June 14, 2019
The Africa Connection

What a week it has been for St Vincent and the Grenadines! Last Friday there was the UN vote which put our tiny country not just on the Security Council but firmly “on the world stage”. This was a prelude to the visit of Ghanaian President Addo this week, interspersed by a very long holiday weekend, Monday for Fisherman’s Day and Tuesday, to recognize the significance of having won the Security Council seat.

We are also heartened to note the support of the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) for SVG’s seat on the Security Council. It comes as a rebuff to those of its supporters who engaged in the anti-SVG campaign, though the NDP statement shied away from even frowning on the actions. As a party which wishes to assume the reins of governance in SVG, it must be mindful of the saying that “you are known by the company you keep”.

The UN vote itself, overwhelmingly in favour of SVG over El Salvador, provided a fitting background to the visit of President Addo, especially in the context of SVG having garnered all 54 of the African votes at the United Nations, with facilitation from Ghana, we are told. It should herald a renewed thrust towards deepening relations with the African states both on a national as well as a Caribbean-wide level.

Too often in the past, Caribbean governments have raised hopes of their people’s obvious desire for meaningful relations. But the approach has been mainly one of fits and starts, not a sustained thrust either at the level of individual states or a wider regional level. Prime Minister Gonsalves has shown some inclination to be disposed towards a deepening of the process, but it needs more than initiatives at the leadership level.

The weakness of such an approach can be seen in the slow progress on the Reparations issue as in other well-meaning pronouncements. It calls for the government to go beyond the relatively narrow confines of the public service and the Unity Labour Party (ULP) party machinery to embrace those civil society actors and organisations who have real interest in pursuing Africa-Caribbean links.

Admittedly, there will be differences of views on the particular focus but these can be resolved. The tremendous enthusiasm surrounding President Addo’s visit must be utilized, beginning now. We would like to suggest that in the establishment of the proposed Ghana-SVG Commission, every effort should be made to engage civil society, at least those with genuine interest, as well as the Opposition in the process. Too often the best intentions of government are fouled up by the inappropriate choice of personnel for the purpose. One must have the right tools for the job!

A similar approach ought to be taken at the regional level for the ABCD (Africa-Brazil-Caribbean-Diaspora) Commission put forward by Prime Minister Gonsalves. Great idea, but it is in the implementation that progress will be made, or frustrations provoked.

All in all, we have been happy to play host to the Ghanaian delegation and look forward to a tighter embrace, not only of our African brothers and sisters, but also our Garifuna brethren in Central and North America, our Callinago and indigenous peoples in this hemisphere, and relations with the peoples of the Indian sub-continent and Europe who form part of our common heritage.