Black Americans of African descent should return to the continent because they are not wanted in the United States, a government minister in Ghana has said.
Barbara Oteng Gyasi, the country’s tourism minister, urged black Americans to return “home” during an emotional ceremony in the Ghanaian capital Accra to mark the death of George Floyd.
“We continue to open out arms and invite all brothers and sisters home,” Ms Oteng Gyasi said. “Ghana is your home. Africa is your home. We have arms wide open, ready to welcome you home.
“You do not have to stay where you are not wanted forever. You have a choice and Africa is waiting for you.”
Ghana launched a campaign in 2018 to persuade black Americans either to move to the country or to visit it as tourists. “The Year of Return” initiative marked the quatercentenary of the first documented shipment of slaves from Africa across the Atlantic to the New World.
Ghana’s history is deeply linked to the slave trade. Its coastline is dotted with forts where European merchants held slaves purchased from raiding chiefs before the often deadly journey across the Atlantic.
Many believe that the slave trade is responsible for the West’s prosperity and Africa’s poverty. A return of black Americans to return to the lands from which their ancestors were snatched would mark a symbolic healing of old wounds while giving the continent an economic boost, officials in Ghana say.
Not everyone in Ghana has welcomed the minister’s words, however.
Efia Odo, a popular actress who grew up in the United States before returning to Ghana, said that unless the government of President Nana Akufo-Addo did more to deal with corruption and dilapidated infrastructure, Ghana would have little appeal to the diaspora.
“Fix your country first before you invite outsiders,” she wrote on Twitter.
Others pointed to faults with Ghana’s own police force, which has a reputation for brutality and venality, according to critics. There was anger in the country last October after three policemen who fell into an argument with a bus driver allegedly wrestled him to the ground and hacked him to death with machetes.