Gender, Children and Social Protection Ghana - Ghanaian newspapers were this week dominated by a mystery gold cargo that was seized in Turkey and the highly contentious issue of homosexuality when a human rights lawyer and activist, Nana Oye Lithur, appeared before Parliament’s Appointments Committee to be vetted as Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection.
The nominee has come under attack in 2011 for her stance on homosexuality, especially after the late President John Evans Atta Mills declared the position of the government that it would not tolerate gays and lesbians.
The Concerned Clergy Association of Ghana, which had accused her of promoting homosexuality, sent a petition to the Appointments Committee requesting her to state her position on the issue.
“I've no intention to promote homosexuality - Nana Oye Lithur,” was the headline of the state-owned Graphic on the issue.
It said the Minister-designate for Gender, Children and Social Protection said she would not promote homosexuality in Ghana.
She, however, pledged to protect the human rights of all Ghanaians including those of homosexuals.
Appearing before Parliament’s Appointment Committee on Wednesday, Mrs Lithur said that whether Ghana should accept homosexuality or reject it was a societal issue, which ought to be debated and decided upon by the society.
“I have not said anywhere that I will promote homosexuality. What I have said is to protect the human rights of everybody.”
“Presbyterian moderator wants Nana Oye Lithur dropped” was a headline in the Daily Graphic.
The story said the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church, Right Reverend Emmanuel Martey, had asked the Appointments Committee of Parliament not to approve Mrs Lithur as the Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection.
He said Mrs Lithur's position on homosexuality and lesbianism was “very dangerous for the moral health of society” adding homosexuality was morally wrong and must not be entertained. Right Reverend Martey accused Mrs Lithur of being “evasive, dishonest and inconsistent” when she appeared in Parliament.
“Reject Nominee or face demonstrations – NUGS” was another headline in the Graphic.
It said the National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS) had also asked the Appointments Committee of Parliament to 'without delay”, reject the nomination of Mrs Lithur.
A statement signed by the President of the Union, Andrews Kofi Gyan said: “Nana Oye Lithur, whose open views on gays and lesbians are well documented, should be allowed nowhere near any ministerial position especially one as sensitive as the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection in order to protect our highly esteemed Ghanaian cultural values and customary laws.”
But another human rights lawyer and criminologist, Professor Ken Agyemang Attafuah, has sprung to the defence of the the minister-designate explaining that the constitution does not point out any discretion in the area of sexual preferences.
He said the Constitution guaranteed the fundamental human rights of every individual irrespective of the person’s sexual orientation.
Prof. Attafuah added that the minister-designate, being a gender activist, had a mandate to protect the rights of marginalised people in the country, something that she had sought to do all this while.
Mrs Lithur's nomination was approved by Parliament on Friday with the headline of the state-owned Ghanaian Times saying 'Nana Oye approved' while the Graphic said 'Oye Lithur, others get nod.'
“US$80m dollars worth of gold flown out; officials tight lipped,” was the headline of the pro-opposition Daily Guide on the mystery gold cargo.
It extensively quoted the pro-opposition think-tank, Danquah Institute, claiming that a plane seized in Turkey was 'carrying Ghana's commitment to Iran in gold '.
The story said Ghana might have “dished out 1.5 tons of gold worth almost US$80 million to the People's Republic of Iran without proper documentation”.
The newspaper claimed that the information given to the authorities was not entirely true because nobody knew where the cargo originated from or where its destination was, “even though the gold on board the plane was, undeniably, gold carrying Ghanaian seal”.
The Executive Director of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) think-tank, Danquah Institute, Gabby Asare Othere-Darko, said after the seizure of the gold in Turkey, Iranian Foreign Minister Dr. Ali Akbar Salehi was in Ghana to meet President John Dramani Mahama on 8 January, 2013 behind closed doors and the issue of the gold might have been part of the issue discussed.
“Just after that, President Mahama's next official assignment outside Africa was to Turkey, ostensibly to plead for the release of the gold haul on which the government had maintained sturdy silence.”
“US$80m gold deepens” was another story by the Daily Guide which said the story was “becoming murkier by the day as the government of Ghana has denied knowledge of the transaction”.
It claimed that its investigations indicated that “the gold was actually transacted using forged documents by a faceless syndicate close to the highest echelon of government”.
The government promptly denied its involvement in the mystery gold cargo and ordered investigations.
The pro-government Herald newspaper, however, accused the opposition of mischief.
In its story with the headline “US$80m gold dossier clears Mahama,” the newspaper said its investigations had revealed that official papers, some of which had been traced to the Ghana Armed Forces, “suggest a 419 gold scam, schemed strikingly to coincide with the visit of Iranian Foreign Minister, Dr. Ali Akbar Salehi to Ghana, President Mahama’s official trip to Turkey and the release of the cargo aircraft”.
The Herald said the supposed gold was not to pay off a bilateral transaction between the government of Ghana and Iran but it was on its way to Dubai with one Reza Zarrab, an Iranian-Azerbaijani based in both Azerbaijan and Dubai, as the owner and recipient of the precious metals.
It said the aircraft only passed through Ghana from Tripoli-Libya on its way to Istanbul-Turkey with agents in Ghana applying for a landing permit.
At least one person has been arrested as investigations continue, the newspaper said.
The newspapers also had space for Saturday’s quarter-final match at the Africa Cup of Nations competition in South Africa between Ghana and Cape Verde. The newspapers are urging the Black Stars on to victory while cautioning the team not to be complacent.
'Stars to tame the Sharks,' was the headline of the Graphic on Saturday while the story of the Ghanaian Times was under the headline 'Stars, cut Cape Verde to size.'