In the heart of Accra, Ghana’s capital, just a stone’s throw from the U.S. embassy, lie the tombs of civil rights leader W.E.B. Du Bois and his wife, Shirley. The founder of the NAACP settled in the city’s serene residential area of Labone and lived there until his death in 1963.
Mr. Du Bois’ journey to Ghana may have signaled the emergence of a profound desire among Africans in the diaspora to retrace their roots and return to the continent. Last year, in Washington, D.C., Ghana’s president, Nana Akufo-Addo, formally launched the “Year of Return, Ghana 2019” for Africans in the diaspora, giving fresh impetus to the quest to unite Africans on the continent with their brothers and sisters abroad.
“Next year symbolizes a moment in time where people of African descent regardless of where they exist within our diaspora can reconnect and map out a future which establishes Africa and her descendants in their rightful place on the world stage,” said NAACP President Derrick Johnson.
U.S. Congress members Gwen Moore of Wisconsin and Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, diplomats and leading figures from the African American community, attended the event.
Since independence in 1957, successive Ghanaian leaders have initiated policies to attract Africans abroad back to Ghana.
In his maiden independence address, the then Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah sought to frame Africa’s liberation around the concept of Africans all over the world coming back to Africa.
Ghana’s parliament passed a Citizenship Act in 2000 to make provision for dual citizenship, meaning that people of Ghanaian origin who have acquired citizenships abroad can take up Ghanaian citizenship if they so desire.
That same year the country enacted the Immigration Act, which provides for a “Right of Abode” for any “Person of African descent in the Diaspora” to travel to and from the country “without hindrance.”
“The paradox of being an African American is that we occupy spaces where we are not being considered as citizens. So I love the idea of Ghana taking the lead to kind of help African Americans claim their ancestral space,” said Amber Walker, a media practitioner. “It is a step in the right direction.
About half a million Africans in the Diaspora are expected to take part in “The Year of Return Ghana 2019.” Out of the number, 350,000 participants would come from North America, while the rest would come from the Caribbean, South America and Europe.
The “Year of Return, Ghana 2019” will coincide with the biennial Pan African Historical Theatre Festival (Panafest), held in Cape Coast, home of Cape Coast Castle and neighboring Elmina Castle – two notable edifices recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites. [IDN-InDepthNews]