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Late Ali-Mamadi Jehu-Appiah
Ali-Mamadi Jehu-Appiah was more than a militant in the struggle of oppressed people to build a new prosperous, just and peaceful world. He composed songs and sang them in a compelling voice. He taught us to sing his revolutionary songs which always inspired us into action.
Ali was also an exceptional writer. He could paint reality with the appropriate words. He dragged us all into his exciting world with writings which incited hatred for oppression and spurred on the working class and their allies into actions of liberation.
When he spoke it was full of wisdom. His speeches had logical consistency. He had mastered the art of using his voice to convey powerful images and to stir up emotions to enhance the struggles of the downtrodden.
He had a hands-on attitude to everything. He would pick up a painting brush, dip it into ink and begin writing placards for a demonstration. He took part in poster campaigns and placard parades. He was an active part of any and all the anti-imperialist manifestations he got to know about.
I met Ali briefly in his days at the University of Cape Coast and he shocked me on first contact. He had been introduced as Jehu-Appiah and that meant a lot. It was obvious that his roots could be traced to the Mozama Disco Christo Church headquartered in Mozama in the Central Region of Ghana. Ali did not speak about Jesus Christ and the blood he spilled in order to save humankind from sin. He did not feature in our conversation and there was no condemnation of Satan.
The young man was simply angry at the system of apartheid which was being entrenched in South Africa with the active help of Western powers. He was ready to do every and anything to end the injustice against the Black people there and perhaps everywhere. Ali’s passion against all forms of oppression and exploitation remained part of his make-up until he passed away.
He was an active participant in the struggle against the military regime which ruled Ghana from 1972 to 1979. He privately and publicly condemned the deterioration in the living standards of Ghanaians and insisted that all governments ought to be accountable to the people whose power they exercise.
In 1991, Ali joined the Movement for Freedom and Justice (MFJ) at its very foundation and became one of its leading activists. This was in spite of his huge mistrust of the right-wing which had been encouraged to take over the leadership of the movement.
His prophetic statement then rings true today. He always warned “we should be careful with these people (right-wingers) they are with us today because they want power. If they get it they will not be different from the soldiers and neo-colonialists.”
Ali’s courage was put on display, one fine afternoon in Accra. Akoto Ampaw and I and a few comrades had been arrested on a demonstration to protest the high cost of living and military brutality. We had been placed in the cells at the Central Police Station and we were wondering what was going to happen next.
Ali and some other comrades who had not been arrested by the Police showed up at the station. They came to tell the Police that they also deserve to be arrested. Their argument was that they took part in the demonstration and its organisation and there could not be any justification for keeping only a few of us in the cells.
He was not afraid of arrest and detention. He believed that being arrested and detained in the pursuit of a just cause was an honour which should not be bestowed on a few but shared equitably for all those who join the struggle for a new society constructed on the foundation of social justice, democracy and prosperity for all.
In the early 1980s and 1990s many Ghanaians sought greener pastures outside the country. They went to Europe, the USA and other places to seek refugee status claiming that they were escaping from military dictatorship with its associated brutalities. For many of them it was just a kenkey and fish issue.
Ali’s self-imposed exile in Europe was not in search of greener pastures. The pastures in Mozama and Ghana were greener for Ali than what he could have found in Europe or anywhere else in the world. His family was in a position to provide all his wants and needs. He was also a well-educated gentleman capable of hardwork to raise the resources to look after himself and immediate family.
He had to escape into exile because there was a real threat to his life and the lives of other comrades and it is important to note that he never gave up the struggle even in the exile. He spoke out loudly and wrote brilliant articles condemning injustice even in his host country.
I called Ali on a working visit to UK once. He asked “what are you doing there?” and when I told him that I was there to lobby influential institutions and individuals to support the campaign for the observance of human rights in Ghana. He said “I am joining you.” The next day he showed up at my home and stayed for a week. That was Ali, ever ready for action.
Another most important thing in the life of Ali was the formation of the organisation, Food Sovereignty Ghana (FSG). One fine afternoon, I got a call from Ali and he sounded frantic. He said we needed to act quickly to stop the spread of genetically modified food in Ghana. He proposed the formation of Food Sovereignty Ghana to champion that cause. Ali provided the resources and leadership for the emergence of FSG and remained its chairperson and leader until he passed away.
Although I am not a religious person, I can see how his association with the Mozama Disco Christo Church shaped him. Like the founder of the church, he refused to accept that human beings can be defined by the colour of their skin and insisted on the equality of all men and women.
He insisted that the culture of the African people cannot be inferior to any other culture. Ali was a true Africanist who spent his life advocating Pan Africanism under the banner of scientific socialism.
May the force of his ideas and actions continue to inspire us.