It’s been almost two weeks since Ghana rolled out the gold carpet for Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall. It was the Prince and Duchess’s first stop on their Colonizer Redemption Tour across West Africa.
I’ve been wrestling with my thoughts on the visit for the past week and decided to put pen to paper in the hopes of connecting with someone who felt the same way. I should start by saying that my own lived experiences in Ghana primed me to view this trip with a certain level of skepticism. I can point to being taught the ‘merits’ of colonialism in school, or seeing the many ways in which whiteness was often centered and valued in Ghanaian spaces. In many ways, whiteness still held power, albeit in one of the most historically Pan-African nations.
Ghana put its best foot forward for this Royal visit. Children were taken out of school, placed in their crispest uniforms and lined up to meet the Royals. The crème de la crème of the Ghanaian diaspora was gathered under one roof to showcase the diversity of Ghanaian talent. This was by any means, a grand occasion. Permit my cynicism, but I can’t imagine a state visit of a sitting Ghanaian president to the United Kingdom being so grandiose. Picture, it: Our President descending along a shut-down Oxford Street in a palanquin, carried by MI5 officers. British school kids line the streets waving Ghanaian and British flags. This sounds more like a Black Mirror episode than anything close to reality: It’s unfathomable.
One of the most puzzling highlights of the royal visit was when Prince Charles was conferred the highest civilian honor, the “Companion of the Order of Star of Ghana”. Remember being a child and showering your parents with compliments before asking for McDonalds? That’s what this reminded me of. (Note: Only half of the recipients of this award have been Ghanaians). We have a president so verbally adamant about relieving Ghana of the influences of foreign powers: a Ghana Beyond Aid. But what does that look like when we still seem to be entrapped in the clutches of neo-colonial influence?
Some may say that all of this is part of the game of diplomacy. And perhaps, this is why I may never occupy political office. I don’t care for the optics of maintaining problematic Commonwealth relations. Why does there always seems to be a budget for splashy parties for foreign diplomats but little for basic services? I would only entertain such a grand visit if the Prince arrived carrying all our stolen treasurers. At least the ones that sit in the palace he will *soon* call home. Call it reparations if you will.
As the pomp and circumstance fades away, we’re left with the sticky relations that exist between the colonizer and formerly colonized. A relationship that was marked by exploitation and violence for so many years. It’s certainly not the “shared history, shared future” that those large billboards across Accra would make you believe. So, then I may ask: Where do we go from here, if anywhere? I wonder how things could be different if we relieved ourselves of the old vanguard and placed a higher priority on new relationships with our African counterparts.
Kwabena is a Political Science major at Northeastern University. To get in touch, follow him on Twitter