In the week he has been touring Israel from the Golan Heights to the Sinai,
visiting high technology plants, water desalination projects and hospitals, His
Majesty King Otumfuo Osei Tutu II of the Asante people of Ghana has usually
opted to wear either a suit and tie or sports clothes. But when he called on
President Shimon Peres at his Jerusalem residence on Sunday morning, he and most
of his entourage came in the full regal splendor of his kingdom, wearing
colorful toga-like robes and many gold chains.
The King himself was
bedecked with armbands, bracelets and heavy rings of gold, and wore gold
He also sported a circle of colored beads with a gold talisman
on his head. His spokesman carried a gold scepter, and stood as the monarch
spoke, shouting the word “Yong” each time the king finished a
According to a member of his nine-person delegation, this is
the traditional manner of notifying the people that the king is
King Osei Tutu presented Peres with a robe no less splendid
than his own and Peres cheerfully put it on and posed for photographs. Aside
from the regular press photographers, the president’s staff was entranced with
the change in his appearance and photographed him with their cell phone
In addition to the gift, King Osei Tutu brought greetings from
President John Atta Mills, who is looking forward to coming to Israel and issued
a reminder that the invitation for Peres to visit the Republic of Ghana is still
open. This prompted Peres to reminisce about having visited the country at David
Ben-Gurion’s behest soon after Ghana gained independence 55 years
Peres had been very impressed by Ghana’s first president Kwame
Nkruma, who had lived in America for ten years. Prior to leaving Ghana, Nkruma
had a problem with his teeth, which he attended to in America. Thus when he came
home to his village, Peres recounted, his mother did not recognize him and said
he was not her son, who was still in America. But Nkruma had proof: he had been
born with an additional finger – and this was all his mother needed to know that
her son had returned.
Ghana was the first African country to enter into
diplomatic relations with Israel, and Israel was helpful to Ghana in developing
the country’s agriculture.
Together with India, Israel also assisted in
the establishment and training of Ghana’s air force. Ghana severed diplomatic
ties with Israel in 1973 in the wake of the Yom Kippur War, and renewed them
less than a decade ago, although it took Israel somewhat longer to reopen its
Israel’s Ambassador to Ghana, Sharon Bar-Li, presented her
credentials to Mills in September of last year and told Peres that the first
visa to Israel that she issued was for King Osei Tutu.
Among the members
of the king’s entourage was Kobina Annan, a former Ghanaian ambassador to
Morocco who is also the brother of former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, with
whom Peres is very well acquainted and to whom he sent his warmest
What is happening in Syria, said Peres, is not a failure on Kofi
Annan’s part. “No one can stop the guns.”
Congratulating the king on on
his country’s accomplishments, Peres said, “What you have done in Africa is
Ghana is considered to be the most advanced country in Africa,
not only because of the work of the people but also the wisdom of the
Peres lauded Ghana as having the best economy in Africa and
being an emerging hope.
“For us the success of Ghana is a correction of
history,” he said, noting that Africa had suffered for a long time under foreign
rule – only now beginning to emerge from its difficult past and enjoy equal
rights, independence and respect.
King Osei Tutu, whose higher education
was obtained in London, is an accountant by training and an economist by
experience. He has worked as a senior consultant for the Mutual of Omaha
Insurance Company of Toronto, as finance officer at the British firm Oxo in
London and as personnel administrator at the Manpower Services Commission
attached to the Brent Council in London. His kingdom of eight million subjects
used to be independent but is now a region in Ghana. In power for the past 13
years, the king is regarded as the strongest traditional ruler in Africa. He was
a guest of the Foreign Ministry and his country’s embassy, and came at the
invitation of businessman Eytan Stibbe, one of several Israeli businessmen with
interests in Ghana.
The king thanked Wolfson Medical Center’s Save a
Children’s Heart (SACH) project for repairing the hearts of dozens of youngsters
from his country.
Visiting the Holon hospital at the end of last week, he
had learned how the voluntary organization functions and visited children from
Ghana, Angola, Zanzibar, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Uganda who are being treated
surgically for life-threatening congenital heart defects. He said he was very
impressed and thanked the approximately 70 people in the medical team for their
Israel is currently building a hospital in Ghana, and the king was
hopeful that Ghanaian doctors would be able to come to Israel for additional
specialized training. Ghana is also seeking cooperation in technological
training and hopes to attract more Israeli investors.
The king, who is
primarily interested in economic, health and peace issues, told Peres that he
supports the Ghanaian government of the day in these areas, but stays away from
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