A political scandal has been rocking Ghana in the last two weeks with allegations circulating in the local media that the newly sworn vice president, Paa Kwesi Amissah-Arthur, is gay.
The Ghananian press has been widely publishing the alleged affairs with anti-gay opinion op-eds designed to whip up a moral panic about homosexuality.
But Amissah-Arthur himself denies the unsubstantiated rumors, accusing a former school-mate of starting them.
In January 2011, a man named Joseph Kwabena Owusu-Sekyere told the Ghanaian paper The Daily Guide newspaper that he had been in a gay relationship with a prominent figure in the current government for a long time since the 1960s.
But the direct allegation implicating Amissah-Arthur only re-emerged in the last two weeks when he was announced as a prime candidate for the vice president post.
The candidancy followed the sudden death of Ghana’s president Mills last month (24 July).
Several papers have been running the story with many religious leaders commenting on the dangers of homosexuality to Ghana, stirring up anti-gay feeling throughout the country.
Amissar-Arthur broke his silence regarding the allegation when he was grilled by Ghana’s parliament’s appointments committee on Monday (6 August).
Member of parliament for Joe Osei-Owusu brought up the issue during the vetting and asked if the nominee cared to comment.
Amissah-Arthur told committee members the ‘libellous’ reports against him were masterminded by an old school mate who fell out with him after he refused to give him money.
‘It is not true, it is absolutely not true. I have not seen this gentleman for 40 something years,’ he said
‘He came to my house to ask for money and I gave him a little money and I have not seen him again.’
He said it had been difficult to take legal action to clear his name because his accusers avoided mentioning his name but instead resorted to innuendos.
Amissah-Arthur was sworn in as vice president the following day yet the press still continues to allege he is gay and dismiss his denials.
Under Ghanaian law, male same-sex sexual activity is illegal. Gay men can also be punished under provisions concerning assault and rape.
The US Department of State’s 2010 Human Rights Report revealed widespread and deeply held homophobic views.
It states: ‘LGBT persons faced widespread discrimination, as well as police harassment and extortion attempts. Gay men in prison often were subjected to sexual and other physical abuse.’
Speaking with Gay Star News prominent Ghanian LGBT advocate, Prince Kweku (name changed to protect his identity) said: ‘I have no concerns whether the vice president is gay or not.
‘He said he is not which I accept, even though, I like many other Ghanaians found his response unconvincing.
‘My only problem is the people treating gay people as a “bunch of animals” not fit to live among humans.
‘Only a few people are willing to come out openly about their sexuality due to public prejudices though there has been lots of effort through the movies, radio and television shows and discussions [to change this].
‘We must also acknowledge the fact that there are many prominent Ghanaians who are members of the LGBT community like ministers of state, members of parliament, chiefs, actors, actresses, pastors, business tycoons etc.
‘Gay people are here in Ghana and nothing can push the community or movement backwards. Effort therefore should be made to get gay people to be part of the nation building bearing in mind the challenges marginalization of sectors of society can cause to a nation.
‘In some parts of the country, locals have seen generations of gay people in their lineage and so have no issues with gay people.’
Kweku blames the obsession with homosexuality in Ghana on rising Christian religious fundamentalism.
It also seems the center-right National Patriotic Party, the opposition party to Amissah-Arthur’s left-wing National Democratic Party, is fuelling the rumors.
Instead of helping build Ghana ministers are ‘building mansions for themselves… raise funds for their children to attend university abroad but never care to raise little financial support for the poor church members to get even basic education,’ Kweku said.
‘The church today is full of hypocrites and only few are ready to face reality.’
According to him, the churches continue to incite against and insult gay people – creating a negative image.
He said: ‘The continuous condemnation of the LGBT community in Ghana is no surprise, therefore.
‘Until there is a positive image of LGBT people in Ghana, this negative [view] will not change soon.’
He also added that this has an effect on public health as ‘health workers working on the programs for men who have sex with men do not feel comfortable because of the existing law against sodomy in our law books.’