Thursday, 10 December 2015

Intra Party Violence And Lessons For Election 2016


The ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) scored high political marks over the weekend with its expanded and digitized presidential and parliamentary primaries. 

The earth-shattering shock inflicted on some sitting MPs by young aspiring ones are normal in such high profile contests. What is abnormal was the acts of violence which were few in number but huge in magnitude.

 These relate to the snatching of ballot boxes and the slapping of party supporters out of anger and confusion in the affected voting centers.

 The opposition New Patriotic Party, NPP on the other hand wears a conflicting tag which refuses to drop with each passing day. What started as a punitive response to Paul Afoko’s alleged travesty of party discipline has snowballed into an endless violence and a ruinous legal battle. In a flat contradiction to NPP’s motto, its headquarters which is supposed to be a citadel of freedom is now a spectacle of fighting.

True, both the NDC and the NPP are not on the same scale in terms of intra party cohesion or intra-party confusion. NDC’s front is generally peaceful whiles NPP’s camp is disturbingly rancorous. On the perpetration of violence, none is purer than pure, or whiter than white. Politicians of all partisan hues and supporters of all political stripes have serious work to do to kill that instinct that directly or remotely promote violence.

 What happened in the NDC primaries and what is lingering in the NPP family reinforce the point that addiction to power and differences over issues can drive even party people to the lowest common denominator between them to the extent of committing murder. But murderous acts and their destabilizing impact on our democracy should not be tolerated at all. The point can hardly be articulated that the political parties are the building blocks of democracy.

 And Ghana’s reputation as a beacon of democratic accomplishment in Africa takes a tailspin whenever any act of violence is recorded in any of the parties. The insecurity implications of such violence too must not be toyed with. For this reason, law and order in all the parties must not be allowed to spin out of control. In our highly polarized and dangerously polluted political space, any breach of peace or infraction of the law can pose a fatal threat to national security. 

It is however, assuring to hear from the police that the security challenges over the NDC primaries will equip them to strategize for Election 2016. Many analysts also hold the view that the dark spots of the NDC primaries are a portrait of past elections and forecast of the next.

Coming events they say, cast their shadows. 
But no one, high or low, rich or poor should be allowed to inhabit the shadows of violence. The law must deal surgically with such offenders. Meanwhile, all our good governance institutions, National Commission for Civic Education, the Media, the National Peace Council and other apostles of peace and the rule of law must wake up and teach Ghanaians to grow up to embrace peace and reject violence. 

Even when tempers flare and tensions soar, nothing should be done to imperil the peace. May the Lord of Peace himself give us peace at all times and in every way as election 2016 inevitably approaches.


Democracy Verses Development


''Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely'', simply, drawing from the opinions of British Moralist and Historian, Lord Acton, African governments are inclined to subscribe to democracy as a tool for development. However, some are asking whether Democracy is getting in the way of development, giving the bureaucratic bottlenecks and the structured way of getting things done. The Africa Report in association with Mo Ibrahim Foundation launched the first in the series of Debates in Accra to provide the platform for African leaders to talk tough on development. President Mahama had the honour to set the tone for the debate.

 In his speech, he alluded to the man behind Singapore's success, Lee Kwan Yew. Lee is described as the man who transformed a mosquito-ridden colonial post, Singapore, into a prosperous financial center, dubbed today's global power house. Although, he faced criticism for stifling the media and remained harsh to his opponents, Lee remains the architect to Singapore's prosperity. 

Can we say the same for Ghana's Dr. Kwame Nkrumah? Some argue that Dr. Nkrumah was an autocratic leader, and yet nearly sixty years after he gained independence, Ghanaians are still drawing on the achievements of Osagyefo. The question still remains, What sort of a political system would generate the greatest economic and social benefit for Africa?

This is where one can agree with President Mahama when he stated concluding his speech at the Africa Report Debates that, Democracy is not a straightjacket phenomenon. It must be allowed to evolve and Africans must study and bring the best practices to their respective countries, reminding all that he remains a ''social democrat''.

Truly, democracy requires development, and both must move in tandem. Here, the quality of delivery is considered very important? What is democracy without results, What is democracy when majority of the people are hungry? Bread and butter issues should be answered in a democracy. Democracy should not only be about the ballot box, it must serve as a guarantee to the people that their rights are protected on a continuous basis, where their decisions for a decent life impacts on them daily. Citizens must have their freedoms, and opportunities must open up for choices.

 Of course, across the continent, there are cases of non-functional democracies, where the political leaders who claim to be ardent of democracy provide no political space for their citizens. Political space and inclusiveness is critical to the question of whether democracy as a form of governance is the best way to promote development. Democracy obviously requires development. When it comes to investing in Africa, the number one concern to the investors is the ability to operate in a politically stable climate.

The African Report Debate has provided a wake-up call to African leaders to be more responsive to democracy and development. Democracy in itself should be seen as a process and the fight for a better one, must be the responsibility of all on the continent. 

Participation is fundamental to get the process going and this is where the media have the responsibility of educating citizens on the need to seek accountability from governments. Proponents of democracy say, Africa can leap frog into developmental transformations, provided its leaders possess the wherewithal to make this happen. 

With only nine years in office and sixty years on, Ghana is still benefiting from some of the concrete policies and infrastructure put in place by founding father Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, so given the advancement in technology today, African leaders have no excuse, but to gird their loins and put themselves to the task to make democracy and development more meaningful to the people. Democracy is a process, and Africa needs to learn from the mishaps of forbears and commit to resolving the mirage of persistent economic struggles on the continent. Political leaders must make the democratic governance institutions work for the people!


International Day for Universal Access to Information


A 13 year- campaign by global civil society groups for a day to be dedicated to Universal Access to Information has paid off. The Executive Board of UNESCO on October 19, this year, adopted a resolution recommending that September 28 be recognized as Access to Information Day.

 And so on November 17, this year, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) General Conference voted to designate September 28 as “International Day for the Universal Access to Information.” For global civil society and like-minded organisations, it was welcome news and precisely so, for the significant benefits of the day. The International Day for the Universal Access to Information does not only seek to raise awareness about the importance of the right of access to information but also provide a framework for the enjoyment of the right of access to information by all people. 

The UNESCO Executive Board could not have stated it better when it noted that “the establishment of a specific date provides a coherent message at the international level and facilitates coordination of joint initiatives on public awareness and elucidation by organizations in the coherence of a universally recognized day.” There is no doubt that, access to information is a fundamental human right - to seek, access and receive information.

 It will establish a legal process by which requests may be made for government-held information, to be received freely or at minimal cost, barring standard exceptions. It is guaranteed by several protocols and charters such as Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and Article 4 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa.

Since 2002, after a conference in Sofia, Bulgaria, international civil society advocates have been observing September 28 as “Right to Know Day.”

 Many more civil society platforms such as the African Platform on Access to Information (APAI), African Freedom of Information Center (AFIC) amongst other regional and national level organisations and coalitions have engaged in several activities and vigorous campaigns to push for the adoption of the international day. The commitment by African civil society groups and African countries to push the UNESCO resolution was highly instructive.

According to Nigeria-based Freedom of Information Campaigner Edetaen Ojo, the institution of the Day, represents a major advancement in the 13-year quest by global civil society to have a day set aside annually to raise awareness about the importance of access to information throughout the world. He observed that the day is a gift to the world that Africa can be justly proud of.”

 Certainly, the day is a great milestone, which also signals the beginning of more work ahead. International civil society still bears the onerous task of translating activism into real adoption of ATI legislation by many more countries.

 They need not relent in their efforts until there exist, implementation mechanisms for such legislation to become meaningful to ordinary citizens. It is important to commend delegates of the 38th Session of the UNESCO’s General Conference in Paris. They really walked the talk by moving the access to information campaign to an enviable height with the adoption of September 28 to be marked as the “International Day for the Universal Access to Information.” 

The long wait is now over. Kudos to international civil society, and more grease to their elbows for the task ahead!!!


Collaborating To Realise 5-Year Target Of HIV Prevention

1st December which is World AIDS Day, affords the global Community, the opportunity to take stock on the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) pandemic. The Ghana AIDS Commission is the national coordinating body on HIV and AIDS, responsible for educating the public on how to prevent HIV and reduce stigma against People Living HIVs. 

The Ghana AIDS Commission also deserves applause for the transparency involved in choosing its Implementation Partners (IPs). The Partners are often selected through a Tender Bid, scrutinized by independent evaluators and have their capacities strengthened in Technical, Financial and Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation.

It is significant to note that the Commission this time around, does not hesitate to sanction none performing Implementation Partners and those who misappropriate funds for HIV programmes. In some instances, these erring Implementation Partners (IPs) are made to cough out the funds embezzled. These proactive steps have brought sanity into the operations of Implementing Partners. However there is still room for improvement.

The Global Community has set “FAST TRACK – “90-90-90” targets for the next five years that is 2016-2020. These new targets require countries to ensure that 90 percent of all persons living with HIV get to know their status, 90 percent of those who know their status receive life-saving antiretroviral treatment and 90 percent of people who are on treatment will effectively have their viral loads suppressed. Ghana can achieve these results in the next five years, through innovative HIV prevention messages to the general public.

 Confidential HIV testing and counseling is a crucial and non-negotiable ingredient in achieving the 90 percent target of all persons living with HIV getting to know their status. It is said that HIV and AIDS treatment, care and support begin with ‘Knowing Your Status’. 

This means that HIV and AIDS accoutrements such as condoms, test kits and posters must be readily available and in the right quantities for use in the field. CD4 machines for viral load counts are delicate necessities to achieving 90 percent of people who are on treatment to effectively have their viral loads suppressed. It is important to ensure that the machines are available in all parts of the country soonest. 

Thank God Antiretroviral Drugs are now being manufactured in Ghana. This is obviously a source of hope to People Living with HIV. Kudos to the Mahama administration for the recent 6-million-cedi support to produce ARVs locally.

The Ghana AIDS Commission and the National AIDS Control Programme have no excuses whatsoever to talk of shortage of antiretrovirals in the 2016-2020 strategic years of implementation. Civil Society Organisations must be made to retain trained staff for at least five years to serve within the periods of the new “90-90-90” target for the next five years (2016-2020). It is on record that some CSOs blatantly violated the remuneration arrangements of their staff.

 It must be clearly understood that HIV and AIDS intervention is a serious national activity which requires trained counselors, monitoring and evaluation officers, accounts officers, project coordinators and most crucial of all, trained peer educators to achieve set goals. Therefore the selfish attitudes on the part of the so called founders and owners of NGOs must be checked. 

The AIDS Ambassadors initiative is another feather in the cap of the Ghana AIDS Commission. There is the need for Greater Involvement of People Living with HIV (GIP) as enshrined in the Paris Declaration to represent the country at world gatherings of HIV and AIDS.

As a people, let's take a cue from East and Southern Africa, where a good number of clients who actually feel the pinch of HIV are supported to attend international forums. These exposures enable them to interact with and learn best practices while showcasing their home experience. Through these exposes they are able to attract huge funds back home to support governments and organisations working to prevent HIV.

 On an auspicious day like World AIDS Day, it is just proper to commend some individuals like Dr. Naa Ashely Vanderpuye –Donton and Dr. Commey of Korle Bu Fever’s Unit, as well as institutions like West Africa AID Foundation, University of Ghana Legon and Ministry of Finance for their invaluable role in HIV prevention programmes. 

These among other unsung heroes continue to show great passion for HIV and AIDS interventions in Ghana. Let's all support the AIDS Commission to be more proactive when it comes to matters concerning the new “FAST TRACK –“90-90-90” target for 2016-2020 so that Ghana will surely be on course to yielding positive results in HIV prevention programmes.


Newly Constituted National Media Commission


The newly constituted 18-member National Media Commission has been sworn into office with veteran journalist, and member of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), Kwasi Gyan Apenteng, being elected as the new chairman. Since its inception in 1993 by a constitutional instrument of the 1992 Constitution, the National Media Commission has tried to fulfill its key mandate of promoting and ensuring the freedom and independence of the media for mass communication and information. 

The National Media Commission has for the past 23 years, contributed to making the media landscape in Ghana as fluid and autonomous as possible, though with much trial and effort.

 It is also a fact that the Commission has led the media to help nurture, build and restore democracy in Ghana to the envy and admiration of many.

 As a state institution that has the herculean task of playing both the watchdog and regulatory roles, it was expected to get the much-needed financial and logistical support for its activities. It is no secret that the Commission does not get its full budgetary support for its activities.

 Many were the complaints of the Commission being a toothless bulldog which mostly supervised a media environment that had little respect for decency, ethics and often considered platforms for perpetuating social and political disorder. 

The advice by a Supreme Court Judge, Justice Anin Yeboah during the inauguration, that the Commission should ensure that the media is not used to propagate information which would cause confusion, especially before, during and after the 2016 general elections, must be food for thought for the new NMC members. 

Justice Anim Yeboah, emphasizing that some media houses in Ghana needed to be deemed as flash-points of political violence, speaks volumes of how the proliferation of the media has given little respect to the code of ethics and moral expression of this noble profession. This indicated that the task ahead of the new members of the National Media Commission is by no means an easy one.

 This is particularly so when it has become very clear that the essence of repealing the Criminal Libel Law in 2006 has been challenged by the current spate of media abuse on the airwaves; on TV screens; and in newspaper pages.

 The publication and broadcast of despicable pictures of accidents; the use of foul language and propagation of falsehood; exaggeration of news broadcast particularly in local languages; expression of political partisanship by some media houses; lack of professionalism and the employment of non-professionals in most media houses; the uncontrolled use of social media; and the blatant refusal of some practitioners to avail themselves for scrutiny or even provide adequate rejoinders to malicious publications about individuals or institutions, are but a few of the critical concerns confronting the Ghanaian media.

For the new National Media Commission to excel by all standards, will mean the members holding themselves above board; and as advised by the out-going Chairman, Ambassador Kabral Blay Amihere, not to involve in partisan politics. There is also the need to work collectively; it will also mean members of the Commission walking the talk, to set examples worthy of emulation, rather than some using their papers and stations to fan anti-media sentiments. All said and done, there is the need for the state to ensure the adequate provision of financial and logistical support to enable the Commission to perform its Constitutional mandate.

 There is also the need to revisit the governing laws of the Commission aimed at strengthening its authorization to decisively deal with issues that crop up, rather than accusing it of being a lame duck. It is the hope of all well-meaning Ghanaians that, members of the reconstituted National Media Commission rise above all challenges, and act as ambassadors of the people of this country, to sanitize the media landscape for the good of all.


Be Quality Conscious In The Purchase Of Goods


Around this time, markets in the country usually become saturated with a variety of goods, many of which are found to be sub-standard or unwholesome. Many business people take advantage of the season, to flood the market with a wide range of products.

Availability of increased variety of products on the market is good since it gives consumers the opportunity to select from a pool of different categories of consumables.

The problem, however, is that many of the goods on the market tend to be unwholesome. Consumers are deceived to buy things that they otherwise would not be willing to buy. We are in the last month to the end of the year, and many people will go shopping for their end-of-year activities. 

It is important to look out for the manufacture and expiry dates on the products. Expiry dates help consumers to determine whether or not products are fit for consumption. This will ensure the health and safety of the public. In this regard, consumers should be concerned about expiry dates suspected to have been tampered with. 

In other words, goods should never be purchased when one has the least suspicion that the original manufacture and expiry dates have been tampered with. The consumer is usually influenced by a number of factors, including taste, income, durability, product quality and so on. 

However, generally, consumers tend to look for products that are comparatively cheap in order to save money for other pressing needs. This is understandable because resources are limited. In spite of this, it is important for everyone to pay attention to quality issues when purchasing consumer goods, because it guarantees health and safety, and also ensures protection of the environment.

 The desire for huge profit margins has influenced many business executives to go in for sub-standard products; the prices of which are usually reduced to entice unsuspecting consumers. The danger with this irresponsible behaviour is that it threatens the lives of consumers and puts every person at risk. 

Fighting against this situation calls for the collective efforts of all institutions and individuals, particularly regulatory bodies and the Ghana Standards Authority as well as consumers.

No matter the efforts by the regulatory bodies, if the consumer takes things for granted, the desired result may not be achieved.

 It is therefore important for all consumers to be alert at this time of the year when all kinds of products are being advertised to attract buyers. 

Ghanaians must be quality conscious at all times, in order not to be deceived by the outward decorative and appealing appearances of goods in the market. This way, the safety of consumers can be guaranteed.


Illegal logging especially in Northern Ghana


Barely a year after the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources placed a ban on the illegal harvesting, trade and export of rosewood from Ghana, the loggers are back stripping the northern region bare of its precious trees.

After the construction of the Fulfulso-Sawla road and the Bui Hydro dam between 2012 and 2014, when logging became a free for all activity in those parts of the country, the then Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Alhaji Inusah Fuseini, with support from President John Mahama, placed a ban on this indiscriminate cutting down of trees.

One year on, the merchants are gradually making their way back into the woodlands of Northern Ghana.

As usual, they are taking their contraband goods past police stops and barriers, sometimes in already sealed containers to the ports for export.

Those that travel on land find their way moving to Togo from Zanware, Walewale; also after going past several police check points.

Currently, logging activities are going on unabated in parts of Daboya, Mankrago, Busunu, Damongo, Sor No 1 and 2, Buipe, and between Gulumpe and Dawadawa No 1 and 2 on the Tamale-Kintampo Highway.

Hitherto, the logs were conveyed by exposed forty footer trucks with canopies for a covering, but these fresh logs, mainly rosewood, Afzelia, africana, and other hard wood species are now conveyed already packed into shipping containers, sealed and transported with ease from the forest to the points of export either by sea or by land. What has not changed are the faces driving this illegal trade.

Just like before, merchants from the south are stationed in Damongo and Busunu and they engage locals to cut the trees. Most merchants also bring along their chain saw operators who ply their trade with impunity.

The President in reiterating that the ban on rosewood was still in force in 2014, called on the security agencies, the revenue authorities and the Forestry Commission to work diligently to ensure full compliance and secure the environment.

Looking at the current situation, one wonders if the presidency has any mechanism or system in place to ensure that these agencies enforce the ban?

Revising the National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy is a good move but it could as well end up being another paper work if real commitments and efforts are not made at implementation.

Again, what will become of the National REDD Strategy and Readiness Program, if we continue with business-as-usual and allow greedy merchants and some political and traditional authorities to exploit these precious natural resources to the detriment of the majority of Ghanaians.

Logging in the northern parts of Ghana should not be seen as a problem for people living in the north only, because an unacceptable environmental practice anywhere is a threat to environmental safety everywhere.

We all owe it a duty to be watch dogs of the laws of the land, and as President Mahama puts it in his speech to mark this year's World Youth Day, we should not allow a few people to steal from the system, to enrich themselves, because the resources are for the benefit of every Ghanaian.

These are tough times and we must not allow these merchants to pay their way through from the bottom to the top to subvert national laws and regulations for their selfish interest.

The only assurance government can give to weed out corruption, particularly in the forestry sub-sector, is for it to commit and empower state institutions to adequately deal with individuals, be they traditional leaders, or political elites, who by virtue of their position flout environmental laws with impunity.

It’s about time Government stopped paying lip service to ensuring environmental security and taking firm actions to deal with the numerous environmental crimes.

Ghana, indeed needs strong institutions within the environmental sector.

By Daryl Bosu, A Concerned Environmentalist.

Re-nomination and approval of Veep Amissah-Arthur to partner President Mahama as running mate


After months and weeks of speculation and uncertainty President John Dramani Mahama yesterday put the debate effectively to a rest when he renominated his Vice, Kwesi Bekoe Amissah-Arthur to once again partner him for the 2016 General Elections.

The last few weeks have seen the sudden sprouting of a number of mushroom pressure groups within the ruling National Democratic Congress, canvassing for the choice of one personality or the other as the running mate to the party's President Candidate.

One group by name concerned Youths of the Volta Region demanded the choice of the Speaker of Parliament, Edward Doe Adjaho, over the current Vice President, while another group from the Central Region was also lobbying for the Foreign Affairs Minister, Hanna Tetteh. Other names such as AMA Chief Executive, Alfred Okoe Vanderpuiye and Minister for Trade and Industry, Dr. Ekow Spio-Garbrah also came up, only for all these individuals to distance themselves from such calls.

In fact, Mr. Adjaho endorsed the Vice President as his preferred choice of a running mate. It is not exactly clear why sections of the NDC would want the current Vice President out.

But listening to some, they claim Mr. Amissah-Arthur has not been active, in that they do not see much of him in the media, others also went to the extent of suggesting that, by virtue of his position, he is the chairman of the government's Economic Management Team, and that the current difficulties facing the country's economy are a reflection of his failure.

Another reason which was flying all over was that the party should be looking beyond elections 2016 and pick a running mate who could become the party's Presidential candidate in 2020, and they believe Mr. Amissah-Arthur may not be well cut out for that.

It beats one's imagination on what scientific basis such conclusions could be reached though.

But in re-affirming his confidence in his Vice President, President Mahama stated that Mr. Amissah-Arthur is able and willing to perform the job, and that he has got a good record, having been a deputy minister, and a governor of the Central Bank.

Above all as a Vice President, he has acted on a number of occasions as President in the absence of the President.

The President re-iterated that he has a good partnership with his Vice and going into 2016 together, they can achieve victory.

One still wonders why people within the NDC wanted to change the ticket that secured them a one touch victory in 2012 with just about three months of campaigning.

Are they not aware of the popular saying that you do not change a wining team?

It is even more baffling if not paradoxical, that on the opposite side, the flagbearer of the NPP, Nana Akuffo Addo thought it wise to maintain his running mate, Dr., Mahmoud Bawumiah, even though the two have lost two consecutive elections.

Perhaps, those making the calls have soo soon forgotten that at their Kumasi Congress, Former President Jerry Rawlings, who is described as the Founder of the NDC, openly endorsed Mr. Amissah Arthur, describing him as a bold person who stands for the truth no matter what.

The Vice President himself was a bit surprised at calls for his change.

In an interaction with the Presidential Press Corps, shortly after news broke of his endorsement, Mr. Amissah-Arthur stated that he has been doing a lot and that he is the main advisor to the President and he tries to do an honest job.

He adds that he tries not to make public a lot of things that go on behind the scenes, even though he lets the President know where he stands on every issue.

According to pollster and managing editor of the Daily Dispatch newspaper, Ben Ephson, it would have been a political suicide if President Mahama had chosen another candidate as his running mate.

The question is what justification or explanation would the President have given for such a decision.

Indeed, when in 1996, the only time a sitting Vice President was dropped, the then President, Jerry Rawlings had to take such a decision because it was evidently clear that he and Kow Ackah were at loggerheads.

Paa Kwesi Amissah-Arthur has had a good working relationship with his boss and as the President puts it, together they can once again achieve victory in 2016. Good luck to them.

By: Bubu Klinogo a Journalist.