Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Death Of Former Cuban Revolutionary Leader Fidel Castro

Last Saturday, the world woke up to the news of the death of leader of the Cuban revolution, Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz. The world has indeed lost a great hero and beacon of the struggle for true independence from the forces of oppression and neo-colonialism. As Prime Minister, President, Commander of the Cuban Armed Forces and First Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party, his role at the helm of Cuba spanned nearly 50 years during which he left a major imprint on his country and on global politics. Castro was a towering international figure whose importance in the 20th century far exceeded what might have been expected from the head of state of a Caribbean island nation of 11 million people. In death, as he did in life, the fiery apostle of revolution who defied the United States for nearly half a century as Cuba’s maximum leader continues to divide opinion. On the screens, we saw some mourning the charismatic leader who started his revolution with a small band of people in the Sierra Maestra Mountains, eventually leading to the overthrow of the Batista government. Yet, others have been celebrating his demise. His critics accused him of recklessly taking the world to the brink of nuclear war in 1962 during the Cuban missile crisis, and also depriving millions of Cubans of their lives and liberties. US President elect, Donald Trump described him as a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades.

But former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan and his successor Ban Ki-Moon, US President Barack Obama and many more world leaders paid glowing tributes to him. For us in Africa, Castro was a hero par excellence. His unwavering support for the freedom of South Africa and his stance against the apartheid regime will ensure that his name is recorded in the history books as one of the foremost international supporters of Africa's liberation struggle. His popularity in South Africa is therefore undeniable. No wonder, he received the loudest applause from the audience at the Union Buildings in 1994, as Mandela was sworn in as President. Ghana and many other developing countries still continue to benefit from the generosity of Cuba. Hundreds of Ghanaians receive different kinds of training in Cuba and thousands of Cuban doctors have served and continue to serve in the most deprived communities of our country.

During the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, Cuba was able to marshal the best medical resources in solidarity with Africa. Fidel will be remembered for his leadership of the Cuban revolution and for advances in Cuba in the fields of education, literacy and health. His government implemented social policies which have continued to bestow the benefits of the best social services for all Cubans. He demonstrated to the world that sovereign equality is a paramount idea that must prevail at all times, regardless of a nation’s size, economic or military muscle, or its relationship with the hegemon of the day. He steadfastly defended Cuba and its revolution for decades, and personally survived innumerable threats to his life. His love for the people of Cuba was selfless and unshakable. His devotion to the idea of freedom and sovereignty of all peoples and all nations spoke through his actions and solidarity. It is to be learnt from this icon that no price is too dear for freedom, shared prosperity and the best interests of all people. Arguably the greatest hero of the 20th Century, Fidel joined forces with like-minded legends including Che Guevara and his younger brother and now President, Raul Castro, to create a new resilient Cuban society that withstood decades of economic embargo and blatant aggression by the United States and its allies. Under his leadership and despite the economic hardships imposed upon his country, Cuba was able to build educational and healthcare systems that outperformed those of the so-called advanced countries and to make Cuba a star in arts and in sports.

We bid goodbye to a great man who led by example, stood firm and loved liberty in thought, word and deed. We are now left with his legacy and an obligation to continue the struggle for the economic liberation of the South, reform of international governance to reflect our diversity and sovereign aspirations, and an end to exclusion and marginalization of nations and peoples. In the fullness of time, the world will get to understand him for as he stated himself long ago, history will absolve him. Fare thee well Comandante Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz.


Death Of Former Cuban President Fidel Castro

Over the weekend all major International News networks had to abruptly alter their programmes to digest the sudden news of the passing on of Cuban Revolutionary Leader, Fidel Castro Ruz at age 90. Death at such an age is normally not mourned, but celebrated. A giant of 20th century politics, Fidel's passing really captured the centre stage of every discussions across the world in politics, economics, commerce and global planning and strategies. The emblematic revolutionary was known for his love of life and was a figure recognised by both friends and fees as a legend thrust on world politics and history by circumstances of his time.

Born, Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz on August 13th 1926 to Spanish Immigrants of affluent background, the former Cuban leader abandoned his pursuit in law practice and embraced the Missionary cause of Jose Marti, the Cuban Independence, Liberator of the 18th Century, to be with the down trodden and exploited. Spurred on by the examples of radical like Simon Bolivar, Tupac Amaru, Toussaint L"Ouverture, Augustino Sandino, Jose de San Martin and Bartolome de Casas, and many more, Fidel overthrew the Philistine regime of Batista in 1959. Fidel and his revolutionary embraced socialism in Cuba to the eerie of the US, the great power and hemispheric hegemon of all time, just 90 miles from shore. From the 1960's to the 1980's, Fidel’s Cuba actively struggled against colonialism and Western Imperialism played and played an instrumental role in the formation of the Non Aligned Movement.

In the 1990's contrary to the expectation of many, Fidel's Cuba not only survived the collapse of the Soviet Union - its benefactor and financier - but lived on and preserved its independence. The free and Independent Cuba that he built has become an influential member of the International Community and has served as an inspiration for many countries and people. One towering and incontrovertible character of this giant of our time was his conviction and resolve in the rightness of his cause and history has rightly absolved him. He chose the path of egalitarianism under which basic rights and opportunities were and are equally available to all irrespective of ones background in the Cuban Society. In the words of President Putin, Fidel Castro "was a strong and wise human being who always looked with confidence to the future. He embodied the highest ideals of politics, citizenship and patriotism, and was sincerely convinced in the rightness of the goal to which he devoted his whole life. As an example to this current generation Fidel proved that idealism can be translated into reality. He proved the superiority of scientific socialism over capitalism which subsists on exploitation and naked subjugation. As a man of his time, he devoted his life to the working masses in the struggle for justice and dignity and survived more than 600 attempts on his life. Not only did he survive the assassination attempts, he lived to see to demise of all the leaders who plotted to kill him. He survived because the people were on his side and bought into his conviction and the superiority of the ideals he espoused. Again, as an example his ideals in socialist internationalism invigorated humanity's consciousness. Cuba became an example not only for the Latin America but for our entire world. Life expectancy in Cuba is much higher than it is in many affluent countries, Against all odds and five decades of crippling embargo and blockade of people, Cuba not only survived but came out victorious.

Africa as a continent, and Ghana in particular is indebted to the selflessness and generosity of this icon of history when all came to sum up the imprint that, this man stamped on history, it would be recalled that, "he inherited a poor backward country in 1959, with a largely illiterate population, the backyard of the USA, whose high and mighty used Havana as a private whore house and the island as a playground. He closed down the casinos, started to implement a progressive socialist government which began to provide high quality public service and to open opportunities to all. Commandante Fidel Castro Ruz has departed to eternity leaving behind "terra firma" to enter the annals of history as a hero of humanity.

In our hearts shall live the battle cry of the revolution, "Patrio Muerte, Venceremos - Independence or death - victory shall reign.


Monday, 28 November 2016

African Countries Quitting The ICC

The Gambia, South Africa and Burundi have given indication of their intention to quit the International Criminal Court. The decision to quit the court should not come as a surprise to anybody. For a long time, many have held the view that the court is used for the persecution of Africans, especially their leaders while ignoring crimes committed by the West. The ICC has jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The court is meant to complement existing national judicial systems and it may therefore only exercise its jurisdiction when certain conditions are met, such as when national courts are unwilling or unable to prosecute criminals or when the United Nations Security Council or individuals states refer investigations to the Court.

Since, it began functioning on first July 2002, the Office of the Prosecutor, an organ of the court has opened ten official investigations and is also conducting an additional nine preliminary examinations. So far, 39 individuals have been indicted in the ICC including Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo. It is not intriguing that all the 39 people indicted by the court are all Africans? There is no doubt that there are many Western countries that have committed heinous war crimes against independent sovereign states and their citizens since the creation of the ICC but not a single western citizen let alone leader has been indicted.

It is still mind boggling why former US President George Bush and his friend former UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair have still not been investigated for the baseless war they waged against Iraq, which resulted in the killing of Sadam Hussein and thousands of Iraqis. The ICC, despite being called International Criminal Court, is nothing other than an International Caucasian court for the persecution and humiliation of people of colour, especially Africans. The unfairness of the court can also be seen in the fact that, the US, which regards itself as the champion of democracy and human rights, signed the court's treaty but has never ratified it, yet it is quick to refer other citizens to the ICC. The same America goes about signing treaties with less powerful countries not to surrender American citizens to the ICC, even when they are indicted.

The decision by the three African countries to withdraw from the Court is a step in the right direction. It does not matter that the current Chief prosecutor of the ICC, Fatou Bensouda, is an African, a former Justice Minister of the Gambia. The decision to withdraw must not be misconstrued to mean a blank cheque for the commission of crime. By all means, those who commit crime must be punished. It is true that some African leaders are notorious for committing heinous crimes against their own people. These leaders must be dealt with. The AU must be able to establish its own court to deal with such cases. There must be African solution to African problems. The continent has come of age and is in a position to deal with its own troubles. If 60 years ago, Ghana's first President, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah declared that, the black man was capable of managing its own affairs, how can it not do so now?

It is understandable that judging from the conduct of the continental leaders, they have not demonstrated enough commitment to strengthening their institutions. But that is no justification for western powers to interfere in the affairs of the continent. It behoves the citizens of African to demand more from their leaders. Instead of this scratch my back, let me scratch your back, the leaders must be bold to condemn their colleagues who are not living up to expectation. The need for an African Court of Justice is very necessary. This will ensure that those leaders who abuse the rights of their citizens and those who visit terror and tyranny on their people are dealt with Justice is a pre-requisite for peace and development.


Improving Investment Architecture For Africa’s Youth

Despite their numerical strength, young people in Africa are still confronted with significant obstacles to participating in economic, social and political circles. Yet, Africa’s youth are the key to the continent’s renaissance and will remain players in and advocates of social transformation and development in many spheres. The enormous benefits that youth can contribute can only be realised when investment is made in their education, employment, health care, empowerment and effective civic participation. A number of bilateral and multilateral donors, as well as foundations and other global institutions have published policies and strategies, commissioned research and analysis, and launched a range of programmes and initiatives targeting Africa’s youth.

This donor momentum has obviously increased the profile of Africa’s youth across all domains of global development discourse. However, more needs to be done to ensure that donor policies and strategies are matched by an increase in funding and specific programming to effectively and efficiently meet youth needs on the continent. Across Africa, as part of division of labour between donors and partner governments, several donors have moved towards greater sectoral concentration, both at an overall regional level and in specific countries.

This has in most cases led to a diminishing focus on youth development as a sector in its own right; either because it is considered as cross-sectoral or because it has been dropped in favour of other key sectors such as education, health or economic growth. The aid effectiveness agenda has also led to most donors increasingly shifting from the old ‘project’ modality towards larger-scale programmatic sector-wide approaches. This shift has increasingly resulted in multi-donor programmes in which the national government or a UN agency is the main in-country partner. In several African countries for example, for a variety of reasons, governments only pay lip service to youth issues, and as a result, youth development programmes do not receive significant funding. Developing a system to enable specific monitoring of commitments and expenditure on youth will ensure that policy commitments are matched by programming commitments and funding. For more efficiency and coordination, donors should also create specific youth units with advisors that have responsibility for driving policy and programming on youth. The youth units and their advisors could provide more explicit guidance to different country and sectoral programmes on why, when and how to focus on youth with examples of best practice for analysis, programming, monitoring and evaluation.

In the absence of this, youth issues risk being de-prioritised. Donors should also give more overall priority to youth development in Africa. For Africa’s youth to receive the much needed programming and funding they deserve, there needs to be a more systematic approach to analysing their situation, and when appropriate, including more explicit objectives related to youth development in key donor policies, strategies and programmes. Undoubtedly, more funding is needed to demonstrate donors’ recognition of the importance of investing in youth for Africa’s development. Both large and small programmes are encouraged. But in particular, smaller, catalytic projects on youth development in African countries can be critical to supporting the piloting of new approaches particularly at community level.

Large-scale programmes can be executed through multi-donor pool-funding mechanisms, while small projects can be funded through mechanisms like challenge funds and small grants initiatives managed by third parties. In order to provide a fuller picture to form the basis for investments in Africa’s youth, further research is required to provide context-specific analysis of the situation of youth in each African country. Such research should explore the specific risks and challenges faced by different groups of youth and the opportunities that exist for engaging with them to meet their needs and enhance their role in peace building and development.


Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Police Service Election Security Manual

As part of its preparations towards the 2016 general election, the Police Administration has launched a number of educational, training and other manuals for security agencies and the public. The manuals which form part of efforts to ensure peace before, during and after the election are timely and also demonstrate the readiness of the police and sister security agencies to collaborate with the Electoral Commission to deliver not only a peaceful but also credible election. These materials are to alert, inform, educate and give direction to the security agencies and the voting public on the acceptable and unacceptable practices connected to the December 7 general election. The materials adopted from the legal framework governing elections in Ghana are tailored towards catering for the operational needs of the rank and file of the Security Service. Additionally, information has been provided as a checklist for the general public particularly voters in order to ensure a violence free poll. The election security materials include; incidents and public order Management manual which contains important information on how to handle public order incidents.

It is refreshing to note that the compilation of this manual is the first serious attempt by the Ghana Police service to harmonize public order activities into a document that can truly be owned by the users or beneficiaries. The Election Booklet also contains very useful information for all Commanders in relation to the upcoming election. They are supposed to be used as reference documents for sensitizing personnel. One other important material is the Aide Memoire which is the summarized version of the Election Booklet to be distributed to all officers performing polling station duties. In order to appeal directly to the voting public, posters have also been produced. These posters which are a novelty are to appeal to the hearts and minds of the electorate to work towards ensuring peaceful elections.

Additionally, flyers have been included and are being issued out and used in sensitizing the public as to how they should conduct themselves to avoid breaching the Electoral laws of Ghana. The Police have also come out with a map of Ghana which clearly identifies the 94 potential hotspot constituencies in the country. It is important to acknowledge the collaborative effort of UK AID and the Department for International Development (DFID) for the production of these materials. With all these efforts, it is the belief of the management of the Ghana Police Service that Ghanaians especially candidates and their supporters will see the need to play by the rules of the game in order for election managers to work in an atmosphere devoid of intimidation and threat. Let us believe in state institutions as they have been tried and tested since the commencement of the 4th Republican Constitution and the holding of democratic elections since 1992 after a long period of military dictatorship. The Ghana Police Service continues to up its game after every election and has over the years won the admiration of Ghanaians and the International Community.

Continuous leveling of accusations against the police as unprofessional in spite of its track record in election security will erode public confidence in the institution and therefore undermine the security of the State. The police have demonstrated in the past their capability and commitment through the conduct of its personnel when it comes to election security. It is the hope of the Service that with public support and trust, this election will also pass as a very peaceful and credible one, not withstanding some reservations being expressed by some players in the election. This country has no other Police Institution than the Ghana Police Service, that is why it is important that we collectively assist the institution to deliver on its mandate. Let us work together for election 2016 to be successful.


Monday, 21 November 2016

Phenomenon Of Prophets Predicting Elections

One of the recent but worrying developments in the lead up to election 2016 is how some prophets are going about predicting the winner of the Presidential election. It is so strange that they do not predict the winner of Parliamentary seats but the Presidential seat only. It is equally baffling that some of these prophets are also predicting the death or a possible attack on the life of the sitting President and the main opposition leader. The question that arises is how come nothing is said about the other presidential candidates. These predictions may either be true or false. The issue at stake is about the wrong timing of these predictions. Many church leaders and concerned citizens disagree with such prophetic predictions not only because they are not very sure of the origins of such predictions but also the appropriateness of putting those predictions in the public domain. Another striking concern about these predictions is the contradictions inherent in them.

Why should God predict through Prophet A that candidate X will win and the same God predict through Prophet B that candidate Y will surely win? Is He the God of confusion? Definitely, “No”. God is never prepared to create confusion and chaos in this country. There are some serious reasons why these predictions should be frowned upon by not only well meaning citizens but even the Presidential candidates at whom these predictions are directed.

Firstly, such predictions create unnecessary tension in the country. Once the Presidential candidates and their followers accept these predictions, they may not accept the result of the election if it does not go their way. This is a recipe for chaos . It is therefore crucial for such prophets to keep their prophetic convictions to themselves and pray for its fulfilment. They should consider the peace of Ghana first before the popularity they want to gain.

As men of God, they should not stick their necks out in partisan politics. The minister of God should hold the interest of the whole nation at heart and above his or her political affiliation. Indeed, Isaiah was a statesman for the nation Judah but not even for the Kings. Ministers occupy a very sensitive position by virtue of the fact that they are men and women called by God to serve their generation but not part. The Christian minister’s main task is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world but not to be involved in anything that will create tension and confusion in the state. The apostle James writes that the wisdom from God should bring unity and peace but not otherwise (James 3:13 – 18). Let every citizen do things that will bring peace and unity in the country. Ministers of the Gospel should educate their fold about how they can contribute to peaceful elections in 2016. All opinion leaders; politicians, priests, Imams, chiefs and others should focus on peaceful election in 2016 and educate their followers on the need to keep the peace. Media houses should hold programmes that will contribute to the peace and unity of Ghana. Security agencies are not to do otherwise. They should not do anything that will destroy the peace of this country. All institutions and every individual, group of people should contribute to Peaceful Election in 2016. We are one nation with a common destiny. God bless our homeland Ghana.


2016 International Day For Tolerance

Tolerance is an acknowledgement, appreciation and acceptance of human diversity. Tolerance is thus the vehicle that drives peace and harmonious living. It can therefore not only be a cherished principle but also a virtue and necessity for peace, cohesion, economic and socio-cultural advancement peoples and nations. It has always been said that there cannot be any meaningful development in the absence of peace. That is why as a nation, we need to jealously guard our peace and unity. For many years, Ghana has been an island of peace in a sub region best noted for conflicts and civil strifes mainly resulting from disputed elections as well as cultural and religious differences. These can be attributed to lack of tolerance among the people. There are more than fifty language and ethnic groups, several religious and political groupings and many other diversities in Ghana, yet we have lived and continue to live in harmony to a large extent for all these years, despite occasional disturbances.

The greatest source of worry has been chieftaincy and land disputes, some of which have resulted in bloody confrontations, leading to the loss of precious lives, in addition to the economic burden in maintaining peace in those areas. But of late, politically motivated violent crimes have been rearing their ugly heads in this country. These have become more pronounced especially as the elections inch closer. The recent happenings at Odododiodio and the Nima residence of NPP Flagbearer, Nana Akufo Addo are most regrettable. They show a gradual creeping in of a culture of intolerance. It is unacceptable that a simple democratic exercise should degenerate into violence and chaos. Ghana has long passed that stage and should be rubbing shoulders with established democracies like US, UK and France. The concept of multi-party democracy is a contest of ideas and ideologies where different political parties work and manage the affairs of the state for the wellbeing and interest of the people. Over the years, crimes committed in the name of politics are swept under carpet. We have seen such incidences during the limited voter registration, exhibition and vote transfer exercises. This campaign period is also witnessing same. In order to safeguard the peace and security of this nation, the police must speedily investigate all such cases and swiftly bring all perpetrators to justice. The era where crimes committed in the name of politics go unpunished must be a thing of the past. It emboldens and gives confidence to others to engage in crime.

Going forward, the Ghana Police Service must be more proactive and take preemptive measures to forestall such occurrences. This is more important because if such a nasty incident could occur at the residence of the NPP flagbearer, which is just opposite the Nima police station, it suggests a major lapse on the part of the police, for which reason they need to sit up. All said and done, politicians and other influential people must also give the police a free hand to operate and stop unnecessarily interfering in their work. Political leaders must equally demonstrate exemplary leadership by asserting positive political authority and values over supporters. They should impress on their followers to shun violence and openly condemn those who engage in violence and must be willing to give them up for prosecution when need be.

As the world marked another International Tolerance Day, Ghanaians should agree to tolerate divergent views and live in harmony with each other. The practice of tolerance does not mean accepting social injustice or abandonment of one's convictions and beliefs but rather adherence to personal convictions and at the same time giving others the chance to adhere to theirs. That means a no to the imposition of one's views on others. We must show tolerance and appreciation for the fundamental human rights of others even as we all enjoy our individual rights as citizens and residents of Ghana. We must respect the rights of minority, marginalised, vulnerable and excluded groups at all times. We should not engage in any activity that has the potential to bring civil unrest or disrupt the peace of the country.

Article 41 clause 1c of the 1992 constitution enjoins all citizens to live in harmony with each other and and foster national unity. That should be our guiding principle as we go to the polls come December 7. It is our individual and collective responsibility to ensure that peace prevails in the country before, during and after the election. This is the only way we can consolidate the gains made so far in our democratic journey.


Friday, 18 November 2016

Controversy Over Holding Of Presidential Debate

To Debate or not to debate is not a decision that must be left entirely to political elites seeking power. This power does not belong to Presidential Aspirants. The citizenry are the ultimate and sovereign repository of that power being sought after by Presidential Hopefuls. The citizenry have the RIGHT to know how their power will be used. They have the right to objectively know what they stand to gain when they repose their trust in Aspirants. This objective knowledge cannot be known at partisan rallies. It cannot be known when aspirants simply go plead for votes. It cannot be known when politicians go about spewing lies. Rather, it can be known when candidates engage in a healthy contest of ideas on credible debate platforms. Citizens have the right to know in detail, what all Aspirants stand for because it is their power, not that of any presidential aspirant, that is being sought. Election is only a necessary condition for democratic advancement.

It certainly cannot be the sufficient condition for any nation's drive towards democratic maturity. Consequently, it is absolutely unacceptable for Presidential Aspirants to be preoccupied only with the desire to win an election to the neglect of the need to institutionalise sound democratic culture. They know that we do not know. They know that we are docile. They know that we are overly divided on partisan lines. So for them, they could delay the release of their manifestos because we would not mind. Indeed, for the first time, some of them even thought we could hold elections without manifestos. That is impunity personified perpetrated by people who are supposed to know better. Thankfully, citizens are getting alive. Now some people are becoming aware and gradually, politicians will know that they cannot continue to take the citizenry for granted for all the time.

Let Civil Society Groups, Let the Church, Let Moslem Leaders, Let all Identifiable Groups within Ghana's body politic arise against this creeping culture of impunity that threatens to relapse our democratic advancement. Let all of us as citizens, irrespective of our partisan biases, arise to demand from those seeking our power to debate, so we can know who really deserves our mandate. It is only when they debate that we can promote politics of issues and not insults. It is only when they debate that we can promote politics of facts and not lies. It is only when they debate that we can be empowered to make a meaningful choice that would advance our interest during voting. It is only when they debate, that we can calm down political tension and ensure that there is no violence and conflict. Those seeking to govern us must be prepared to subject themselves to probing questions and scrutiny to ensure that they understand our concerns and have the capacity to address them. In this regard, merely campaigning for power is not enough. It is our rights as citizens to demand to know.

Therefore: Arise, People Of Ghana and assert your sovereign authority as the TRUE OWNERS AND SOVEREIGN REPOSITORY OF POWER.


Election Security In Ghana

In less than a month, precisely on December 7, Ghanaians will once again go to the poll to elect a President and 275 Members for the Parliament. Candidates are jostling all over the country to send their messages across. They are leaving no stone unturned to catch the attention of the voting population. Unlike the advanced democracies such as the UK, the United States, Norway, and Sweden where this exercise passes without any serious violent incidents, ours is not exactly the case. In recent times there has not been any single election on the continent that has gone without acts of rancour, acrimony, intimidation, threats, brutalities and arsons among others. Some even degenerate into full blown civil disturbances or wars. In most cases election violence occur during the campaign period, voting or when results are declared and thereafter. That is why security is key to the success of every nation’s electoral process.

Election security encompasses protection of electoral stakeholders such as voters, candidates, polls workers, the media and observers, electoral information such as vote results, registration data and campaign materials, electoral facilities such as polling stations, counting and collation centers. It is worthy of note that no election can take place in a situation of uncertainty, lawlessness, intimidation and violence. This therefore calls for a stronger and well-structured security for a country’s electoral process. For any election to be credible and its outcome acceptable to contesting parties, there is the need for a comprehensive security arrangement.

The 1992 constitution provides for a Police Service which is the lead agency in terms of providing internal security for Ghanaians and all those residing in the country. The Ghana Police Service also has the onerous responsibility of providing security for all activities that falls under election management. This notwithstanding, sister security agencies such as the Military, the Ghana Prisons Service, Ghana Immigration Service, the Ghana National Fire Service and the Customs assist the police to carry out this responsibility. A lot has gone into providing adequate security coverage in order to ensure that nothing untoward happens to mar the relative peace the country is enjoying.

The police have identified many hotspots and have put in place measures to ensure that those potential hot beds do not degenerate into violence. For instance the Inspector-General of Police, in collaboration with his management team has initiated the IGP’s dialogue series and has so far engaged Youth Leadership of the various Political Parties, Executives of Political Parties, the Electoral Commission, Faith Based Organizations and other interest groups including the media. These engagements are aimed at addressing issues likely to provoke violence or breach the peace. It was also meant to clear all doubts and suspicions that characterize elections in this country. The Police service has also stated its position on the activities of vigilante groups. The IGP has on several platforms made it clear that it is illegal for such security appendages in the parties to arrogate to themselves the powers of state security apparatus. To ensure that all the parties enjoy the needed protection, the Police administration has assigned Police guards to presidential candidates contesting the December Polls. It is also refreshing to note that the Police Administration has assured Ghanaians that henceforth any act of criminality that occurs in the arena of election would be treated separately from electoral offences and would no longer fall on the directive of the Electoral Commission or the Attorney-General before action is taken.

In order to ensure that personnel of the service are well positioned to carry out their task of election security coverage, various capacity-building training sessions have been held for all ranks. As part of the sensitization drive, the service will soon launch election manuals for personnel, the electorate on the dos and don’ts before, during and after the polls. The Ghana Police Service has demonstrated its fairness and neutrality in the handling of election related conflicts. The neutrality and fairness of the Service should not be in doubt. All these will go a long way to enhance the confidence of various parties and the public at large in the Police Service. With a clearly laid out election security infrastructure, Ghanaians would go to the Poll confident that their security is assured. Stakeholders particularly candidates and their supporters should also abide by the rules so that the election will not only be peaceful but also successful and an improved one.

The Ghana police service will continue to team up with sister agencies and the election management body to conduct a very peaceful and credible election.


Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Payment For Media Accreditation For Elections Coverage

There is an ongoing debate about a statement from the Electoral Commission [EC] to the effect that journalists or media houses that will want to "Observe the Elections" and will be accredited to do so by the EC, will have to bear the cost of the accreditation tags that will be printed for them. It suggested that it may costs about GH¢10.00 per tag. In all honesty, there is nothing wrong with this decision. One would have had a big issue with the EC if it had said that no journalists will be accredited to observe the elections. Or if the Commission had said since it is the institution organising the elections, it will be issuing guidelines on what journalists can and cannot report on or about, during the elections. But obviously, the Commission cannot even dream of saying so. Being accredited to observe the elections means such accredited persons may have privileges to get closer to electoral processes in a way that non-accredited persons cannot. The EC as a public institution is mandated to conduct elections. This mandate of the Commission must be performed in a credible and transparent way and in accordance with the Law.This is the mandate of the EC. It does not include a burden to ensure that the media cover the elections. The Media and Journalists also have their mandate - to provide timely, credible and accurate information to the public - including information during elections.

There is no doubt that during elections, the media's work is crucial for electoral education, information, transparency and accountability. But fact is, that is the mandate or the responsibility of the media. That is what the media exist to do and should do. So when the media cover the elections, they are not doing the EC or Ghanaians a favour. They are performing their role. It is in recognition of this important role and other roles that the constitution guarantees media freedoms. It is the reason why we fight for press freedom. It is in recognition of the same important roles that journalists as a professional group - not teachers, doctors, nurses, pastors, professors - have the option of being accredited to observe the elections. The question which arises then is, if the process of producing accreditation tags, that which will distinguish journalists as special people during the elections for them to do the work that they must do, costs money, who should bear that cost? Is it the EC and by extension the tax payer?

Certainly, No. Is it then the media organisations? And the answer is an emphatic Yes. People have argued that the EC must bear the costs of the accreditation tags because it is the institution organising the elections. Well, then we may as well say the EC should bear the costs of transporting accredited journalists to the various constituencies and polling centres. The EC is discharging its mandate. The media should perform theirs. For those who cannot afford the cost of the tags, this is where their GJA dues should work for them.

Maybe the GJA should consider paying for members working with less endowed media organisations.


Monday, 14 November 2016

President Mahama's Open Letter To Ghanaians

This is probably the first time in the history of Ghana that a sitting President has written an open letter to his citizens. That makes the gesture a novelty. But it comes as no surprise as the President is a communicator par excellence. The four paged letter was captured under two titles "we are winning the race" and "Ghana is up and rising". Under the first part, President Mahama thanked Ghanaians and the teeming supporters of the NDC for giving him the opportunity to serve them. He admitted his first term had not been a bed of roses but came with challenges, which he had to face with a sense of duty and dedication. The President cited the almost one year long election petition, incessant market fires, fall in commodity prices and power crisis as hurdles he had the rather unpleasant duty of jumping.

In the second part of the letter, President Mahama sought to tell Ghanaians efforts that have been made to put Ghana on the path of recovery and development as well as policies geared towards making the transformational agenda even more viable. The letter stated that as a social democratic government efforts have been made in social intervention policies and safety net. For instance, students’ loans have been reviewed upwards with a special package known as the students loan plus for brilliant but poor students. Producer price of cocoa has also been increased above seventy percent, the highest in the history of this country. On NHIS, more than one billion Ghana cedis is said to have been paid to cover claims from service providers. From next year, government hopes to inject a substantial amount of oil revenue into the scheme. On employment, President Mahama noted that about twenty thousand jobs have been created in the health sector alone and more than seventy thousand teachers have also been employed in the educational sector.

Furthermore, with the massive infrastructure projects being done across the country like construction of roads, schools, hospitals and markets, some four hundred thousand jobs have been created. Even though the President admits that there is more room for improvement in the job creation bid, he expressed hope that with the implementation of the Economic Transformation and livelihood Empowerment Programme in his second term, more jobs will be created particularly for the bulging youth population. On Economy, President Mahama, maintained that it is robust and he is confident that Ghanaians will begin to enjoy the fruits of the economy when it grows above eight percent beginning next year as predicted by some global economic indexes. For instance, the UN's Human Development Index has put Ghana within the Medium Human Development Category ahead of her neighbours like Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire.

The Ghana Cedi is one of the best performing currencies in Africa this year and the rating agencies like Moody and development partners have posted excellent reviews about Ghana's economic outlook. The World’s most credible institution on anti-corruption Transparency International has also commended efforts being made to curb corruption ranking Ghana the seventh least corrupt country in Africa. Whilst President Mahama, looks forward to a resounding victory in the December 7, polls he said it will be a victory not for himself but for the many Ghanaians who believed in his policies and generations yet unborn. He promised to continue to be President for all and offer opportunities irrespective of ethnicity, gender, religious or partisan leanings. From the letter, one can notice the confident posturing of a leader who has what can be described as a winning mentality.

The letter to Ghanaians though brief encompasses the bumpy journey in a first term in office, a Better future in a second term and beyond. One thing is also clear; John Mahama, is an unrepentant development freak. He upholds the view that Infrastructure development plays a key role in economic growth because population growth and urbanisation are placing considerable pressure on the existing infrastructure. Access to education, health care, good roads, water, electricity, factories and the likes undoubtedly make countries attractive to foreign investors. Even advanced industrialised countries like the US, Germany, UK, China and India are stepping up the rehabilitation and replacement of their ageing infrastructure projects. As President Mahama touts his achievements hinged on massive infrastructure development in his "home stretch letter", it is hoped that his track record will speak for him at the polls.

God bless our homeland Ghana.


Thursday, 10 November 2016

US Election: Donald Trump Is Elected President

Donald Trump will become the 45th US president after a stunning victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton. The Republican nominee's victory came down to a handful of key swing states, despite months of polling that favoured Mrs Clinton. The battlegrounds of Florida, Ohio and North Carolina cleared the way for his Brexit-style upset. To say his victory is a shock, is an understatement. The real estate tycoon, former reality TV star and political newcomer, who was universally ridiculed when he declared his candidacy in June last year, said his victory had been "tough". And he is right. Mr Trump has smashed into Mrs Clinton's vaunted electoral firewall in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, states that have not supported a Republican presidential candidate for decades. All over the world, particular in the developing world many people dreaded a Trump victory based on the kinds of comments he was making and policies he was espousing. His victory could change America's relationship with the rest of the world in some important ways.

If he follows through on his trade policies, it will be the single biggest change to the way America does business with the rest of the world in decades. This is the man who has threatened to scrap a number of existing free trade agreements, including the North American Free Trade Agreement between the US, Canada and Mexico, which he blames for job losses. He has even suggested withdrawing the US from the World Trade Organization. He is also in favour of taxing imports, and has talked about imposing tariffs of 45% on China and 35% on goods shipped from Mexico, in an effort to prevent companies moving jobs south of the border. Another important area has to do with climate change. Mr Trump vowed to cancel the Paris climate change deal signed by more than 195 countries in December last year. He has also said he will stop all US payments for United Nations global warming programmes. Ahead of the election, he spoke tough on immigration but has shifted position significantly. He began his campaign with a promise to build a wall across the US border with Mexico and to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants. He has since softened that to "millions" of criminals living in the US, and says the rest of the undocumented population will be dealt with at a later date. He also announced "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States" but has since said it was a suggestion and not a policy. On the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, Mr Trump labelled it as obsolete and characterised its members as ungrateful allies who benefit from US largesse. He says America can no longer afford to protect countries in Europe - and in Asia - without adequate compensation, suggesting he would withdraw American forces unless they pay up.

In one sense, he is simply voicing longstanding US concerns about most Nato members not meeting their goal of spending at least 2% of GDP on defence, although some have questioned whether he would step away from a military alliance that has been cornerstone of the country's foreign policy for more than 60 years. It however appears Mr. Trump might just not implement some of his controversial policies. He appeared sober in his victory speech. He stated among other things that even though he will put America first, he will treat other nations with respect. According to him, he will seek partnership and not conflict. This is most refreshing. The question on the lips of many Ghanaians at this time is, how will the US election impact Ghana's election which is just a few weeks away. It is therefore not surprising that Ghana tops the list of countries outside the United States searching for news and information about the US elections as revealed by Google Trends.

Since 2000, Ghanaian elections go the same way the American elections go. For instance, in 2000, the ruling Democrats lost to the Republicans. That was when George Bush defeated vice president Al-Gore. In Ghana, the NDC also lost to the NPP, when John Kufour defeated vice president Prof. Mills. In 2004, the Republican retained power just like the NPP. But in 2008, the Democrats recaptured power when Barack Obama was elected. And again in Ghana, the NDC also recaptured power. In 2012, both the democrats and the NDC retained power. The assumption is that, once the Republicans have recaptured power in the US, the opposition NPP might also regain power in Ghana.

But, the dynamics are not exactly the same this time around. In Ghana, a sitting President is contesting, and never in Ghanaian history has an incumbent president lost an election. So time will tell how the Ghanaian election will go. Congratulations to President-elect Donald trump and may the best candidate win the Ghanaian election.


Improving Agricultural Sector In Ghana

Ghana has once again honoured its heroic farmers and fishers for the arduous role they have played in quickening the pace of the nation's socio-economic development. With the growing unemployment situation and almost half of the economically active Ghanaian population engaged in agricultural and allied activities, the theme for this year’s celebration “Agriculture; A business response to economic growth” cannot be more appropriate. The theme accentuates the need to commercialise agriculture irrespective of scale and to promote it as a profitable and viable business venture. The timeworn notion that agriculture is just a way of life, a social sector or developmental activity is moribund. The sector should be seen as nothing but a business and a way to create wealth to improve lives. The importance of agriculture to the nation cannot be overemphasised. The sector contributes significantly to gross domestic product and is the primary source of income for rural populations. The sector is also a major source of foreign exchange and provides raw material for agro based industries.

In the three Regions of the North, an average of about 70 percent of the economically active population is engaged in agriculture. It is thus important that the sector is remodeled to adopt a commercial and business outlook. Efforts at improving profitability and outlook of agriculture should be underpinned by a revolution led by research and development to reduce the risk of yield variability and farmer education to adopt a new paradigm that sees agriculture as business. The first step in commercialising agriculture should be to institute measures to increase per unit yield through introduction of improved propagating materials, improving production methods and developing capacity of agricultural labour force. There is the need for researchers to breach existing scientific frontiers and introduce improved varieties and species that are not only high yielding but can also tolerate local adverse growth conditions. Research direction is also needed in the choice of appropriate sowing date, use of appropriate seed rate and stocking densities to give optimum target population, development of storage and drying technology to reduce post-harvest losses as well as development of simple but appropriate technology to minimise drudgery. Drudgery remains the most important reason why the youth shy away from agriculture. Optimizing the aforementioned simple local management practices to reduce as far as possible the extreme of stress and in particular choice of varieties and species that would show the highest resilience in the face of a given stress will help improve yield and hence farm income. Whilst the green revolution has increased the productivity of a few major crops, there is the need for researchers to assess and enhance the potential of the under-utilised local species and varieties that the country may have comparative advantage in producing by evaluating existing land races, varieties and species that are highly adapted to local low input type of agriculture, identify their agro-ecological requirements and marketing prospects and multiply them for large scale use. The primary agricultural sector could only be improved if a robust supporting system and infrastructure are created in the form of irrigation facilities, marketing infrastructure, rural road network improvement, efficient input supply system, cottage storage and processing facilities and the provision of reliable financial intermediation units. Since water stress is the most important limiting factor to crop production in the country, any effort at providing irrigation facilities would have a very positive impact. Provision of irrigation facilities is capital intensive and beyond the reach of many farmers. It is in this light that it would be prudent for the state to provide such facilities and charge farmers user-fees.

Indeed the fight to improve agricultural productivity and profitability should not be allowed to be determined primarily by acts of nature beyond human control but by prudent measures spearheaded by research. Pertinent as agricultural research is, it would not be able to achieve the optimum impact unless it is supported by a vibrant extension service directorate to take agricultural innovations and breakthroughs to farmers and fishers. The major role of the state in the new paradigm of seeing agriculture as a business should be to build adequate and reliable infrastructure and create an enabling environment by putting the right policies and regulations in place whilst allowing the private sector to lead. It is expected that an appreciable portion of the Ghana Infrastructural Fund would be channeled towards providing agricultural and social infrastructure instead of the usual slant of tokenism and patronage associated with support to agriculture. If farmers bury the subsistence mentality, the needed infrastructure is provided, yield is enhanced and drudgery is removed, agriculture will take its place as a respectable business in line with the good old Indian axiom “Supreme is farming, Mediocre is trade and Most lowly is service”.

Long Live Ghana- Long Live Ghanaian Farmers and Fishers .

By: Polycarp Kwame Akobeng, of the Agricultural Development Bank, Accra

Friday, 4 November 2016

Mahama On Digital Terrestrial Television Network

It came as a joy to workers of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation and indeed many Ghanaians when the President of the Republic, John Dramani Mahama disclosed on the corporation's Eastern Regional FM station, Sunrise FM that the corporation will be given the sole mandate to manage the digital terrestrial television network when it is completed. This is logical because even though the Ministry of Communication is leading the roll out of the network, Ghana Broadcasting Corporation [GBC] is the technical wing of the process. GBC would therefore be grateful to the president if the participation in the roll-out further deepened from the onset so that experience gained can be used to manage the network effectively and efficiently. Digital Terrestrial Television simply known as DTT is the next stage of terrestrial broadcasting, not only for television, but radio and data as well. Changing from analogue terrestrial television to digital terrestrial television, provides a platform for as many television programs, previously called channels, as possible.

For instance, since the digital switch-on in 2008, GBC can boast of six television programs namely GTV, GBC 24, GTV Sports Plus, GTV Life and Obonu TV. Uniiq FM is also on the DTT platform. Obonu TV is a powerful statement that GBC intends introducing regional television channels to serve the special needs of each region in terms of its culture, language and development needs.There is now Garden City TV or GCTV program waiting to utilize drop and add to concentrate on Ashanti region programs. Drop and add would facilitate local radio and television programs in the eight other regional capitals, Tamale, Wa, Bolga, Ho, Koforidua, Cape Coast, Sekondi and Sunyani. Inclusion of FM to the DTT network in particular is important because it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain and sustain the various FM networks of GBC which are so special to the population in their respective areas.

With this new technology, listeners of GBC FM programs have an additional platform to continue to enjoy FM programs whose analogue FM transmitters are increasingly difficult to sustain due to lack of critical spares or even non-payment of electricity bills. It would not be an overstatement that DTT has come to enable GBC to deepen its public service broadcasting ethos! Workers of GBC see the President's announcement as a response to their calls to be afforded greater involvement in the DTT roll-out process. To demonstrate this commitment, there is the need for training of maintenance teams during this installation process so that experience gained would be used to manage the network. This also ties in with the recent policy intention to establish a National Transmission Entity which can form part of a holistic restructuring of GBC.

To this end, GBC staff in transmission can easily be made to concentrate on transmission for not only GBC, but all other radio and television broadcasters wanting to ride on a vast public network. Thus, hiving-off transmission out to a new non-subvented GBC removes a key huddle of a perceived over-staffing in GBC. An efficient DTT network can at the same time be operated alongside analogue radio networks. It is simply technically not feasible or wise to separate radio and television networks, whether analogue or digital. They can co-exist on the same towers. Not only that, the same locations can provide space for private DTT networks operated by Cable Gold, GOtv and First Digital, upon payment of fees to the National Transmission Entity. The co-location aspect of DTT is particularly important for viewers too, who would be saved the hassle of turning their ultra-high frequency receiving antennas here and there if transmitting antennas are differently located for the same target areas. An entity capable of carrying more than forty television programs and co-locating with all DTT network providers, would not need subvention to survive. It should be made to do business and survive. That challenge, GBC has demonstrated in agreeing to cede off transmission aspects of its operations as part of a general restructuring and right sizing policy. But the network must go with some encumbrances including the staff working there.

Workers of GBC are therefore looking forward to practical changes in the current DTT network roll out which is now in the third phase, the first and second phases having been completed in Greater Accra, Ashanti, Brong Ahafo, Northern, Upper East, Upper West and Volta Regions.


Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Chiefs And Partisan Politics

As the 2016 general election draws nearer with the campaign trail of the various political parties in full gear, one main item that keeps popping up for discussion on social and traditional media platforms is the endorsement of either of the two main political parties by chiefs and other traditional rulers. Chieftaincy is a revered institution and all those who occupy the position of chiefs are accorded due respect as leaders of the society. Chiefs are so important in our traditional setting, that the framers of the national constitution deemed it fit not only to guarantee the continuous existence of the institution, but also preserve its sanctity. The entire Chapter 22 of the constitution is devoted to chieftaincy and Clause Two of Article 270 goes further to insulate them from control; stating thus: “Parliament shall have no power to enact any law which (a) confers on any person or authority the right to accord or withdraw recognition to or from a chief for any purpose whatsoever; or (b) in any way detracts or derogates from the honour and dignity of the institution of chieftaincy”. That is why it is troubling that some chiefs are engaging in this endorsement of presidential candidates, an act that can easily bring the institution into disrepute, especially when the constitution precludes them from dabbling in politics.

Article 276 clause one states: “A chief shall not take part in active party politics; and any chief wishing to do so and seeking election to parliament shall abdicate his stool or skin”. It is true that the constitution is not explicit about endorsement of candidates, but the inference is obvious, because any chief, who endorses a candidate openly, is being partisan in his outlook. The chiefs who have already endorsed any candidate or those contemplating doing so, need to be guided by the advice of the President of the National House of Chiefs, Professor John S. Nabila, who said and I quote “chiefs are the fathers and mothers of the people who belong to different political parties.” unquote. It is therefore clear, that when a chief declares support for one candidate or party, he automatically loses the respect of those his subjects who support the other candidate or party. Prof. Nabila's position is supported by the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu who has warned chiefs under his jurisdiction to desist from endorsing political parties and candidates.

According to the Ashanti monarch, although the law does not bar chiefs from voting, they must not compromise their neutrality in the eyes of their subjects. It is unfortunate that in spite of these warnings, a lot of chiefs are still going ahead to endorse the two leading candidates, President John Mahama of the NDC and Nana Akufo Addo of the NPP. What appears scary is that, it appears as if the chiefs are in a competition to outdoor each other in this endorsement enterprise. So far, the Omanhene of Yeji, Nana Pemapin Yaw Kagbrese who doubles as the President of the Brong Ahafo regional house of chiefs, the Chief of Sunyani, Nana Bosoma Asor Nkrawiri, and the President of the Northern Regional House of Chiefs, Nayire Naa Bohugu Mahami Abdulai, and many chiefs from the Volta, Eastern and Brong Ahafo regions have endorsed the second term bid of President Mahama. Nana Akufo Addo, on the other hand has also received massive endorsements from chiefs in Ashanti, Western and Volta regions, including the Chief of Tuobodom, Nana Obeng Ameyaw Barimah, the Paramount Chief of the Tumu Traditional Area, Kuoro Richard Babini Kanton VI, the Chief of Garu, Naba Asuguru Akuntam Wini, the Chief of Bawku, Naba Asigiri Azoka Abugrago II, the Gyasehene of the Peki Traditional area in the Volta Region, Togbui Takon Tutu Brempong and some fifty chiefs in Atwima Kwanwoma in the Ashanti Region.

It is important that these chiefs rethink their position and take steps to repair the damage their actions and utterances might have caused. There is no doubt that chiefs are also Ghanaians and they have opinions but they are a special group of people who should not let their opinions on political issues known in the manner they are doing. It is dangerous and threatens the very institution which they must help protect, safeguard and promote. The chiefs must be guided by the code of ethics developed by the National House of Chiefs to regulate activities of traditional leaders to ensure that they do not bring the name of the institution into disrepute.