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Ghana: Our democracy is under threat   
 
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20-Feb-2010  
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What a country? Wonders they say shall never end. Many people, who understand democracy, were not at all disappointed when the National Democratic Congress won the last polls. The simple reason is that changes of government bring about accountability, efficiency in governance, and the adherence to the rule of law. Thus, a lot of people were thinking that, at least, the NDC would be able to add to the successes that were chalked by the NPP, thereby moving the country forward.

But, now, I am beginning to buy into the theory that those who contributed to the electoral victory of the NDC are feeling deep regret and disappointment in the administration—for letting the country down. Some of us thought that the “second coming” of the NDC was going to be entirely different from the first, but I tell you, if we don’t stand up, it’s going to be worse.

When I got a phone call from home (Ghana) around 7 pm on Thursday that two sympathizers of the opposition New Patriotic Party have been nabbed and remanded by the police via the influence of Dr. Kofi Adams, the spokesperson of former president Rawlings, for saying that the former president might have razed down his own house, I thought I was hallucinating. I was saying to myself—this cannot be true since I was not the least expecting this kind of development to happen in the country. But after getting access to the internet via my black berry, I realized that it was not a make-up story. The question that entered my head was this: Is our democracy a mirage? Do we deserve the accolade of being one of the most democratic countries in the world?

If these questions had been asked during the reign of the previous administration (NPP), I would have sticked my neck out and given an emphatic yes answer; but as things have been unfolding since the coming into office of this administration, I’m afraid—we have a long stretch to cover. How on God’s earth could somebody be remanded for 2 weeks for speaking his mind on an issue which has no societal relevance (www.myjoyonline.com, 18.2.2010)? I can’t get it; why a judge could put somebody behind bars for 2 weeks for suggesting that former president Rawlings could have razed his own house down? What kind of ruling is this? Are we revisiting the P(NDC) era? Are we drifting towards the dictatorial regime of a military junta? I hope Ghana is not gradually degenerating into the revolution period, where people who defended justice, and fought against tyrannical rule were either imprisoned or disappeared. It’s sad that our former first family have found themselves in this predicament—I commiserate with them, but wait a minute—we should not forget that others have, and are still going through worst things.

When people are picked up and incarcerated for vocalizing their views on issues—which don’t constitute a threat to our national security; but politicians (Ayariga and associates) who used their affinity to power to purchase equipment meant for the poor—are allowed to go free—a practice that is iniquitous and inimical to our progress, then our so much touted democracy is an illusion. Mr. Judge, the Ayarigas and Muntakas should have been given a “very comfortable” bed at the penitentiary and not somebody who spoke his mind on an issue which is already in the public domain. Even if he is wrong for making such a claim, he could have been asked to apologize and not be remanded for 14 days, which is a clear indication of human right abuse. The real threat to our survival as a nation, is not cases of this nature; but rather politicians, who over the years have succeeded in bringing our economy on its knees.

This ruling is going to go down in history as one of the most bizarre rulings in our jurisprudence. And it also shows a big difference between the NPP and NDC administrations. It is a clear evidence of intolerance, arrogance, and the wanton use of arbitrary power to massage one’s ego. Under former president J.A. Kufour and his NPP administration, ex-President Rawlings was not questioned when he publicly said, without evidence that he knew those NPP bigwigs who were behind the serial killings of women before the run-up to the 2000 elections. Nobody hauled Kobby Acheampong to the court for lying about president Kufour for having sophisticated and expensive gadgets in his house. Nobody incarcerated FiiFi Kwetey for lying to the whole world that Ghana has depleted her gold reserves. Although these allegations had the potential of shaking the security of the country, but because of the value and place of freedom of speech in democracy, they were allowed to go free. Now, they are in power, and have begun to gag those who dare speak against them.

In concluding, I will suggest that the government should not try to put the fear of God in us; we will not bulge, we will not give in because the constitution has guaranteed us the right to free speech. I’m not endorsing irresponsible shooting of our mouths or tearing apart person’s hard-won reputation. But, remanding an individual for 2 weeks for speaking his mind on an issue, a right that has been guaranteed him under the constitution, is very unfortunate. God bless Ghana!!
 
 
Source: Kingsley Nyarko, PhD, Psychologist & Educational Consultant, IAF- Munich, ([email protected])
 
 

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