I celebrated Ghana’s 51st Independence Day last Thursday over a hardy plate of kebab and pineapple with some friends at a night market.
As soon as we had finished our dinner, it began to down pour. In our frantic effort to find cover, our group split up and I soon found myself huddled together with other Ghanaians under a vendor’s tent.
One of the market ladies wiped off a bench and motioned for me to take a seat. She then proceeded to throw a tablecloth over my head to shield me from the rain seeping through the cracks in the tent.
This woman was poor, probably earning less than $2 a day like a majority of Ghanaians, but rich in good intentions.
I can think of no better way to have spent this young nation’s day of independence than by being subject to Ghanaian hospitality. As a general rule in Ghana, friendliness is the strongest currency.
I can rattle off a laundry list of examples to prove this point — starting with the time I was stranded on one side of a ditch and a random young man rushed to my assistance. Morphing into Richard Gere in “An Officer and a Gentleman,” he jumped the crevice with me corralled in his arms.
Then there was my first venture to the busiest market in Accra, Makola. Seeing that I was new to the country, two young ladies voluntarily showed me around, sandwiching me in the middle to avoid me getting lost or run over.
Also, a day does not go a day without Ghanaians on the street shouting out greetings or offering a warm smile.
These daily brushes with decency and selflessness serve to reinforce faith in the good of humanity. Moreover, they are a testament to Ghana’s legacy within West Africa as a peaceful country that has enjoyed a relatively strong record of stability and democratic governance.
In fact, compared to other African countries, Ghana remains one of the few that has not experienced civil war or been involved in any major conflict with its neighbors.
This is an interesting phenomenon — especially considering the fact that there is a significant Christian and Muslim population, such as in the Sudan, which often creates conflict.
In addition, there is a wide gap between the less developed northern region and the more industrial and commercial southern region, as is the case in Nigeria. However, unlike the Sudan or Nigeria, these conditions have not caused Ghana to flare up in internal strife.
One explanation given for why Ghana has been successful in maintaining peace could be the high prevalence of intermarriage within the different ethnic groups. Indeed, it becomes difficult to rally up the troops and target one ethnic group when chances are someone in the family belongs to that particular group.
Beyond the marriage factor, most Ghanaians are generally pacifists by nature.
No incident captures this idea more clearly in my mind than when a fellow American student and I went to a kiosk to watch President Bush say “baloney” and “bull” in a televised speech given in Ghana.
As we rolled our eyes at the President’s word choice, I remember asking the woman running the kiosk whether she liked President Bush, to which she responded, “I like everyone.”
If only the rest of us could be that nice.
Luci Storelli-Castro is a senior political science and philosophy major. Her column appears Tuesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.