhin told her the women were starved and subjected to frequent rapes. They lived in their own filth and were punished for resisting rape by being chained to heavy cannon balls and left in the blazing tropical sun.

"I stood in the women's room where they were jailed and thought of my own ancestors," Jean, visiting as part of a three-week African tour, said later. "I was very troubled."

The fort was built by the Portuguese in the 1400s, who used it first for trading gold and salt, before realizing humans were a far more valuable commodity. When the Dutch took over the fort in the 1500s, they increased the export of slaves by nearly threefold.

It wasn't until the late 1800s that the transatlantic slave trade was finally stopped. By then, an estimated 17 million Africans had been carried across the ocean.

Now, the Ghanaian government is embarking on a controversial tourism campaign called Project Joseph, after the biblical figure who was betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery, and who forgave them many years later. The project is a tourist program aimed at the global black diaspora in an effort to draw people here to rediscover their roots.

An apology for the country's historical role as slave raiders is part of the campaign.

Trailing a large entourage of Canadian delegates, Ghanaian officials and media from both countries, Arhin led Jean to the dungeon where slaves were once led to the waiting boats.

"The people who entered here knew they would not return," he said. "But thank God you've returned."

and calling for womens rights.

There were some uncomfortable grumbles and glances in Mali's parliament yesterday when Michaelle Jean urged the African country to extend unprecedented rights to its women.The handful of elected females beamed and cheered on Canada's Governor General from their seats.

One leading newspaper columnist compared her with sporting greats Muhammad Ali and Pele.

Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean's speech to the Malian parliament earned front page coverage in most of the country's newspapers. Her plea on behalf of women's rights earned the lion's share of the attention and the banner headlines. "There is no governance without equality between men and women," was the cover headline of L'Independant, quoting Jean.

And for celebrating Canada's real Foreign Affairs successes not by sending troops to Afghanistan to fight Americas war but by helping an impoverished African village renew itself. For a measly $35,000 intial investment.Which is a far cry from the $9 billion it is expected we will spend in the war in Afghanistan. This is real reconstruction. Africa is where Canada can make a real difference. And it is Chretien's legacy, something the Tories won't talk about.

African village lauds Canada for lending helping hand
Assistance has made world of difference

BENIELI, Mali — An African village that has endured a near- biblical string of hardship found a few good reasons to throw a party Sunday.

Hunger once ran rampant in the mud and straw huts that sprinkle this craggy Malian plateau. Droughts were common and still are.

Then there was the locust plague that devastated crops and stripped every leaf off every tree last year.

The children's bloated bellies spoke to widespread malnourishment. Many never stood a chance of even making it that far.

Pregnant women frequently died by the highway as they walked or rode carts pulled by donkeys for 18 kilometres to the closest birthing centre.

But the crowd of 1,000 festive locals who clapped, danced and sang with Gov. Gen Michaelle Jean on Sunday spoke proudly of better days ahead.

“ We can only thank Canada," said Oumarta Tapily, the mayor of a conglomeration of area hamlets.

Villagers gave the governor general a goat with a Canadian flag stuck into its collar, which Jean petted affectionately but did not plan to take home with her.

The turning point in this village began with Yaiguere Tembely, who started a women's group and sought help for women in the surrounding area several years ago.

“ We needed to do something," she said in an interview.

“ So I went looking for partners . . . and somebody told me about the Canadians."

Her first priority was to launch a contraceptive program that would prevent the spread of AIDS and help control population growth. She got that help at the Canadian embassy seven years ago.

Then came the microfinance program. And the cereal banks that stabilized grain prices. And the health centre.

All are Canadian contributions that have turned the page on some of the misery.

A male nurse stands outside the health centre, built with $ 50,000 from Canada but run with local funds. The walls of this stone- cement block are splashed with posters full of information about contraceptives and HIV.

This is where the women of Benieli and surrounding towns now come to bear their children. The 29- year- old nurse praises God and says no woman has died in childbirth since the centre opened two years ago.

Behind the centre is a new grain mill that towers over the village. The local women bought it with profits from their new businesses selling soap, clothing and vegetables.

Those business ventures were launched with loans from the new microfinance program. The Canadian funded institution has a 100 per cent loan- repayment rate and has seen its value grow to $ 350,000, from an initial Canadian investment of $ 35,000.

The food shortage was also crippling this community, with observers reporting children so hungry they could not speak or walk. They reported one five- year- old who weighed just 13 pounds.

Canadians introduced the villagers to vendors who could provide betterquality millet, onion and potato seeds, and helped dig ditches to reduce soil erosion.

Malnutrition rates now stand at three per cent, a huge improvement over the near- ubiquitous hunger of just a few years ago.




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