Libmonster ID: U.S.-1453
Author(s) of the publication: E. D. OSTROVENKO

Keywords: Ghana, Accra, Provisional National Defense Council, Jerry Rawlings, chiefs, asantehene, linguists

Evgeny Dmitrievich Ostrovenko-Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Candidate of Historical Sciences. From 1963 to 2004-in the diplomatic service of the USSR and Russian Foreign Ministries. He worked in the Embassies of the USSR in Afghanistan and Iran, in the Department of Middle Eastern Countries of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the USSR. He was the USSR Ambassador to Ghana, Head of the Middle East Department of the USSR and Russian Foreign Ministries, Russian Ambassador to Afghanistan, Romania and Thailand, Deputy Director of the Second Asia Department of the Foreign Ministry, Ambassador-at-Large of the Russian Foreign Ministry, and Head of the Delegation on the delimitation of the state border between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Kazakhstan. Honored Worker of the Diplomatic Service of the Russian Federation, Honorary Worker of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. Member of the Presidium of the Council of the Association of Russian Diplomats (ARD).

Ghana, to which I happened to become Ambassador of the USSR in mid-1989, is not a small country. There are, of course, larger states in Africa, but Ghana has always been and remains one of the most significant, in many respects, countries on the continent. The word "first" is often used in relation to Ghana. Ghana, then the Gold Coast, became the first African colony. The first African newspaper appeared in it in 1857. The first African scientist, professional philosopher Anton Wilhelm Amo, was also a native of Ghana. Ghana was the first country in Africa to break free (in 1957) from colonial rule and embark on a path of independent development.


Soviet-Ghanaian relations and cooperation began to develop during the leadership of N. S. Khrushchev in the USSR and K. Nkrumah* in Ghana. Diplomatic relations were established on January 14, 1958. We opened our embassy in Accra in 1959, and the Ghanaians in Moscow in 1960.

Under K. Nkrumah, bilateral relations developed successfully. A refinery, a training center for professional development, a large-panel housing construction plant, and even a research nuclear reactor - these are not a complete list of objects that we helped Ghana create.

After the military coup of 1966, Soviet-Ghanaian cooperation began to curtail. The situation changed only after the Provisional National Defense Council (NDF), headed by Jerry Rawlings, came to power in 1981. The new leadership declared its desire to restore friendly relations and develop versatile cooperation with the Soviet Union. Political contacts began to be established, and an exchange of views on the most important international issues and issues of bilateral relations was practiced.

The pride of Soviet-Ghanaian

Kwame Nkrumah (1909-1972) - Prime Minister of Ghana (1957-1960), President of Ghana (1960-1966)

** Jerry John Rawlings (b. 1947) led Ghana from 31.12.1981 to 7.01.2001, and from January 1993 as President (editor's note).

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cooperation has become a training center for professional training in the Topic. It was a successful business, producing specialists and marketable products, as I saw for myself when I visited it shortly after arriving in Ghana. There was a question about expanding the center - creating a foundry with it.

The volume of Soviet-Ghanaian trade was small - in 1988. it amounted to only 13.2 million rubles and was primarily determined by our purchases of cocoa beans carried out through the London Stock Exchange. Soviet exports, which traditionally included supplies of fresh frozen fish, books and periodicals, refrigerators, hunting rifles and metal utensils, were quite insignificant that year, less than 0.3 million rubles. Trade was unbalanced, and we bought significantly more from Ghana than we sold to it.

Looking ahead, in 1989 and 1990 we managed to significantly increase the Soviet-Ghanaian trade turnover, raising it to 53.2 million rubles and 30 million rubles, respectively. What was qualitatively important was that for the first time in many years, our exports increased significantly: to 1 million rubles in 1989 and 2 million rubles in 1990.

The USSR provided substantial assistance to Ghana in training national cadres. At that time, 2,000 people had already been educated in the USSR, and about a thousand students were studying in our educational institutions in more than forty cities of the Union. Since 1974, the Association of Ghanaian Graduates of Soviet Universities has been operating in Ghana.


What I saw in the first days of my stay in Accra made a mixed impression. I was pleased with the well-being of the ambassador's residence. I was upset by the unpresentability of the embassy building. It was then located in the central part of the capital - in several buildings that were not originally adapted for the work of the diplomatic mission.

There was an acute need to move the embassy to a modern complex similar to those that we had in a number of other foreign countries, including African ones. Moreover, Moscow already understood the need to build an embassy complex in Accra*. The reason for all sorts of delays and delays was quite simple-the Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not have the necessary funding.

The situation was different with the ambassador's residence. The modern two-story mansion was not only well suited for an ambassador to live with his family, but also met the specifics of diplomatic work. On the ground floor it was possible to receive guests - representatives of the host country and the diplomatic corps, give dinners and hold various business meetings. The territory of the residence allowed us to organize receptions with the participation of a large number of invited guests, including on the occasion of November 7 - at that time our main holiday.

The Ghanaians made a good impression. They were characterized by openness, innate optimism and cheerfulness. There was no wariness in them, much less hostility towards foreigners. The Ghanaian capital did not disappoint either. It turned out to be a large and peaceful city, teeming with tropical greenery.

The area in which the residence was located mainly consisted of villas and detached houses surrounded by green lawns, palm trees, flowering shrubs and other evergreen vegetation. In addition to the local nobility, there were many foreigners living here, especially senior diplomats. Needless to say, these well-maintained neighborhoods were very different from those on the outskirts of the city where the poor lived. Instead of rich mansions, there were the most primitive dwellings of the village type, more like shacks than houses.

In short, the city was diverse, contrasting, had its own special, only its own inherent color. It was interesting to live and work in it, especially for the ambassador. And the work of a foreign ambassador in Ghana in those years officially began after they presented their credentials to a member of the Supreme Council of the United Nations, D. F. Annan.


In most countries of the world, the credentials of ambassadors are accepted, in accordance with established diplomatic practice, by the heads of State, but for the Chairman of the Supreme Council of the United Nations, J. R. R. Tolkien.Rawlings, a young and dynamic man, was hardly interested in such a formal ceremony. His active nature was closer to the other: if you have to participate in some ceremonies, it is better to participate in the military, and there were a lot of them in the country. If you meet with the ambassadors, then you can talk to them on the merits, on certain specific issues that are of practical interest to Ghana.

One way or another, but the credentials of the ambassadors were received in Ghana not by the head of state, but by one of the most experienced people in the country's top leadership acting on his behalf-a member of the Supreme Council of People's Rights Daniel F. Annan, who worked as a judge for many years.

In order to present D. F. Annan with his credentials, it was necessary to first visit the Head of the Protocol Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ghana. All this was done in the first few days after arriving in Accra. And the Chief of Protocol, J. R. R. Tolkien.Osei-Khwediye and Deputy Foreign Minister Mohamed ibn Chambas were friendly and very constructive, resolving issues quickly and clearly.

The presentation of credentials was scheduled for August 17. Before that, for several days, I got acquainted with the embassy staff, its work and existing problems.

The embassy staff was solid, especially by today's standards: 20 diplomats and 22 technical staff, most with their wives and children. The team made the most favorable impression, and I was happy to work with them.-

* The new embassy complex was built and put into operation in 2007.

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tat during the entire business trip. The employees ' problems were mainly related to the improvement of housing conditions and the quality of medical care.

At the same time, he also met with the heads of diplomatic missions of socialist countries. We paid visits to each other, due to the special nature of relations between our countries, even before presenting our credentials.

We prepared and printed my notes for the heads of diplomatic missions and representative offices of international organizations operating in the country, informing them of the date when I presented my credentials. These are, in fact, personal letters to colleagues, which is why they are called personal notes.

The text of the notes was prepared in two versions: one, warmer and using the address "Comrade" - to the ambassadors of socialist countries; the second, standard, - to the ambassadors of all other states. These colleagues were addressed as "Your Excellency,"according to the usual practice.

On the morning of August 17, several black executive cars drove into my residence. They were attended by the head of the Protocol Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ghana and several of his employees. I was wearing a formal diplomatic uniform of light beige, designed for countries with hot climates. In the buttonholes of my uniform-four five-pointed stars sewn with gold threads-I was then an Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Envoy of the 1st class*. In passing, I will say that I will wear this uniform twice more - for our receptions on the occasion of November 7. Four stars, by analogy with the four-star general, made a strong impression on the Ghanaian military (and they played an important role in the life of the country).

Soon, a cavalcade of cars left for the Ghanaian president's residence "Castle". The journey is short, and now we are entering the castle grounds. The honor guard company reports, and I'm invited to a low platform with an awning stretched over it, shielding me from the hot rays of the equatorial sun. There comes a particularly solemn moment: now the National Anthem of the USSR will sound.

When the military band began to sing, with a slight African accent, our majestic "Union of Unbreakable Free Republics..." and the National Flag of the USSR began to slowly rise up the flagpole, my heart beat faster and filled with pride for the country that I was entrusted to represent.

And suddenly, " it can't be! the flag fluttered suspiciously and then stopped for a second or two. My heart was filled with anxiety, but our red banner, fortunately, overcame some unexpected obstacle that appeared in its path and continued to move up. And now it is flying proudly at the very top of the flagpole. Everything should be fine now!

You can go down from the platform and move along a specially laid carpet path further, to the main entrance to the castle. And there, on the steps, three people dressed in colorful national clothes are already waiting for me. These are local chiefs, and they are ubiquitous in Ghana. The ones I have to talk to are from the Ga people, because the Castle was once built on the land where this particular people lived.

The chiefs immediately take up their duties. Saying something in a language that still sounds strange to me, one of them picks up a green bottle, uncorks it, and begins to spray some clear, alcohol-scented liquid. This is a local schnapps, and the ceremony is called in English "laibeyshen", i.e. "libation", but not inside yourself, as it is most often understood in our country, but on the ground. Not drinking, but sprinkling the ground with a strong alcoholic drink, always white in color.

A serious and meaningful ceremony is performed. Thus showing respect for "mother earth" and the forces of nature in general, the leaders ask their gods to do this or that good deed. In this case, to grant success to the mission of the USSR Ambassador to Ghana.

Suddenly, the drums began to beat, which, as is customary in Africa, have their own language that the locals can understand. It sends a signal about the arrival of an important foreign guest at the Castle . The essence of everything that is happening is explained to me, along the way, by the MFA protocol officers. I thank the leaders and move on, already inside the building. And there, in a small hall, is a table and an armchair. You need to sign the guest book of honor. This protocol detail that came with the British will now be repeated

* In the buttonholes of the Envoy Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the 2nd class - 3 such stars, the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary-the image of the coat of arms of the USSR and a much larger five-pointed star.

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practically at any official visit to each local department, institution or enterprise.

But at Castle, of course, it's a special case. The new Soviet ambassador personally recorded the fact of his visit to the residence of the head of state and sealed it with his signature. And the chair, I was told, was not an easy one: it had once belonged to the first Ghanaian President, Kwame Nkrumah.

We go up the stairs one floor above and find ourselves in a large hall, where D. F. Annan also enters. He's in a dark suit, focused, serious-looking, wearing glasses. You can easily imagine him in a judge's robe and a white wig. The head of the protocol Department of the Foreign Ministry loudly introduces me to D. F. Annan. I approach him, say a brief greeting, and present my credentials, my predecessor's letters of recall, and the full text of my speech. The VSNO member accepts these documents and submits them to the head of the MFA protocol. We say hello and introduce each other to the people participating in the ceremony from each side. The Ghanaian Foreign Ministry is represented by Mohamed ibn Chambas.

After that-a brief one - on-one conversation in the same hall. We sit down at some distance from everyone present on the sofa at a low table. Behind us are guardsmen in exotic turbans and unusual military uniforms. It might seem that we are not in Africa, but in India. Only the faces of the guards were black.

I told D. F. Annan that it was a great honor for me to represent the Soviet Union in Ghana, whose traditions of friendship and cooperation have more than 30 years of history, and that the USSR is ready to further develop comprehensive and mutually beneficial cooperation with Ghana. He expressed the hope that in carrying out his responsible mission, he will receive the necessary assistance and assistance from the Ghanaian leadership. He asked me to arrange a meeting with the head of state in the near future.

In response, D. F. Annan stated that Ghana is also interested in good relations and comprehensive cooperation with the USSR and that I will be provided with all the necessary assistance. A member of the VSNO also assured me that I would soon be able to meet with J. R. R. Tolkien.By Rawlings.

Waiters appear and pour Coca-Cola into tall glasses. We raise our glasses and exchange toasts in honor of the leaders of the USSR and Ghana. Credentials are presented. I say goodbye to D. F. Annan and head out of the castle. The ceremonies are repeated, but in reverse order: again communication with the leaders, and then military honors. Cars are served. On the first one, already under the flag of the USSR, goes the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the USSR, who has taken up his duties.

At the embassy residence, we arrange a reception - snacks, juices, mineral water, wine and, of course, champagne. Such a reception, traditionally organized after the presentation of credentials, is called "a glass of champagne". Well, if someone wants to drink in the residence of the Soviet ambassador not only champagne, but also taste the world-famous Russian vodka, then it is, of course, there.

After the departure of the guests, it remains only to inform Moscow about the presentation of credentials. The work of the new USSR Ambassador to Ghana has officially begun.


The Soviet ambassador had many duties, just as the Russian ambassador has many of them now. Simply listing them would probably take up more than one page. I will therefore say only about the most important thing.

It was necessary to promote in every possible way, including personal participation, the formation in Ghana of a positive attitude towards the USSR, our peace initiatives and proposals in the international arena; to establish and maintain a constant political dialogue with the country's leadership; to ensure the effectiveness of trade and economic cooperation with it; to rationalize the rather extensive and versatile relations with Ghana; to eliminate these are separate manifestations of formalism and grandeur; give a truly businesslike character to all trips in both directions and ensure that they get a real practical return.

He met and held conversations with almost all members of the Supreme People's Council (and with Prime Minister V. Obeng and Captain K. Chikata, who was responsible for international relations and national security, several times each), with leading secretaries and staff of the Supreme People's Council secretariat,

page 64

actually acting as ministers. At the same time, he took an active part in the preparation and implementation of visits to Ghana by official delegations from the USSR. There were, unfortunately, not so many of them. I also tried not to miss the receptions held by my colleagues in the diplomatic corps on the occasion of the national days of their countries. Constant contact with other ambassadors helped to better navigate Ghana's relations with the countries they represented. Sometimes, ask a colleague one or two clarifying questions, and, taking into account the information already received earlier, a complete picture is formed on a particular topic that was of interest to the work. It goes without saying that such communication also provided an excellent opportunity to inform colleagues about events in the USSR and our foreign policy activities.


The leader of Ghana, Jerry John Rawlings, was officially called the head of state and Chairman of the Supreme People's Council, sometimes the leader of the revolution, and more often the Chairman, or Chairman Rawlings. So he was called not only in oral communication, but also in newspapers.

Chairman Rawlings was young and full of energy, well-built physically, and liked to dress in paramilitary clothing: short-sleeved shirts or khaki T-shirts and trousers of the same color. Back then, he always wore stout combat boots. During official ceremonies, he dressed in a military uniform, most often an Air Force captain, sometimes wearing light-colored national clothes that gave him a special majesty. He loved and knew how to perform, communicate with ordinary people, and had a personal charm.

I met and talked with the Ghanaian leader several times. The first meeting was held at a large reception on the occasion of the New Year, 1990. The reception was held in Aburi, the former country residence of K. Nkrumah, located thirty kilometers from the capital in a picturesque mountainous area.

Upon our arrival in Aburi, the Chief of Protocol of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed me and several other ambassadors who, like me, requested meetings with the head of state, that we would be introduced to him one by one during the reception, in accordance with the date of presentation of our credentials, and we would be able to have a brief conversation with him.

The audience began almost immediately after the Chairman and his wife arrived at the reception and settled down in the center of a large outdoor area where all the invited guests were gathered.

I was introduced to J. R. R. Tolkien.Rawlings is among the first. I conveyed him my best wishes from Moscow, wished him a Happy New Year, and told him about our activities at that time and our intention to develop good relations and cooperation with Ghana. He added that he would like to visit it for a more detailed conversation on these and some other topical issues. The Chairman promised that he would see me soon for a longer conversation.

This happened on March 7, 1990. On that day, he received four new ambassadors in turn. The order of admission was determined by the seniority of their stay in the country. I was the first. The meeting took place at the Castle, in a large but rather sparsely furnished room.

I told the Chairman in detail about the events that were taking place in the USSR at that time, the ongoing perestroika, the glasnost policy, and everything else that was relevant to us at that time. I drew his attention to the Soviet-Ghanaian bilateral relations and some unresolved issues.

The Chairman listened very carefully, responding constructively to all the practical questions I raised. As for the ambiguous internal processes that were taking place in our country, they seemed to interest him not in the abstract, but in a completely concrete plan. He clearly wanted to understand how they might affect the prospects for further development of beneficial relations and cooperation with Ghana.

A few days later, a message came from the Ghanaian Foreign Ministry: J. Rawlings invites me to meet again on March 14. The interview took place in the Castle, not where the previous audience had taken place, but in the Chairman's private residence, in a small, modest room. The atmosphere in it was military strict, nothing superfluous, no decorative elements, especially ceremonial. Minimal furniture, TV, videotapes. No helpers, no waiters. A tete-a-tete meeting.

After mutual greetings, we sit down at a small table. Rawlings suggests a milky coffee. A few general phrases, and it's, with a reference to what I have

page 65

I told him about our perestroika a week ago, and he invites me to speak on this topic to the students of the Staff College, where senior officers are trained.

His motivation for this proposal was summarized as follows: very important and fateful events are taking place in the USSR, which have a clear international resonance. They are presented and perceived differently in the world, and it is important that students of the Staff College learn about them not from the words of third parties, but directly from the Soviet ambassador.

We agree that I will be notified in advance of the date of my speech. The initiative, as the Chair makes clear, will come from the Ghanaian side.

The address to the Ghanaian military elite that the Chairman proposed to me was entirely in our best interests. It took place, however, not immediately, but several months later.


In Ghana in those years, many different military events and ceremonies were organized, which were given national significance. Since they were held, as a rule, with the participation of the head of state, foreign ambassadors were also invited to attend them. During my two years in Ghana, I saw a lot of them.

The first such event took place just a day after the presentation of credentials. It was a parade of graduates of the Ghanaian Military Academy. He was received by the Chairman, who arrived in a military car in full dress uniform. Well-dressed in red, English-style tunics and black trousers, the graduates immediately froze, thereby emphasizing the importance and solemnity of the moment.

After military honors, reports and speeches invariable in such cases, a solemn passage of graduates took place, carefully prepared and richly saturated with various kinds of drill figures and rearrangements. I was struck, in particular, by the many types of marching step. For example, almost dancing, which the cadets passed under the cheerful, reminiscent of operetta music. Small steps were also practiced, which they used to rearrange themselves. Graduates performed the prepared program with full dedication, which enhanced the impression of the parade.

Exactly one year later, I had a chance to see all this again. Students who completed a full course of training and short-term courses of special retraining were graduated, again in the presence of the Chairman. A few days earlier, I had visited the Staff College twice: on August 2, I delivered a detailed lecture on our perestroika, as agreed with the Chairman, and a week later I attended the graduation ceremony of its students.

The lecture took place in a cozy and well - air-conditioned "assembly hall" of the college, which accommodated all graduates, including foreign officers from Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda. Organizational matters were handled by two English officers who were part of the college's management. Everything happened according to a well-developed and strictly observed scenario. I was asked to sit in a separate chair, and then a senior officer from the college administration took the floor. In a well-modulated commanding voice, he introduced me to the audience, then invited me to the lectern. They listened to me carefully and with interest. I answered the questions while sitting in my chair again.

The questions were informal and interesting, even sharp at the time. They asked, for example, whether the Soviet military supported perestroika, and whether the return of Soviet troops from abroad could have created difficulties. Judging by the questions asked, the officers were well versed in international affairs.

Other frequent military events in Ghana to which ambassadors were invited were the presentation of battle banners. One of them, bright and impressive, took place on August 31, 1990 in Sekondi, where the main naval base of the country, built by the Yugoslavs in the time of K. Nkrumah, was located.

Before the presentation, the banners were solemnly consecrated according to a special ritual. The banners were carefully placed on pyramid-shaped drums, after which the chief chaplain and two of his assistants read a prayer. The banners thus consecrated were handed over to the Chairman, who handed them over for their intended purpose. The pyramid of drums was dismantled, and the participants of the ceremony, all in white parade uniforms, paraded. The Chairman, in his usual informal way, made an appropriate speech. The ceremony ended with the Ghanaian national anthem.

Participation in such events required considerable effort, since they were always held in the open air, in the heat, and also at high humidity. However, it was necessary to dress according to the protocol, i.e. to be in a suit and tie.

But it was almost never a waste of time. Participation in military events always highlighted something important, including those moments that were previously lacking for serious conclusions about the strength and viability of the regime. Communication with the Ghanaian leaders and generals present at the events, as well as with colleagues in the diplomatic corps, was useful. At military ceremonies, I also received useful "lessons" from the local nature: always remember the power and difficult-to-predict capabilities of the African sun.

It seemed that there was nothing to be afraid of under the stretched awning for the heads of diplomatic missions: the sky was densely overcast. By evening, however, my face was very red. I managed to "burn out" without actually being exposed to direct sunlight.

(The ending follows)


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