Friday, September 22, 2006

Corruption, intrigue . . . and wanderlust

One of Ghana's biggest selling newspapers, the state-owned Daily Graphic, yesterday led with a story about a cocaine shipment that was intercepted in April as it was being offloaded in a fishing bay.

The story contains police corruption and intrigue, with part of the 2,340kg haul disappearing soon after it was found on the MV Benjamin, which explains why it is still running five months on.

It also highlights the extent to which people will travel in the pursuit of commerce, licit or otherwise. Of the five chief suspects - who are still at large - three are South Koreans, while some of those arrested on the ship were Chinese. The judicial committee investigating the loss of part of the haul is also looking into a separate case surrounding bribery allegations, in which one of the protagonists is a Venezuelan drug baron.

I encountered the legitimate face of this globalisation today when I met Samir, a restauranteur of Lebanese origin. Born in Ghana and now sporting a wispy white beard, Samir told me his ties with Lebanon are no longer strong. Moreover, as a Lebanese Christian he finds himself growing distant from Ghana's predominant Shia Lebanese community, which he says is becoming radicalised by events in the Middle East.

The Lebanese reputation for mercantilism goes back to the time of the Phoenicians, and I even encountered descendents of the Lebanese diaspora during a three-year stint in Mexico. Their presence is particularly strong in west Africa.

When Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings led his second successful military coup in 1981 wielding a leftwing agenda for Ghana, there must have been some fears in the western diplomatic community that he would lead the country into the Soviet sphere of influence. Samir, who at the time owned a mill processing US aid in the form of wheat imports, said that soon after the coup he received an invitation to the US embassy.

“The ambassador wanted to know what I thought about Rawlings,” he said. “I told her that Jerry was okay. I said to her, ‘You Americans and Europeans flee at the first sign of any trouble in a country, but when you see the Lebanese staying, you know that country will be fine.’ ”


Dom said...

Dude, I think it is amazing what you are doing... good luck... and keep us up to date...

nestornoose said...

Stay cool smoke ice.
Keep us posted with your news.

Are you growing the curls back yet?

nestornoose said...

I'll let Frenchie know you've started a blog so he can join us

Anonymous said...

The Frenchie's here!!! Hope you're doing well Marcus! Were are you now?
Take care