Ghana: The Real Kufuor; A New Biography of President John Agyekum Kufuor-Between Faith and History-Written by Ivor Agyeman-Duah, Reveals the Man Behind the Man at the Helm in Accra. Osei Boateng Has Been Reading It

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President John Agyekum Kufuor, one of the tallest presidents to burst onto the African scene, is known as "The Gentle Giant" on account of his quiet demeanour. But two recent foreign policy decisions by him--supporting Zimbabwe's suspension from the Commonwealth, and signing an Article 98 agreement exempting American citizens from prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC)--have greatly displeased many Ghanaians and Africans abroad who say he is taking his "gentleness" (some call it "sucking up to the West") a touch beyond the politically acceptable.

According to these critics, Kufuor is destroying Ghana's reputation and illustrious pan-African leadership record achieved during the Nkrumah years. But reading Ivor Agyemang-Duah's book, one gets the true measure of Kufuor and perhaps understands better the logic behind the two decisions at the heart of the storm.

The political tradition Kufuor comes from (the Danquah-Busia tradition), has never been radical. Okoto nnwo anoma (a crab does not give birth to a bird)--so goes a Ghanaian proverb. Thus, coming from a political tradition that has always been very pro-West, Kufuor--perhaps--can do no more.

For example, one of his political mentors, Prof Kofi Abrefa Busia (a major pillar of the Danquah-Busia tradition who became prime minister from 1969-1972), is on record to have led an opposition delegation to London in mid-1956, a few days after the Ghanaian parliament under Nkrumah had voted for the declaration of independence, to appeal to the British government not to grant independence to Ghana because (as Nkrumah put it in his autobiography) "the country was not ready for parliamentary democracy".

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On the visit, Busia, then the official leader of the opposition in Ghana, issued a statement which was printed liberally (13 column inches) in the rightwing British newspaper, The Daily Telegraph. The paper quoted Busia as saying: "We still need you [the British] in the Gold Coast [the name of Ghana before independence]. Your experiment there is not yet complete. Sometimes I wonder why you seem in such a hurry to wash your hands of us."

With this background, perhaps President Kufuor could be forgiven for following the beaten path of his political tradition. Which, considering his "original" roots--from the warrior empire of Denkyira that preceded the Asante empire by centuries--should worry the president somewhat. At the height of their power, the Denkyiras did not "suck up" to foreign meddling or dictation. They stood their ground and fought to the finish for their principles.

That said, Kufuor's own path to the Ghanaian presidency (starting from his boyhood) is enough of an interesting story to be told in its own right.

Officially known as John Agyekum Kufuor, his real name is Kofi Diawuo. Kofi is the Akan name for a boy born on Friday. And Diawuo was the surname of the great warrior chief after whom Kufuor was named. Nana Kwapong Diawuo was the second Oyokohene of Asante and one of the famous warriors of his time.

When Kufuor was born in 1938, his father, Nana Kwadwo Agyekum, was the head of the Oyoko stool/clan created in the 1700s as part of the Asante political structure. Asante royalty belongs to this clan, and every Asantehene (King of Asante) has had an Oyokohene as an uncle and advisor.

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"In the olden days," as Agyemang-Duah explains in his book, "it was the Oyokohene who had the power to declare war." In fact, the position of warrior and advisor to the king is so important in the Asante political structure that the British colonial government found it necessary to exile, in 1896, the "troublesome" Oyokohene Kwadwo Agyekum together with the then Asantehene, Prempeh I, to the Seychelles Island. Nana Agyekum never returned, he died in the Seychelles.

The Akan is a matrilineal society, and as such children belong to where their mothers come from. …