A black-windowed Land Cruiser Sub-Urban Vehicle slowed to a halt in the deserted back streets of Misurata, Libya’s coastal city west of Tripoli. It is supposed to be one of the busiest streets in the city centre, but that day was Friday, and all shops and offices in that area were closed. The Land Cruiser had a red registration plate, an indication that its occupants could be members of the diplomatic corps. Before the vehicle stopped, two security cars with blaring sirens had escorted the black Land Cruiser from Tripoli.
A bespectacled middle-aged man, most likely in his late fifties, stepped out of the car. He wore a typical Ghanaian Northern smock and was accompanied by a tall gentleman who was later identified as Zakaria, an interpreter. Flanked by three armed security personnel, the gentleman in a smock, His Excellency Dr. Samuel Adotey Anum(Ph.D), walked majestically in the scorching sun through the bustling market square in Misurata. It is quite unusual for a non-Libyan to be flanked by gun-toting security men in the centre of a market. All eyes in the market were directed at the Ghanaian diplomat, who was on a mission. His purpose for being in that dusty, crowded market was very simple. He was there to ascertain the welfare of Ghanaian citizens first-hand. On that day, he met Ghanaian shop owners who dealt in Ghanaian food items and products. Onlookers of different nationalities who had thronged into the market gawked at His Excellency as he walked into the shops to interact with Ghanaians who had come to patronize Ghanaian food.
Dr. Anum’s diplomatic quest in Libya began in the year 2000, when he was brought in as a consular officer to “clean the rot” at the Ghana Embassy in Tripoli, Libya. A few months prior to his arrival at the embassy, hundreds of thousands of US dollars belonging to Ghanaian migrant workers disappeared from a safe after a mysterious break-in robbery on the premises of the Ghana mission. The mystery surrounding the unexplained robbery on the premises of a diplomatic compound remains unsolved.
His Excellency Dr. Anum, a disciplinarian, with a no-nonsense personality, did in fact clean up the scourge at the Ghana Embassy, which at that time had been used as a playground for illegal activities, including the sale of blank Ghanaian passport booklets that had gone missing from the Embassy’s vault at the Ghana Embassy. Often labelled as ‘a too strict Ga man’, Dr. Anum’s tough approach to instilling sanity in the mission was welcomed warmly by Ghanaians and Libyan officials as well, while others thought his approach was too extreme and harsh. Before
Dr. Anum was posted to Tripoli as a consular officer, the Ghana Embassy was a meeting place for the so-called “connection men” and their clients. It was a place where Ghanaians linked up with their friends and acquaintances. It was a hotbed of nefarious activities that distorted the image of a diplomatic presence. He banned such meetings and unnecessary gatherings and the sale of Ghanaian-made products and food and locally distilled alcohol. For the better part of his four years as a consular officer until his departure in 2004, there was a significant purge that has had a lasting effect until now.
Dr Anum’s diplomatic career has taken him to New York, Pretoria, Berlin and Geneva where he has been hailed as a nice diplomat who built bridges among the Ghanaian communities. His first ambassadorial post, twenty years later in Libya did not come as a surprise to those who knew him previously as a consular officer. However, returning to a country ravaged by wars, civil strife, ISIS threats, kidnappings, militia banditry and rivalries was a huge concern. Despite all these challenges, he took the reins at the embassy after a long absence of an ambassador.
H E, as he is often referred to because of his ambassadorial role, went straight to work. Surrounded by young, energetic, and robust diplomats, he made the welfare and concerns of undocumented Ghanaian migrants in Libya his primary concern. He took a rather bold initiative by negotiating with his Libyan counterparts, especially in the interior ministry, the immigration department, the police, and the municipality heads, to register all Ghanaians in their various municipalities. He prioritized the welfare of Ghanaians as his major objective and called upon all Ghanaians to register at the Ghana Embassy.
This registration exercise is done through the various Ghanaian communities that have been set up in cities and towns all over Libya to oversee the concerns and well-being of Ghanaians. Poised on attending to the needs of Ghanaians in Libya, His Excellency braved the insecurities in a war-stricken country and negotiated to secure the release of number of Ghanaian prisoners who were believed to have fought for an unrecognized military entity. A courageous feat that could only be achieved by a man who has Ghanaians at his heart.
With a core mandate of ascertaining the welfare of Ghanaians in Libya and addressing their grievances, Dr Anum has travelled extensively to cities, towns and villages where Ghanaians could be located. He and his team braved areas controlled by heavily armed militias to locate Ghanaians, at which on one occasion, they were nearly arrested by a militia group. He has interacted with Ghanaian migrant workers and expatriates in different fields of professions to address their concerns. With his never-ending commitment to addressing the issue of Ghanaians without legal documents, His Excellency has negotiated with his Libyan counterparts to soften their stance on undocumented Ghanaian migrants.
This has turned out to work positively as Ghanaians without the proper legal documents are not harassed as previously. But his monumental achievement and indelible accomplishment of his tenure as a diplomat in Libya are making it possible for thousands of Ghanaians in Libya to be able to apply for their biometric passports online and delivered to them in their homes after a short period. This has been an unexpected relief for hundreds of Ghanaians who have had their passports missing or expired. This innovative feat was in direct collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration (MFARI).
His second time of coming to Libya as Ghana’s Ambassador to the State of Libya has seen him engaged in numerous activities in the past two and half years tenure in office. This among others, is to strengthen the relationship within the Ghanaian community. This included the reorganization of the Ghanaian community/unions and community outreach. To reach out to Ghanaians, His Excellency and his team have made close to twenty visits since March 2020. They have been to Benghazi, Misurata, Zawiya, Garabouli, Zliten, Gharyan, Sabratha, Zuwara/Rigdalin, Nalut and Ghadamis. Another ground breaking innovative effort is the formation of the Council of Ghanaian Union Leaders in Libya (COGUL) as the Umbrella Ghanaian Union in Libya to work with the Mission in the interests of Ghanaian nationals. To cement the often stalled relationship between Ghanaians and the mission, he organized periodic engagements with community leaders/elders at the mission on issues of interest to the Ghanaian community and social programmes to unite the Ghanaian community, including football matches, dinners, initiation of performance award scheme for Ghanaian unions and leaders.
His tenure as head of the mission also saw consular interventions and engagements which kicked off the commencement of Online Biometric passport application in Libya. This also facilitated the Mobile passport capturing, the issuance of consular plastic Identity cards with enhanced security features for Ghanaians who register with the mission. Also, the registration and regularisation of Ghanaian nationals through arrangements with Municipalities for the issuance of Municipal Identity cards. This initiative has subsequently minimized the arrests and harassments of documented Ghanaian nationals in some of the major towns and cities in Libya.
Moreover, there is an Innovative Online Consul services which is in collaboration with the International Organization Of Migration (IOM). This initiative enables undocumented Ghanaians who reside in distant locations to interact with IOM officials in nearby towns.
In addition to the consular involvements, Dr Anum’s tenure has intervened on behalf of Ghanaian construction and other workers by preparing Generic Contract documents for them. These documents enable the workers to come into contractual terms with their Libyan employers. Besides, arrangements with certain healthcare facilities have also been made for Ghanaians to access healthcare. The mission has as well arranged with private attorneys for legal representation for Ghanaians during court cases. It has also improved procedures for the International Organization Of Migration’s (IOM) voluntary repatriation program. (eleven flights in two and half years, including Ghanaian prisoners and detainees)
Dr Anum also reignited the cordial and bilateral trade relationship with Libya and initiated steps towards the reactivation of the commerce and investment relations between Ghana and Libya.
His Excellency Dr. Anum will sign off soon as his tenure in office comes to an end shortly. His two and half years as the head of the mission in Libya have built bridges, brought Ghanaians under one unified umbrella and rekindled the stalled trade relationship with Libya. For his tremendous achievements in Libya, His Excellency Dr Anum has received awards from international organizations, including the Africa Centre For Studies and Research in Libya. Ghanaian communities have also appreciated his work in Libya with numerous awards and citations.
His physical presence and his closeness to Ghanaians will be talked about long after he has left. He will leave his name on the lips of every Ghanaian who has enjoyed his warmth and fatherly advice. His name will be etched on the memories of those whom he visited in detention camps, sick beds, and their places of work. A man of virtue and honour. A man of nobility and excellence. Ghanaians in Libya would wish he could stay longer, but as he takes a bow, he will leave an indelible mark on the corridors and hallways of the Ghana Embassy in Tripoli.
By MacDonald Bondzi Simpson
The author, MacDonald Bondzi Simpson, is a writer, an English language lecturer in Libya, and an advocate against irregular migration and human trafficking. He’s the author of “When Darkness Falls Across the Desert,” “The Cemetery Without Graves,” and “Tears, Fears, Sweat, & Blood.”
He also co-authored the report, “The Illegal Migration of Africans to Europe: The Price to Pay.”