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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Cash Prizes Inadequate ! - Artistes

By Stephen K. Effah
Saturday, 29 March 2008


For the first time in its nine-year history, award winners of the Ghana Music Awards (GMA) festival will from this year, receive cash prizes in addition to the customary trophies and the phone call credits given them.

Consequently, each artiste who wins an award in the various categories is to get GH¢1,000 plus GH¢500 worth of call credits and a hamper from the mobile telecommunication giant, MTN.

The winner of the topmost award, Artiste of the Year, will take home GH¢3,000 and GH¢1,000 worth of call credits plus a hamper from MTN, Mrs.Theresah Ayaode, Executive Director of Charter House, organisers of the event, announced last Tuesday at the launch of the awards in Accra.

The announcement of the cash prize has been welcomed as a step in the right direction by some musicians and players in the music industry, since they have long been agitating for cash prizes as part of the awards.

Notwithstanding the development, a number of artistes interviewed on the cash additions by the Times, appeared not to be pleased with the amount involved, which they said was "a bit small," considering the prestige of the awards.

The 2006 Hip life Artiste of the year, Castro, told the Times that though the cash introduction was laudable, "the money is too small, they should add more," pointing out that the GMA is the country’s highest music awards, hence prizes should reflect the awards’ caliber.

A-Plus, who has been nominated alongside five other artistes for the Hip life Song of the Year, wondered why the "Artiste of the Year" could not be given GH¢13,000 cash prize.

He noted that even those who are yet to hit stardom are given car prizes for winning reality shows like the Stars of the Future, which is also the brainchild of Charter House, and wondered why the Artiste of the Year could not be given something equivalent to that.

"Those who are stars of the future get cars as their prizes and those of us who are stars of today get carved wood." He argued that if yet-to-be stars are given car prizes, then musicians who are stars already should be given something better than that as prizes.

To him, although the cash prize is good, he prefers the trophies to the cash prize, which he said is a legacy that would be there forever.

For his part, Frank, a member of the hip life duo Wutah, told the Times "it is good that money has been introduced, it is not something a well established artiste would appreciate," adding "some artistes takes three times the amounts after performing for 30 minutes on stage".

He was of the view that the money should be increased, but said, the trophy is "more prestigious than the money".

The Manager of Kwaw Kesse, Feneck, said the amount should be raised, arguing that if Miss Ghana and winners of other beauty pageants are given cars as their prizes, "why can’t a whole Ghana Music Awards give something in that range."

He therefore urged more corporate bodies to sponsor the GMA festival, as he said, "all their jingles were made with our music free of charge and should not fail to give it back to the musicians".

A member of the trio, Praye, said: "We have cried over it (money) for sometime now, so it is a step in the right direction," but said, there should be an increment in the money package in subsequent awards.

Praye ‘Ho Ne Ho’ therefore urged both individuals and the corporate world to support the awards festival financially to make it successful.

Praye also urged the organisers to actively involve the musicians in the awards, saying "it is about time that musicians are actively involved in the awards," and cited the Black Entertainment Television (BET) awards of the United States as an example.

He said that the masters of ceremonies for BET awards for instance, are musicians, who he said, should be emulated by the organisers of the GMA festival rather than picking those who are not musicians.

The GMA festival awards night, scheduled for April 25, at the National Theater, will be preceded by gala night on April 23, and climaxed with a massive outdoor jam to celebrate the award winners. An international artiste is expected to grace the occasion.

Theatre Groups Hold Easter Drama Fiesta

By Stephen K.Effah
Saturday, 29 March 2008


Six theatre groups from the Ghana Union of Theatre Societies embarked on a series of drama performances in Accra last week to mark the Easter festivities, and to coincide with this year’s International Theatre Day, which fell on Thursday, March 27.

Dubbed: "Easter Drama Fiesta," it was aimed at giving Ghanaians the opportunity to experience and enjoy live theatre performance and rekindle the dying theatre industry in the country.

The International Theatre Day was instituted by the International Theatre Institute based in France, to celebrate the power of the performing arts of bringing people together. It is an opportunity for theatre people to share with their audience, a certain vision of their art and its capacity to contribute to understanding and peace between peoples.

Each of the groups,Theatre Mirrors, Theatre Vibrators, Vision Theatre, Smile Theatre, Fihankra Players and Universal Theatre, performed one drama, which included "the Gods are Not to Blame, Fire in the Bedroom, For the Love of a Woman and the Phone Call."

Speaking to the Times at the opening ceremony, Robert Koduah, public relations officer of Fihankra Players, said the annual event has been in place for the past 12 years, but regretted that not much interest has been shown in the country’s theatre arts.

His claim was evident by the number of people who turned up for the eight-day event, as only the members of the various groups at most of the time sat as the audience for the performances.

"Theatre is now dying in Ghana, people have lost interest in it," he said, adding that films have now taken the centre stage.

He challenged the theatre community in the country to help resuscitate the theatre industry since it has a lot of potential. He noted that the Ghana Union of Theatre Societies has been unearthing talent for the film industry.

"Theatre has been able to produce actors like Fred Amugi and David Dontoh, among others, who are making it big in the film industry now, hence it is about time the industry is saved from collapsing," he said.

Abdul Sheriff, stage manager of Theatre Mirrors, in his opening address, said although the theatre industry is one of the most lucrative business in the world "in Ghana, it has not been rewarding at all," adding that artistes are not respected in Ghana as they are seen as "jokers."

However, the fate of the dying theatre industry, he said, should partly be blamed on the artistes themselves, noting "we make ourselves cheap" for producers to exploit us. "We must be disciplined and not allow ourselves to be seen as jokers."

He urged the artistes in the theatre industry to stand united and with a common cause, fight hard to redeem their image and that of the industry.

Mr. Sheriff commended the MP for Berekum, Captain Nkrabeah Effah-Darteh, for the support and interest he had shown in the industry in the bid to ensure that it is sustained. Capt Effah-Dartey besides forming Theatre Mirrors, is also the President of the Ghana Union of Theatre Societies.

TRIPARTITE C'TEE TO HANDLE REFUGEES' CASE

By Stephen K Effah
Saturday, 29 March 2008


A Tripartite Committee, made up of representatives of the Ghanaian and Liberian governments and the UNHCR, has been formed to monitor and handle the situation of Liberian refugees in Ghana, and oversee their eventual repatriation home.

This follows consultations in Accra between the two governments and the UNHCR as a result of the recent protests by the refugees at the Buduburam settlement over their repatriation package.

Mr Kwamena Bartels, Minister of the Interior, led Ghana’s team for the talks, while Mrs Olubanke King-Akerele, Liberia’s Foreign Minister, led that country’s delegation.

A joint statement signed by Nana Obiri Boahene, Minister of State at the Interior Ministry , and Mrs King-Akerele, said the refugees will be dispersed for better management and monitoring in consonance with the mandate of the tripartite committee.

It said those refugees currently at the Kordiabe camp should be returned to the Buduburam settlement and subjected to good behaviour and respect for Ghana laws.

The statement said that those refugees who registered to return voluntarily under the UNHCR Voluntary Repatriation Programme prior to the crisis, would be encouraged to do so.

It acknowledged the concrete steps achieved so far following deliberations between the representatives of the two governments, citing the termination of the month-long protest by the women in the camp.

Other achievements, the statement mentioned, include a decision by the UNHCR to resume its voluntary repatriation pro-gramme and normal humanitarian assistance to the refugees at the settlement.

It said there is also "recognition and acceptance by the Liberian refugees that repatriation back to Liberia is the only viable option."

Mrs King-Akerele was grateful to the Ghana government for its cooperation, "We appreciate that we had concrete achievements," she said, adding that the Liberian government is happy that the UNHCR has decided to resume its voluntary repatriation.

She apologised to the Ghana government for the embarrassment the protests have caused the country, saying "they expressed regrets when we met with them."

She expressed her government’s readiness to assist the committee in its work.

Nana Boahene assured the Liberian delegation that Ghanaians will live with the refugees in harmony.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

CHRAJ Sensitizes Media On Human Rights Issues

By Stephen K. Effah
Wednesday, 19 March 2008


The first of a series in regional sensiti-sation workshops aimed at broadening journalists’ knowledge on human rights issues to enable them to report on such issues more efficiently, was held in Accra yesterday.

Organised by the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), it sought to educate them on the functions of the commission and to strengthen its relationship with the media.

A Deputy Commissioner of CHRAJ, Richard Quayson, said that the peace that the country is enjoying is due mainly to the growing culture of respect for human rights and dignity.
As a result, he said, the commission does not take the issue of human rights and dignity for granted.

Since the establishment of the commission, he said, it has pursued an agenda aimed at realising a free, just and equitable society where fundamental human rights are protected
"Our agenda, therefore, is to deepen this culture of respect for human rights and human dignity, and make it the way of life for all persons," he added.

The commission is promoting and inculcating values of integrity and accountability within the body politic and also helping to fight corruption in all its forms, Mr Quayson said.

That, he explained, is the surest way to develop peace, security and friendly relationships within the country and promote social progress and better standard of life in larger freedom.

He said the commission requires credible partners committed to defend the cause of freedom and of right to accomplish its mandate, and therefore urged the media, which the CHRAJ sees as a credible partner, to help.

Mr Quayson said the partnership between the media and the commission would begin a new wave of human rights consciousness "where people of all walks of life will be empowered with human rights knowledge."

Reverend Duke Hammond, Director of Administration of CHRAJ, said the fact that the commission has does not often investigate high-profile cases does not mean it is not working, adding that there are a lot of cases it had addressed without making it public.

He said that CHRAJ is rated as one of the best human rights institutions in Africa and the world at large, hence it will not rest on its oars.

Rev. Hammond urged the media to establish human rights desk in their various organisations to promote human right issues which are not covered extensively, saying it will go a long way to help the commission and the country.

He said that out of the 138 districts in the country, the commission is present in only 100 districts but they are being manned by university graduates, adding that the commission will do an audit of the newly created districts to establish which of them needs an office as a matter of urgency.

The commission has the mandate to "investigate private enterprises as far as violation of human rights is concerned," but cannot investigate an issue before a court or judicial tribunal.

"We cannot investigate a matter involving relations or dealings between the government and any other government or an international organisation and a matter relating to the exercise of prerogative of mercy," he stated.

Most of the cases addressed by the CHRAJ, he said, are done through negotiations and mediation, adding "not more than three per cent go through full blown panel hearings."

Rev Hammond underscored the need for government to resource the commission to reduce its dependence on donors, whose support come with some constraints.

A Trafficked Woman's Ordeal In Russia

By Stephen K. Effah
Thursday, 27 March 2008


A VIVID example of what some people go through in their bid to seek greener pastures in Europe emerged on Tuesday at a forum on human trafficking.

With a monthly income of GH¢150 in Ghana, a bread baker’s dream of earning more money in Russia as a nanny turned sour when she found herself lured into prostitution.

Desperate to travel, she abandoned baking and was trafficked to Russia.

On her arrival in Russia, where she thought she would be working as a nanny, she was housed with some Ghanaians and Nigerians for two weeks after which her passport was seized and she was given a cell phone, taxi fare, and an address at where she was to start work.

It was not until she arrived at the address that she found out that she was to work as a prostitute, and had to on the spot sexually satisfy three men.

Luckily, she was able to contact the Ghana Consulate in Russia which rescued her the next day.

Mr Eric Peasah, Counter-Trafficking Field Manager of the International Organisation of Migration narrated the ordeal of the bread baker at a media forum on human trafficking in Accra on Tuesday.

He blamed the increasing cases of human trafficking in the country on the desire of many Ghanaians to travel abroad.

"Trafficking in persons is increasing these days because people are desperate to travel, especially so at a time advertisements and flyers promising work abroad are everywhere," he said.

He advised people to be circumspect in their desire to seek greener pasture abroad in order to avoid being victims of human trafficking.

Mr Peasah called for a concerted effort to nip in the bud the emerging human trafficking in Ghana , saying even though statistics are scarce due to the underground nature of the business, since 2002, 642 children trafficked to work in fishing communities along the Volta Lake have been rescued by his organisation.

Children as young as three years are trafficked by their parents to work in fishing communities along the lake due to poverty but, Mr Peasah said, the good news is that people are now discerning and "some have now started going for their children due to the suffering the children go through."

The forum, organised by the Christian Council of Ghana as part of its anti-child trafficking programme, was aimed at building the capacity of journalists in reporting on human trafficking.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

28th Feb Shooting Incident Immortalised In Film

By Stephen K. Effah
Saturday, 01 March 2008


AN animated film on the three Ghanaian ex-servicemen gunned down by a British colonial police officer on February 28, 1948, whose deaths marked a turning point in the independence struggle, is expected to be premiered on July 1, in Accra.

The 60-minute cartoon film was outdoored on Thursday, to mark the 60th anniversary of the incident.

It is aimed at presenting the event from the perspective of some of the veterans who witnessed it, to the children and the youth in an interesting manner.

Produced by Parable Productions, advocates of students and children’s literature through folklore, "28 February-Crossroads" forms part of a National Heroes project by the company to revisit some significant events in Ghana’s history in an animated form.

The film begins with the normal life of the three veterans Sergeant Adjetey, Corporal Attipoe and Private Odartey Lamptey through to their gunning down on February 28 at the Osu (Christiansborg) Castle.They were on their way to present a petition on their conditions of service to the then governor of the Gold Coast.

The three who fought with their allied forces during the Second World War, were former members of the Gold Coast Regiment of the Royal West African Frontier Force.

Soundtrack for the film, which is in production, was chosen from the 1940s and 1950’s classic tunes including that of the legendary E. T. Mensah — Ekuusen baadon, "Tea, tea, tea" as well as Ephraim Amu’s Yen ara asase ni.

Also, the company is working on similar animated films, "Tetteh Quarshie and the Golden Pod", "Asantewaa — The Making of a Kingdom" and "The Pride of Adinkra" among others.
It will also come out with a 30 minute TV series on children called Akwaaba.

Speaking to Times Weekend, Cecil Jones Abban, President of Parables Productions, said it was about time that historical events of the country are explored and presented in an interesting manner to the youth.

He expressed regret that most of the historical events and stories about the country’s heroes are left for foreigners to tell which should not be the case, adding that most of the heroes were resourceful, thus good role models to project for the children to learn from.

The company needs about GH¢200,000 to finish the work on the animated cartoon and called for the support of all stakeholders and corporate organisations to support the project.

Mr Abban underscored the need for the country to recognise animated movies since it has the potential to earn the country huge sums of money and at the same time create awareness about pertinent moral issues.

Burger Highlife Rocks National Theatre

By Stephen K. Effah
Saturday, 15 March 2008

THE second Burger High-life Concert staged at the National Theatre in Accra last Saturday, proved that highlife is firmly rooted in the country to the extent that no other genre can match its popularity.

It undoubtedly generated nostalgia for great songs and performances of the 1980s and the early 1990s.

For about three hours, six of the maestros of that genre took turns to deliver old hits, bringing back fond memories to the audience.

In spite of the low turnout, the event, organised by the Goethe Institut to celebrate and to let the public have a feel of the spirit and rhythm of highlife in order to revive the genre, lived up to its expectation.

No wonder the audience yearned for more, performance after performance. With their classical performance characterised by good singing, thrilling stagecraft and great backing by the Systems Band, Ben Brako, Pat Thomas, Lee Duodu, Charles Amoah, George Darko and Mc God left the audience relishing the evening.

The great performances of Lee Duodu, Charles Amoah and Mc God made them the toast of the concert which was emceed by Fritz Baffuor who added different flavour to the show through his appropriate jokes.

The great keyboardist, Bob Fiscian set the ball rolling with his nifty touches of the keyboard as he dished out some fantastic tunes while the audience sat to listen before Ben Brako took over to perform some of his tracks.

When Mc God mounted the stage at exactly 9.55 pm, the auditorium lit up with the performance of some of his hits lit including ‘Mo Ye Bue, Moye Kenken,’ a song dedicated to the various professionals whose efforts are moving the nation forward.

Others were ‘Mr. Okwaa Donto’ and ‘Highlife Agogo,’ which the audience sang along perfectly. Dressed in a specially designed African print, which had the photographs of the Big Six embossed on it, his robot-style dance moves triggered laughter among the audience.

The excitement continued when the man with the "golden voice," Pat Thomas, took his turn to deliver four of his hit songs which included ‘Sika Ye Mogya’ and ‘Woma Menka Bi’.

Charles Amoah’s ‘Eye Odo Asem’ and ‘Asaawa Do’ got the patrons to their feet. Apparently inspired by the response from the audience, he removed his jacket to display his skilful footwork. and got the patrons to their feet.

Apparently inspired by the response from the audience, he removed his jacket to display his skilful footwork.

Then came the time, when Lee Duodu took charge of the microphone at 11. 10 pm to dish out some of his memorable repertoire. The excitement reach crescendo.

Delivering tracks like "Mafro Odo Mpa’, ‘Akwankwa Tia’ and ‘Odo Beba Na Maye Atiaa’, Lee Duodu pulled the crowd to their feet. The audience yearned for more even as he announced the end of his performance.

Then it was the turn of the ‘Ako Te Brofo’ man, George Darko, who displayed his skill on the guitar.

He performed ‘Mene Me Dear’ and ‘Odo Colour’ and ended with a track, Ayisha from his yet to be released album which unfortunately failed to move the audience to their feet to end the night as it had begun.

The Systems Band, proved their mastery of the various musical instruments as they played the different songs with consistency and perfection.

Police Swoop On Refugees

By Stephen K.Effah, Buduburam
Tuesday, 18 March 2008


Armed police personnel at dawn yesterday rounded up hundreds of protesting Liberian refugees at their Buduburam set-tlement in the Central Region for demonstrating without a permit in breach of the Public Order Act.

The Public Order Act enjoins groups or individuals who intend to hold a public event to inform the police five days before the event stating the venue and time among other requirements.
The arrest, according to the Interior Ministry, followed their persistent refusal to respect the laws of the country.

The arrested protesters, mostly women and children, have since been taken to the Youth Leadership Training Centre at Kordiable, near Afienya, for screening.

A statement issued by the ministry after their arrest, said those arrested would have their refugee status revoked after they have been screened, adding that "government intends to return all those arrested to Liberia since the war there is over".

The refugees have since February 19, embarked on what they termed "peaceful protest" against the 100 and 50 dollar repatriation package given adults and children below 18 years, respectively, under the UNHCR voluntary repatriation programme.

They are reportedly demanding to be resettled in a western country. The government has denied any intention to integrate them in Ghana.

They have since the beginning of their agitation, been sleeping on a football field in front of the UNHCR repatriation office near the settlement.

Speaking to the Times, the spokesperson of the protestors, Cecilia Garlo, said armed police arrived and surrounded them while they were having their morning service.

Ms Garlo said the leader of the police team walked up to her, and said "you have violated the laws of Ghana. I have come to take you away."

She said, surprised by what the police officer told her, she explained that they were only having a peaceful protest but he ordered the women to board the police trucks. They were driven away in 10 trucks but Ms Garlo said she could not tell how many they were.

When she asked where they were being taken to, the officer replied: "They are being taken to where violators of the law are taken ."

She was prevented from boarding the trucks and was told, "You are the leader so we are bringing a special car to take you away."

One of the women, Deborah B. Solo, weeping, told the Times that her three children, all below the age of 15 and her sister were among those taken away and she did not know what would happen to them.

When the Times got to the settlement at about 8.15 a.m. yesterday, armed police numbering about 400 in anti-riot vans had taken position at vantage points.

Hundreds of the other refugees left their homes at the settlement and assembled at the football field, apparently, to show solidarity with the arrested protesters.

The police team leader who declined to give his name said the police went there to "ensure law and order."

The refugees did not seek permission before going on with their protest which contravenes the Public Order Act, he said and added: "Ghanaian laws don’t allow a group or any individuals to congregate and put themselves or children under harsh conditions," he said.

Interior Minister, Kwamena Bartels, last Tuesday met with the leadership of the refugees to explain to them the illegality of their protest, and warned them to end it, otherwise, the government would be forced to take a decisive action against them.

CHRAJ Sensitizes Media On Human Rights Issues

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Wednesday, 19 March 2008


The first of a series in regional sensiti-sation workshops aimed at broadening journalists’ knowledge on human rights issues to enable them to report on such issues more efficiently, was held in Accra yesterday.

Organised by the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), it sought to educate them on the functions of the commission and to strengthen its relationship with the media.

A Deputy Commissioner of CHRAJ, Richard Quayson, said that the peace that the country is enjoying is due mainly to the growing culture of respect for human rights and dignity.
As a result, he said, the commission does not take the issue of human rights and dignity for granted.

Since the establishment of the commission, he said, it has pursued an agenda aimed at realising a free, just and equitable society where fundamental human rights are protected
"Our agenda, therefore, is to deepen this culture of respect for human rights and human dignity, and make it the way of life for all persons," he added.

The commission is promoting and inculcating values of integrity and accountability within the body politic and also helping to fight corruption in all its forms, Mr Quayson said.

That, he explained, is the surest way to develop peace, security and friendly relationships within the country and promote social progress and better standard of life in larger freedom.

He said the commission requires credible partners committed to defend the cause of freedom and of right to accomplish its mandate, and therefore urged the media, which the CHRAJ sees as a credible partner, to help.

Mr Quayson said the partnership between the media and the commission would begin a new wave of human rights consciousness "where people of all walks of life will be empowered with human rights knowledge."

Reverend Duke Hammond, Director of Administration of CHRAJ, said the fact that the commission has does not often investigate high-profile cases does not mean it is not working, adding that there are a lot of cases it had addressed without making it public.

He said that CHRAJ is rated as one of the best human rights institutions in Africa and the world at large, hence it will not rest on its oars.

Rev. Hammond urged the media to establish human rights desk in their various organisations to promote human right issues which are not covered extensively, saying it will go a long way to help the commission and the country.

He said that out of the 138 districts in the country, the commission is present in only 100 districts but they are being manned by university graduates, adding that the commission will do an audit of the newly created districts to establish which of them needs an office as a matter of urgency.

The commission has the mandate to "investigate private enterprises as far as violation of human rights is concerned," but cannot investigate an issue before a court or judicial tribunal.

"We cannot investigate a matter involving relations or dealings between the government and any other government or an international organisation and a matter relating to the exercise of prerogative of mercy," he stated.

Most of the cases addressed by the CHRAJ, he said, are done through negotiations and mediation, adding "not more than three per cent go through full blown panel hearings."

Rev Hammond underscored the need for government to resource the commission to reduce its dependence on donors, whose support come with some constraints.