400 years after, Ghana’s “Year of Return” inspires mass return to motherland

More than 100 African-Americans granted citizenship by Ghana at a time when the US struggles with identity and racial tensions
400 years after, Ghana's "Year of Return" inspires mass return to motherland

It was the late reggae legend, Peter Tosh who, in one of his records, crooned along the lines of “I don’t care where you come from, as long as you’re a black man, you are an African”.

That statement has been subject to conjecture over the years, but one fact that is undeniable is that many African-Americans and Afro-Americans have expressed interest in tracing their roots back to the continent from which their ancestors were captured into slavery centuries ago, and to aid this quest, the Ghanaian government recently granted national citizenship to 126 African-Americans and Afro-Caribbeans.

In a year that has been tagged “The Year of Return” by the nation formerly named Gold Coast by colonialists, this could prove to be the biggest gesture of fellowship so far that has been extended to people of colour living in the diaspora.

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The event which was marked on November 27, 2019 in colourful fashion as the new citizens dressed in traditional attire, is made more significant by the fact that 2019 makes it exactly 400 years since the United States officially opened its harbours to slave ships for the first time.

To its credit, Ghana has always been at the forefront in attempting to reconnect African-Americans and Afro-Caribbeans to the African continent.

READ: ‘Year of Return’ attracts African-American tourists to Ghana

In 2001, the Ghanaian government passed the Right Of Abode Law, which confers rights on anyone of African ancestry in the Americas to stay in Ghana indefinitely. In 2016, former President John Mahama had 34 African-Americans naturalised into Ghanaian citizenship, and in June 2019 current President Nana Akufo-Addo embarked on a five-nation tour of the Caribbean to promote the “homecoming” initiative.

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It has been suggested that beyond its socio-cultural nuances, the move to extend citizenship to people in the diaspora also serves to boost Ghana’s tourism potential and influx of human capital, with the Afro Nation and Afrochella festivals – scheduled for December – expected to attract many young blacks from North America and the Caribbean.

This suggestion is valid, and economic gain is to be expected, but what is more important is how the opening of Ghana’s doors to diasporan Africans is totally in line with Pan-African values, and this move is one that Ghana’s first President, Kwame Nkrumah, would have been proud of.

In a world where African-Americans are struggling with identity amidst the racial tensions that still haunt the United States, an offer of free citizenship by an African nation couldn’t have come at a better time.

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The continent is by no means perfect, but it does provide a home for those who are frequently made to feel like they don’t belong in America, and evidently, these people are grabbing the chance to reconnect to the home of their ancestors, with both hands.

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