President Akufo-Addo: Historic State Visit to Switzerland

Arriving at the Federal Square for the welcome ceremony and the inspection of  the Guard  of  honour (Photo FDFA)

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One word to describe Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo’s state visit to Switzerland is “HISTORIC.” Prior to his, only two other Sub Saharan leaders had made similar visits and those date back to more than six decades. Ethiopia’s Emperor Haile Selassie was there in 1954 and two years later in 1956, Liberia’s President William Tubman made his own visit.

But times have changed and so have the diplomatic language, economic and social relationships. The Ghanaian leader’s visit was prompted by the increasing contacts Switzerland has made with the African continent added to the seemingly bright political and economic cooperation.

The visit kicked off in Zurich where, on his arrival, the Ghanaian leader was presented with a bouquet of flowers, just as he was being received by government officials led by President Simonetta Sommaruga. From here they boarded a special [presidential] train to Bern-Kehrsatz train station where the welcoming party included Mr. Christoph Ammam, President of the Government of the Canton of Bern, Ms. Katharina Annen, Mayor of Kehrsatz and the Kehrsatz children’s choir which rendered melodious tunes to the delight of not only the Ghanaian delegation but all those present at the scene.

So impressed were both leaders that they reached out and took photographs with the choir.

From there they moved to the centre of Bern where most of the activities for that day were held. The first at the Bellevue Palace where official state gifts were exchanged, followed by the signing of Federal Council’s guest book.

The official welcome ceremony held at the Federal Square was watched by a large spectators diverse nationalities, the Ghanaians in Switzerland were not left out. They braved the cold and turned out in their bright traditional attire to grace the occasion. The delegations were also there to witness a military fanfare and the inspection of guard of honour mounted by the Airforce Intelligence recruit school 82-/20 commanded by 1st Lieutenant Thomas Tschpp. 

 

Members of Federal Council (Ministers)

The official talks took place at the Bernerhof and were attended by President Sommaruga and federal councillors Guy Parmelin and Ignazio Cassis from the Swiss authorities while the Ghanaian team included Foreign Minister, Mrs. Shirley Ayorkor Botchway, Mr. Ken Ofori-Atta  Minister for Finance and Mr. Joseph Aidoo, Chief Executive Officer, Ghana Cocoa Board.

Members of Guard of Honour mounted by the Airforce Intelligence recruit school 82-/20

Federal Councillor  Ignazio Cassis and Ghanaian Foreign Minister, Botchwey signed the memorandum of understanding on cooperation on environmental matters in the presence of President Sommaruga and President Akufo-Addo.

 

The president inspecting the Guard of Honour

 

Federal Councillor  Ignazio Cassis and Ghanaian Foreign Minister, Botchwey signed the memorandum of understanding on cooperation on environmental matters in the presence of President Sommaruga and President Akufo-Addo.

The leaders addressed a joint press conference.

President Sammaruga explained the raison d’etre for the visit. It was, she said: “…in recognition of the extremely good and longstanding relations between Switzerland and Ghana.”

On economic relations largely driven by imports of gold and cocoa to Switzerland, she said “Ghana is Switzerland’s largest supplier of cocoa beans, and the tenth largest country supplier of gold.”

Both delegations held discussions that hovered over ways in which social aspects and environmental standards could be given greater consideration in economic development and in the extraction of raw materials.

 The Federal Council delegation commended Ghana’s strong commitment to peace policy through the United Nations and the African Union (AU), adding that since 2006, Switzerland has been supporting the Kofi Annan Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC) based in Accra.

President Akufo-Addo was appreciative of the invitation and viewed it as reciprocal, as the first European leader to visit Grana during his tenure in office was Switzerland’s 91st President, Ms. Doris Leuthard.

He said his visit fell on a historic day in the annals of Ghanaian nationalism. Seventy-two years ago, at Christiansborg Crossroads, when three unarmed ex-servicemen and heroes of 2nd world war were shot by the colonial police while marching peacefully to present their grievances to the colonial Governor. This aroused the wrath of the nation, sparked country-wide riots, and deepened immeasurably the demand for independence, which had been first expressed on the seminal day of 4th August, 1947, when the first political party in the country the United Gold Coast Convention, UGCC was formed.

 

From left: Foreign Minister Mrs. Shirley Ayorkor Botchway, President Nana Akufo-Addo ,  President Simonetta Sommaruga and Federal Councillor  Ignazio Cassis, after memorandum of understanding was signed.

 

The President said he was there to re-affirm the strong ties and bond of friendship that Ghana attaches to its relations with Switzerland. “President Sommaruga and I discussed at length how to further boost our political and economic relations, cultural and people-to-people exchanges, as well as our co-operation at the multilateral level.”

The deliberations also “centred on driving investment opportunities, domestic and foreign, into our two countries, and the need for enhanced co-operation and partnership in our development efforts. Towards the realisation of the 2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, we touched on the need to promote a better world, and addressed global issues relating to the 17 Goals.

“I also used the occasion of my talks with the President to express the appreciation of the Ghanaian people and their Government to the Government and people of Switzerland for the support we have received since the establishment of bilateral relations between our two countries.”

From there President Akufo-Addo and his delegation moved to Bellevue Palace Hotel to meet the Ghanaian community awaiting him there. A Ghanaian artist clad native attire, beads and golden ornaments welcomed them with dance to traditional Ghanaian music as those Ghanaians in the Diaspora rose and joined her. He addressed and advised them to be good ambassadors of Ghana and answered a number of questions in Ghanaian languages before he left to prepare for the Gala dinner hosted by the Federal Council in his honour.

The second day he visited Kunstmuseum Bern and Halba/Sunray Chocolate Factory, Pratteln as the closing episode of the State Visit.