The government, through the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry, is gearing up to meet descendants of the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade to mark 400 years since the first enslaved Africans were transported from Africa to North America.
Dubbed the ‘Year of Return,’ the sector Minister, Barbara Oteng-Gyasi, was in Parliament last Thursday and outlined activities lined up for the celebration, which included visiting some tourist sites across the country.
But, Members of Parliament, who happily welcomed the initiative and gave assurance of their support, were particular about how clean the environment was to host people from the diaspora for the celebration.
The same concern ran through almost all the submissions of members from both sides of the political divide.
While at it, the legislators called on the responsible sectors to factor that in the preparations, to ensure that, at least, the environment was clean for the celebration and beyond.
Making her submission, Mrs Bernice Adiku Heloo, MP for Hohoe, who could not hide her joy over the coming back of these African descendants, asked about the preparedness of the country.
“How ready are we? The cleanliness of our environment; the beaches around the Trans-Atlantic Trade Center, the museum and all that; we must make sure that we show that we are [the] clean country that His Excellency the President said we will be.
“Indeed, he said that he will make Accra the cleanest city in West Africa to start with. Are we clean? Are the cities clean? Are the centres clean? Please, let’s address these issues,” she ended, hoping the celebration would reflect Ghana’s readiness and hospitality, and also show that it is the beacon of hope.
Deputy Minister for Sanitation, Patrick Boamah, used his brief contribution to enquire whether tourist facilities in the country had been put in good state, including training, to welcome the tourists.
“Mr Speaker, are we ready in this Year of Return when we talk about sanitation, which we are battling with? Mr Speaker, it is very important, not because I’m the Deputy Minister. We are doing our part [and] we want the districts, municipal assemblies and all the townships that the Tourism Minister will be hosting some of the visitors be put on high alert and readiness to clean their various communities to ensure that we have clean environments,” he stated.
The MP also urged the security agencies, recounting the kidnapping of the two Canadian ladies, to strengthen security to ensure that the tourists are safe when they come into the country.
Addressing Parliament, the Tourism Minister, Barbara Oteng-Gyasi, said the Year of Return “shows proactive sensitivity of this country to the importance of showcasing resilience and achievements of African descendants living outside the continent, through the ages to the present and into the future.”
According to her, this year, the Steering Committee of the Year of Return, coordinated by the Ghana Tourism Authority, has endorsed over 78 events for the celebration.
“Mr Speaker, in a few weeks, Ghana will host [the] Panafest and Emancipation celebrations, expected to attract attendance by Africans in the diaspora. In August, we will also be welcoming members of the NAACP at Jamestown Accra to signify the exact 400-year date; August 20 1619 – August 20, 2019, when the first arrival of slaves occurred in Jamestown Virginia,” he remarked.