A commodities boom, abundant foreign currency reserves, a democratically elected government and a new generation of educated young people endowed with huge potential. Sounds familiar? I am actually describing the Ghana of 1957.
It is perhaps hard for young people today to imagine how optimistic my generation was at the time of independence. Ours was one of the richest countries in Africa.
Like today, our raw materials were in high demand. Our national income was comparable to South Korea’s and our prospects were among the best in what was then called the “under-developed world.”
Yet, 30 years later, South Korea's annual income per head had risen to 10 times that of Ghana’s. It eventually joined the OECD club of rich nations while we hope to become a “middle-income” country only by 2015. Our early hopes were dashed by exclusionary politics, poor economic management and corruption, which created and perpetuated political instability.
Since then, we have steadily regained lost economic ground and become a stable democracy, organising a series of credible elections, leading to peaceful transfers of power. We can be proud of these achievements. Once again, Ghana’s youth is full of hope in the future.
With oil coming on stream, and strong exports of other commodities, our economy is growing at a vigorous eight per cent and we have a second chance to raise Ghana into the world’s premier league within a generation.
But for this upbeat scenario to come true this time, we must not score own-goals”. We have to invest the revenues from our natural resources and agriculture into health, education and infrastructure for the benefit of all Ghanaians. We must make the most of our second chance, for we do not know whether there will be a third.
It is against this backdrop that Ghana awaits the momentous ruling of the Supreme Court on last December’s presidential election. The court has already won plaudits for its rigorous and professional work over the past months. The very uncertainty of the outcome speaks to the independence and credibility of the court. What matters most is that its ruling be based on a thorough and fair examination of all the facts, leading to an impartial adjudication of the competing claims before the court.
The ball will soon be back in the politicians’ court. The successful party must overcome the temptation to gloat, and the other side must avoid the urge to cast doubt on the court and its decision. Succumbing to either impulse would be reckless and unworthy of responsible democratic leaders, and indeed of the people of Ghana, whose prospects depend on continued political stability.
I am confident that the election dispute can be resolved peacefully through our institutions - provided the main parties respect the findings of the Court. Such an outcome will not only burnish our democratic credentials, but also bolster the hopes of a nation for a brighter, more prosperous tomorrow.
As the chairman of the African Union panel that mediated a settlement to the post-election violence in 2007/2008, I was impressed by how responsibly Kenyans handled the uncertainties that came out of their last elections in March. The political parties were at pains to discourage violence by their supporters.
Elections are a means of regulating political rivalries in the broader interest of the nation. As the Global Commission on Elections, Democracy and Security highlighted in its 2012 report, the importance of elections with integrity lies in the legitimacy they confer on the winners and the security they ensure for the losers. Democracy is not about winner-takes-all politics; it is about the winner serving all his or her people and shoring up the rule of law.
The winner has to be given a chance to lead, and the losers have to find their rightful place in opposition, keeping the government in check and preparing rival policies to present to the electorate the next time round.
In 1957, Kwame Nkrumah said, “We are prepared to pick it (Ghana) up and make it a nation that will be respected by every nation in the world.” Let us live up to Kwame Nkrumah’s aspirations today and show the world what we are capable of.
Source: Kofi Annan / Former Secretary General of the UN
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