The embattled Ghana High Commissioner to South Africa, Mr George Ayisi- Boateng, has rendered an unqualified apology to President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and the people of Ghana for making politically incorrect remarks at a forum in Kumasi last weekend.
He said his statements were unfortunate and at variance with the letter and spirit of the Fourth Repulican Constitution and the dignified office of High Commissioner which he occupied.
In a statement signed by himself and issued in Accra yesterday, Mr Ayisi-Boateng said: “I am aware that as the representative of Ghana to South Africa, I have a responsibility to protect the interest of all Ghanaians within my jurisdiction and grant them equal access to opportunities that are presented, irrespective of their politicalaffiliation.”
Mr Ayisi-Boateng was reported to have said, while addressing members of the Tertiary Students Confederacy Network (TESCON) in the Ashanti Region last weekend, that his first priority was to members of the party and that if he had his own way, members of TESCON would be prioritised for various jobs.
He has been quoted as having said that “…this government is doing its best to create job opportunities and me, for instance, I told my people over there [that] it is because of NPP that I’m here, so the NPP man is my priority. I told them when NDC was in power, it was Kwesi Ahwoi who was there; now we are in power so Ayisi-Boateng is here with you. My topmost priority are the problems of an NPP person before any other Ghanaian, take it or leave it”.
In his apology, the diplomat said: “I regret the effect of my speech delivered to young party members which has generated public outcry.
“I, therefore, wish to retract my comments and render an unqualified apology to the Presidency and all Ghanaians.
“I have, upon sober reflection, decided to retract the comments I made during my interaction with some members of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) in the Ashanti Region over the weekend,” he said.
Before the apology, Mr Ayisi- Boateng’s comments had attracted criticisms from the Minority in Parliament, civil society groups and individuals, with some of them calling on him to apologise or for his removal from office.
A retired Ghanaian diplomat, Mr K.B. Asante, said the comments were not only “nonsense” but “rubbish”.
Reacting to Mr Ayisi-Boateng’s comments, the Minority in Parliament called on President Akufo-Addo to withdraw his appointment for making the politically divisive statement.
A statement signed by Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, the Member of Parliament (MP) for North Tongu and Ranking Member on the Foreign Affairs Committee of Parliament, on behalf of the Minority, said: "The Minority in Parliament has taken judicial notice of the rather defiant, intransigent, stubborn, obstinate, obdurate, adamant, stiff-necked and unremorseful posture of Ghana's disgraced High Commissioner to South Africa, H.E. George Ayisi-Boateng."
It said while Mr Ayisi-Boateng's "apparent suicidal mission", in the face of overwhelming condemnation by decent minded Ghanaians, had made him the "Chemical Ali" of Ghana's Diplomatic Service, the Minority in Parliament, like most Ghanaians, believed the ball was now squarely in the court of President Akufo-Addo to show Mr Ayisi Boateng the exit.
"For a country that is famed for producing internationally celebrated and distinguished diplomats of the highest calibre in the persons of Kofi Annan, Dr Alex Quayson-Sackey, Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambers, Mr Alex Quartey, just to mention a few, it surely must be an affront of monumental proportions to keep Mr Ayisi-Boateng in this reputable league of diplomats for an extra minute," it said.
The statement said anything short of giving the High Commissioner to South Africa the sack by President Akufo-Addo "can only mean that the President endorses his deplorable statements and perhaps explain Mr Ayisi-Boateng's continuous show of rare spiteful bravado".
It said the loud silence of Ghana's Foreign Minister, Ms Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, and the government, led by President Akufo-Addo, especially in the face of some reprehensible support from sections of the NPP, led by its acting Chairman, Mr Freddie Blay, was most troubling, as it had the tendency to convey a tacit approval of the egregious sins of their chief diplomat in South Africa.
"Ghanaians have heard enough from virtually everyone, including former Foreign ministers and ambassadors who have lined up to condemn Ayisi-Boateng and attempt to salvage what is left of the hitherto enviable reputation of Ghana's Diplomatic Service. However, the time to hear from current officialdom is now," it said.
The statement said the Minority would not relent in demanding action on the matter. It said the Minority had considered its options under the Constitution and the Standing Orders of Parliament and could trigger further processes if the government’s inertia continued.
"A clear message ought to be sent to public officials that Article 17 of the Constitution of Ghana, which forbids discrimination, must be respected and that people with the Ayisi-Boateng mindset which suggests some Ghanaians are more Ghanaian than the rest of us will have no hiding place to nurture their bigotry and prejudice," it said.
For its part, a pressure group, OccupyGhana, called for Mr Ayisi- Boateng’s removal following his comments that his topmost priority was towards members of the NPP before other Ghanaians.
OccupyGhana, in a statement said: “OccupyGhana is disgusted and appalled by High Commissioner George Ayisi- Boateng’s discriminatory comments that pitched partisan interests above those of other Ghanaians. We are even more shocked by his unrepentant expression of lack of remorse in the face of the massive expression of disappointment at his divisive comments. We do not have to remind the High Commissioner that as a public officer of his standing, he is required to speak both with honour and from a patriotic disposition. He has failed in this regard.
“We do not have to remind the High Commissioner that he must operate above party cronyism and the prioritisation of partisan interests above the supreme interests of the Ghanaian people.
“We do not have to remind the High Commissioner that his comments run counter to the theme of his own party’s manifesto: ‘An Agenda for Change. Creating Prosperity and Equal Opportunities for All.’ He has failed in this regard too.
“We cannot condone such statements and we condemn them in no uncertain terms as unbefitting of an envoy and holder of a highprivileged diplomatic office. We also condemn the statement made by the acting NPP Chairman, Mr Freddie Blay, that suggested support for Mr Ayisi-Boateng’s position.
“We demand from Mr Ayisi-Boateng an unqualified apology to the people of Ghana for both his appalling initial comments and his subsequent statement expressing lack of remorse.
We call on the NPP and the government to denounce the statement and demand a full retraction and apology. If he should fail or refuse to do that, then we respectfully and humbly call on the President to remove Mr Ayisi-Boateng from office as High Commissioner,” OccupyGhana said.
The General Secretary of the Christian Council of Ghana, Rev. Dr Kwabena Opuni-Frimpong, called on NPP stalwarts to condemn Mr Ayisi- Boateng’s divisive comments.