Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hanna Tetteh, has in a rather soft tone downplayed suggestions by former President Rawlings that she exhibited a disrespectful act by walking out of a public event in Accra on Monday.
Mr. Rawlings in his usual angry reactions alleged that Mrs. Tetteh walked out of a three-day conference of World Mayors after she was told that the Vice-President, Kwesi Amissah-Arthur, would be replacing her as the person to deliver a speech on behalf of President John Mahama.
Mr. Rawlings said: “I was told that the President was not coming to the start of the Conference. Instead he had delegated the Foreign Minister to come and represent him. So I said, he can’t do that. We have the Vice President here. Protocol is such that if [President Mahama] cannot do it he should ask his vice president to come and open the conference, not his foreign minister. I tried to call the President and he called back and I told him that we have a Vice-President on the ground and he cannot send his foreign minister [to represent him]. He probably wasn’t told that the Vice President was [here], and he said sorry.
“The President sends his Vice-President to order the thing to start and we have to wait for him. She doesn’t even have the patience to wait and sit and join the meeting. She packs up and go because she can’t open it.
According to the former President, Mrs. Tetteh’s conduct was “disrespectful.”
“Humility is very important when you hold office. It’s not everything that the President does agree with or that I like. But you cannot take away from him, his humble way of doing things, his likable nature. I’m afraid some of the characters around him have a problem,” President Rawlings said. This sort of disrespect is not acceptable,” he said.
However, in a statement issued by an aide and attributed to the Foreign Minister, Mrs. Tetteh gave a version of events that conflicted with Mr. Rawlings’ account.
Explaining the circumstances that led her to leave the conference early, the Foreign Minister said that she got a call at about 9:45 am from President John Mahama’s secretary Monday asking her to represent the later at the opening of the three-day 4th World Summit of Mayors and leaders of African Descent conference.
She said she agreed and asked that the speech be emailed to her.
Mrs. Tetteh said whereas the secretary told her that the event would begin at 10:30am, she received a call from her protocol officer that time had been moved forward to 10:00am.
She said at the same time, the Mayor of Accra, Mr. Alfred Okoe Vanderpuye, had indicated to her that they were expecting the Vice-President, Mr. Kwasi Amissah-Arthur to open event.
She said when the Mayor failed to get in touch with the Vice-President’s protocol officers, he reached out, asking her to come quickly and deliver the President’s speech, as the programme was about to begin.
Mrs. Tetteh said: I rushed to the Conference Centre to be told by the Mayor that he had spoken to the President and the VP was coming. My response was that if that was the cased then there was no need for me to be there. I decided to sit [and] wait to see if the VP would come because my understanding was that I was to stand in and give the President’s speech and I thought it wasn’t a good idea to leave and be called back. I was sitting on the other side of the room from JJ [Jerry Rawlings].
“As soon as the VP arrived he went to JJ to greet him [and] other dignitaries (who I had also greeted when I got there), they were chatting so I slipped out of the other door and left to go to Cabinet. Admittedly I didn’t tell all the people I had previously greeted that I was leaving, but I felt it wasn’t really necessary to announce my departure and explaining to everyone the reason why, as the program was already running very late [and] I was sure the focus would be on getting started. Now how is that disrespectful?”
The three-day conference was attended by over 3,000 delegates made up of mayors, city authorities and leaders from Africa and Africans in the Diaspora to forge alliance and partnership to promote the development of Africa and people in the diaspora.