I am grateful to you Right Honourable Speaker for the opportunity to make this rather difficult and traumatic statement.
On the 25th of May 2020, a day we on this continent observed as Africa Day – a fellow unarmed African American known as George Floyd was pinned to the ground by police officer Derek Chauvin who pressed his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds until he became unconscious and died.
The gruesome and extremely painful murder which was carried out in broad day light was captured on camera. The horrific video which will rank amongst the most despicable footage the world has ever seen came with the last words of “I can’t breathe” from a dying Mr. Floyd. Those distressing and extremely agonizing circumstances are forever etched in memory.
Mr. Speaker, the awful and depressing killing of Mr. Floyd must be condemned in the strongest possible terms and with all the force this august House can muster.
Mr. Speaker, this traumatic episode serves as a chilling reminder that the war against racism has not been won.
Mr. Speaker, the harrowing and shocking killing of George Floyd have sparked protests in many states in the United States of America and an impressive number of countries around the world.
It is absolutely remarkable to observe that despite grappling with a highly contagious COVID-19 pandemic which demands physical distancing to minimize the risk of infection, many have defied the pandemic and poured out in their thousands in countries such as Germany, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, France, Liberia, Brazil, Iran, Canada, Denmark, Kenya, Netherlands, South Africa and Mexico to register their revulsion and outrage at what happened in Minneapolis. We have seen some vigils in Ghana and the memorial ceremony by our Ministry for tourism and creative arts.
Mr. Speaker, the Floyd incident has brought back memories of Amadou Diallo, the Guinean immigrant, who was wrongly killed and shot 41 times by New York police officers on February 4, 1999; Laquan McDonald shot 16 times, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Jamar Clark, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Stephon Clark, Botham Jean, Breonna Taylor and many others.
Data collected by the Washington Post reveals that though Blacks make up 12% of the US population. However, from 2015 – 2019 they accounted for 26.4% of those killed by police under all circumstances.
Mr. Speaker, the world is grieving. Pope Francis condemned Floyd’s killing, prayed for those suffering from the “sin of racism” and cautioned: “My friends, we cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned racism and called for efforts to end inequality and discrimination: “Racism is an abhorrence that we must all reject,” he said; the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat issued strong condemnation and urged “authorities in the United States of America to intensify their efforts to ensure the total elimination of all forms of discrimination based on race or ethnic origin.”
Other world leaders including Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the killing of the unarmed African-American man by police as he told MPs in Parliament that: “I think what happened in the United States was appalling and inexcusable,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also called the anti-racism protests “understandable and more than legitimate.”
Here in Ghana, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and his predecessors, Former Presidents Jerry John Rawlings and John Dramani Mahama have been united in condemnation and leading calls for justice.
Mr. Speaker, racial injustice is a global issue and affects all of us. A few weeks ago we were all witnesses to what happened to fellow Africans including our own citizens in Guangzhou, China when based on mere suspicion of having contracted the novel coronavirus, they were subjected to some of the worse forms of stigmatization.
Mr. Speaker, a clear message must go forth that the black race has had enough. From slavery, colonialism, neo-colonialism, economic exploitation to structural and institutional racism, we have simply had enough. Black lives matter! We must force all those knees off our necks!
We hope US authorities will ensure justice is manifestly done. May this become a watershed moment in history and a positive turning point for blacks in that country.
Back home, it is important to also remember that justice must be done in the cases of our former colleague – J.B. Danquah Adu, Captain Maxwell Adam Mahama, the three Takoradi missing girls and Ahmed Hussein-Suale.
May the tumultuous happenings of the past few days bring an end to all forms of discrimination in the world and may we build for ourselves a fair and just society.
Mr. Speaker, kindly permit me to conclude this statement with the profound words of
Brian A. Nichols, the US Ambassador to Zimbabwe, who is African American and had this to say in the aftermath of Floyd’s killing: “As an African American, for as long as I can remember I have known that my rights and my body were not fully my own. I have always known that America, conceived in liberty, has always aspired to be better—a shining city on a hill—and that’s why I have dedicated my life to her service.”
May the world get better because we all aspired to be better.
I am grateful, Rt. Hon. Speaker.
About author: Okudzeto Ablakwa is the Member of Parliament for North Tongu and the Minority’s spokesperson on Foreign Affairs.