UN in Ghana visits the rehabilitated Ussher Fort Slave Museum and Documentary Centre in Accra
On July 10th 2021, one month after the inauguration, the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board (GMMB) and the UNESCO Office in Accra organized a visit for the UN Country Team in Ghana to the Ussher Fort Slave Museum and Documentary Centre in Accra that has been rehabilitated with support from the Netherlands Funds-in-Trust (NFIT) and UNESCO. Usher Fort is a component of the serial World Heritage property Forts and Castles, Volta, Greater Accra, Central and Western Regions inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1979.
Apart from the UNESCO Representative in Ghana, Mr. Abdourahamane Diallo and the Acting Executive Director of GMMB, Mr. Ivor Agyeman-Duah, the guided tour of Ussher Fort was attended by several Representatives of the UN in Ghana, including Madam Angela Trenton-Mbonde, Representative of UNAIDS; Dr. Angela Lusigi, Resident Representative of UNDP; Mr. Adeniyi Ojuolape, Representative of UNFPA; Madam Esther Kiragu, Representative of UNHCR; Madam Ifeoma Esther Charles-Monwuba, Representative of UNOPS; Dr Albert Touna Mama, Resident Representative of IMF; and Mr. John Keating, Strategic Planning Officer at the Resident Coordinator’s Office.
During the tour, the Assistant Director of Monuments, Mr Bered Agyiri Sackey, spoke about the restlessness of the youth surrounding Ussher Fort. He explained that there is a lot of energy and potential among the predominantly unemployed youth in the local community and that there is a need to channel these resources for the benefit of the community. Mr. Abdourahamane Diallo agreed that it is necessary to reflect on how to involve the youth in the protection of the cultural heritage in their community. He also invited the UN agencies to join forces to address the numerous challenges that the Forts and Castles and their surrounding communities are facing. Attention needs to be given to the youth, rehabilitation of the infrastructure, education and transmission of information to curricula in the schools, and vocational training, which are areas where agencies such as UNFPA, UNOPS, UNICEF, ILO, UNDP and UNHABITAT can make an impactful contribution. Such joint activities would be in line with the UN principle of Delivering as One.
The UN in Ghana has its United Nations Sustainable Development Framework 2018-2022 as a guiding document for the planning and implementation of the UN development activities supporting the implementation of Ghana’s national goals and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with culture and sustainable tourism as an integral component. This sector was badly hit by COVID 19 COVID-19: Impact on Culture & the Creative Sector | United Nations in Ghana and in building back better, it needs all the support. Similarly the African Union (AU) in Agenda 2063 Goals & Priority Areas of Agenda 2063 | African Union (au.int) under aspiration 5 ‘Africa with a Strong Cultural Identity Common Heritage, Values and Ethics’ is championing Arts, Culture and Heritage for 2021 and this activity of the museum contributes to that agenda.
Facts about Ussher Fort
Ussher Fort has a rich history of having been a trade post, slave dungeon, a police post and a prison. It was also used for military detention and a refugee camp for both Liberians and South Sudanese in 2005. It was later transformed into a museum of slavery that was temporarily closed in 2014. Today, the museum allows visitors to learn about a dark chapter in the history of the European-African encounters. It was first opened in 2007 by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture with support from UNESCO and the European Commission and aims to highlight the history of the transatlantic slave trade in Ghana until the British abolition of slavery in 1833. The collection is varied and includes items once used by captors on victims. There are weapons, African household items and a model of the St. George’s Castle (Elmina). The museum also contains paintings of key abolition figures such as Harriet Tubman.