Response To Hon. Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa’s Claims On President Akufo-Addo’s Trip To Belgium And Rwanda

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My attention has been drawn to a Facebook post by Hon. Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, Member of Parliament for North Tongu, stated categorically that “for President Akufo-Addo’s current trip to Belgium and Rwanda beginning Sunday the 19th of June, 2022 to attend the 15th Edition of the European Development Days Forum in Brussels, Belgium, and the 26th Meeting of the Heads of Government of the Commonwealth of Nations in Kigali, Rwanda; we can confirm a conservative bill of €480,000.00”.

According to Hon. Sam Okudzeto Ablakwa, the President’s trips to Belgium, and subsequently to Rwanda were aboard an Airbus ACJ319, registered D-Alex. He further adds that “the 480,000 Euros which is derived from 21 hours of total flight time plus other industry charges works out to some 4.1million Ghana Cedis at current exchange rate”.

These claims by the North Tongu MP are not accurate, and as a Member of Parliament, I was hoping he would have been factual and truthful in his claims, and resisted the urge to engage in propaganda.

The facts of the matter are as follows. President Akufo-Addo left Ghana on Sunday, 19th June 2022, to attend the 15th edition of the European Development Days Forum in Brussels, Belgium. It is public knowledge that President Akufo-Addo DID NOT travel to Belgium aboard a chartered Airbus ACJ319, as is being claimed by the North Tongu MP. The President travelled to Belgium onboard an Air France Commercial Flight (AF0584), which departed Accra on Sunday at 7:20pm, made a stop-over in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, and then continued to Paris. In fact, all of President Akufo-Addo’s 12-member delegation travelled commercial.

Upon arrival in Paris, President Akufo-Addo and his delegation travelled via train to Brussels to attend the European Development Days event, where, on Tuesday, 21st June 2022, he was a keynote speaker, and later held meetings with the President of the European Investment Bank on two key subject areas – the financial assistance to Ghana for the Development Bank Ghana and for the construction of a vaccine manufacturing Plant in Ghana. He also held a meeting with His Excellency Charles Michel, President of the European Council, on matters of mutual interest, especially the ongoing terrorist activities in the Sahel.

Indeed, prior to the President’s departure from Accra to Brussels on Sunday, 19th June, Ghana’s Mission in Brussels had sent notice of an impending strike in the aviation sector in Belgium to the Presidency and to the Foreign Ministry. Indeed, on 17th June, unionised Brussels Airline workers, including pilots and crew, had announced their decision to embark on a strike beginning Thursday, 23rd June, to Saturday, 25th June. This was going to result in the cancellation of over three hundred (300) flights, including those from Brussels to Kigali. In furtherance of this, Belgium’s largest airport, Brussels Airport, was compelled to cancel all outgoing flights on Monday, 20th June, the day President Akufo-Addo arrived in Brussels, because employees at the airport had joined in an aviation sector strike.

With the Presidency having been given prior information regarding the strike action before the President’s trip to Brussels, the option to travel using a direct commercial flight from Brussels to Kigali was not available. Thus, the decision was taken to charter a flight for President Akufo-Addo and his entourage to make the eight hour and forty-minute flight (8h 40min) flight from Brussels to Kigali on Wednesday, 22nd June. This was done to ensure that the President made it to Kigali on time to participate in the ground-breaking ceremony on Thursday, 23rd June, for commencement of work on the Pan-African Vaccine Manufacturing Project, involving Ghana, Rwanda, Senegal and BioNTech SE, the German biotechnology company, as well as attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, which also is being held in Kigali, Rwanda.

I do not think the Member of Parliament for North Tongu is suggesting, in any shape of form, that the President, in view of these challenges in Brussels and also in view of the President’s security, should have travelled from Brussels to Amsterdam or London, for example, in the forlorn hope of trying to get a flight to Rwanda. Indeed, travel to Kigali for CHOGM has been problematic, resulting in RwandAir, the national airline of Rwanda, for example, organizing a special flight to convey Commonwealth High Commissioners, from London to Kigali, to enable them participate in the Summit.

The First Lady arrived in Kigali on Wednesday, 22nd June, using the Presidential Jet, because the plan has always been that the President and some members of his delegation, together with the First Lady, will use the Presidential Jet to make the 4-hour forty-five-minute (4hr 45mins) return flight from Kigali to Accra on Saturday, 25th June 2022. Indeed, for trips within Africa, and for trips that do not last for more than six (6) hours, the President continues to use the Presidential Jet for those trips.

One such trip to be undertaken by the President, where the Presidential Jet is to be used, will be on Sunday, 26th June, where he will travel to Lisbon, Portugal, to attend the 2022 UN Ocean Conference, and return home on Wednesday, 29th June.

Eugene Arhin

Director of Communications

Office of the President

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