The MDJ asked His Excellency John Dramani Mahama about the state of radical Islamic terrorism in Africa and whether it was on the rise. Mahama said part of the problem is what has unfolded with the Arab Spring in north Africa.
“Of course, it’s people’s right to freedom and democracy and right to determine how their nation should be governed,” Mahama said. “But the dislodgment of Gadhafi and the strong men of north Africa has created a very fluid situation where a lot of arms have been taken out of armories and those countries have not yet established stable governments, and so there are a lot of armed groups from north Africa who are operating in the Sahara, and that is what caused the destabilization in Mali.”
There is also a pocket of terrorists in northern Nigeria and the Somalia region, he said.
“So yes, there are fundamentalists, you know, terrorist groups operating in Africa, and we need international cooperation and partnerships to be able to deal with it like we did in Mali,” he said.
Mahama believes the solution is “more social inclusiveness in nations in order not to create breeding grounds for terrorists. If people feel excluded and have no stake in the survival of the state, then they will destroy it for everybody, and so, in Ghana, what we try to do is to make sure that everybody, every Ghanaian, no matter where you live or where you come from feel that you are part of the survival of Ghana by making sure we share the fruits of economic growth equitably across the country.”
A noted gay author and the president of Ghana
Earlier this year, Andrew Solomon, winner of the National Book Award, wrote in the New York Times of his experience helping to promote Mahama’s memoir, “My First Coup d’État,” in 2010, and how Mahama thanked him in the book’s acknowledgments.
Shortly thereafter, the Ghanaian president, John Atta Mills, died and Mahama became president. The Ghanaian press, Solomon wrote, “suddenly exploded with references to Mahama’s relationship with me.” Solomon wrote that one article reported that, “Andrew Solomon reportedly gathered a few affluent people from the gay community to raise campaign funds for President Mahama with the understanding that when President Mahama won the elections, the president would push the gay rights agenda.”
Mahama was asked on Monday whether he supported gay rights in Ghana, specifically gay marriage.
“Well, like you’re saying, even here the question is not settled,” Mahama said, referring to how some states in the U.S. allow gay marriage and some do not. “It’s controversial. And it’s the same, it’s controversial everywhere else, especially in Africa. It’s a difficult situation, but I guess it’s something that –– it’s very difficult to comment on because often it creates more problems. People have a certain cultural hostility towards it, but I believe that laws must prevail. For instance, people must not be beaten or killed because of their sexual orientation, but in my country there is a strong cultural hostility towards it.”
Mahama laughed when asked if he would support gay marriage in Ghana in the future.
“It’s very difficult for me to ... I’d rather not comment on it,” he said.
The first sitting head of state at KSU
KSU president Dan Papp said Mahama’s visit marked the first time a sitting head of state visited Kennesaw State.
“It’s my first visit, but I’m impressed, and I’ve met faculty and staff, very warm, very friendly, and we’ve had discussions on the programs and the links that they have with universities in my home country, and I think they’re doing a fantastic job,” Mahama said.
Mahama gave a lecture on his country’s evolution as a democracy at Kennesaw State’s Bailey Performance Center to a crowd of about 600, and Papp asked him questions passed up from the audience on note cards.
“We’ve had former heads of state on campus before, but never a sitting head of state,” Papp said. “It does two or three things. First of all, obviously, it raises the visibility of Kennesaw State, not only in the United States but locally and internationally, and secondly, since President Mahama is the president of Ghana, and we are just concluding our ‘Year of Ghana,’ it raises the visibility and impact of our entire year of programs.”
“The Year of Ghana” is the 29th annual country study undertaken by KSU. Next year’s study is on Japan.
Kerwin Swint, who teaches political science at KSU, was among those in the audience. Swint sees the visit as a sign of the university’s growing international presence. KSU has connections with a number of foreign partners, whether universities, government agencies, or private sector interests that bolster its programs and give its students and faculty opportunities, Swint said.
Mahama was invited by KSU representatives while they were in Ghana doing research and teaching, Swint said.
“Ghana has become known as a model of stable, democratic rule in the developing world,” he said. “Their president is seeking to build on that reputation as their economy is positioned for growth, particularly in the field of oil and gas production. These kinds of relationships help to bolster American interests in that part of the world.”
Prior to his visit at Kennesaw State, Mahama addressed the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly.