14.01.2003 Feature Article

Memo to Opposition Parties: Give JAK breathing space

Memo to Opposition Parties: Give JAK breathing space
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On Friday Jan 10th the CPP Chairman Dr Abubakr Al-Hassan on the commemoration of the party¹s Positive Action Day was reported as saying to journalists in Accra that ³the CPP will mobilize Ghanaians to exercise their constitutional and democratic rights to reject and resist what he describes as policies that impose hardships on the people². I suspect the call to civil disobedience, as dubbed by the Press, is unfortunate. I have no problems with opposition parties exercising their democratic right to exert pressure on Governments in between elections to change policies. I do however sense that at this point in time, the State is very vulnerable and such call for civil disobedience if widely heeded will destabilize the State. I would much rather prefer the Government be given time to come out with measures to work itself out the pressures currently placed on it, until such time that already existing vulnerabilities recede. Let us consider the pressures and vulnerabilities. The Bretton Woods institutions have given the Government up to 3 or so months from now to deliver on a number of conditionalities, which include raising fuel prices and utility charges, privatising or selling off shares in a number of companies including public utilities, stabilizing wages and salaries etc. On each score the following Government intentions or inclinations : On fuel the Government has indicated it will increase fuel prices, the NDC has recently asked Government to justify the increases, but even before the increases private transport operators increased transport fees recently. on privatization, I read a few days ago on either Ghanaweb, newsinghana or the finance minister saying that Ghana will sell off shares in a number of listed companies. On water utilities, I have not heard anything recently but I read yesterday that that 23 or so US congressmen have issued a protest against water privatization in Ghana. In fact international lobby against water privatization in Ghana is very influential, last time I read the international political activist John Pilger based in the UK was involved. on avoiding wage increases the Government is silent but the usually mild TUC has recently issued an ultimatum to Government to increase wages. Any room for Government maneuver, even compromise, is cramped by the BW institutions' own threats to the Government. Apparently this time some say the honeymoon between the BW institutions and Government is over and the former is seriously considering withdrawing funding if the Government does not honor HIPC conditions come 3 months. That will plunge the country into even worse economic conditions. Opposition parties may be on thin moral grounds to demand the Government resolves the impasse readily. To my view they have not articulated how they would get themselves out of that hole if they found themselves in it, as indeed they would if they happen to regain power. In my opinion this impasse should have opened a whole new debate on the kind of economic dependence we seem perpetually locked in in our development efforts. In the absence of that debate it is simply tiresome to embark on campaigns of national disruptions, It would merely be opportunistic to gaining power but likely to perpetuate a cycle of civil disobedience whenever musical chairs bring different faces with same foreign dictated programs. Current State vulnerabilities relate to a carefully balanced internal security situation and uncertain external security pressures. Internally security concerns are currently mainly directed at containing antisocial activities including armed robberies, and then the still fragile Dagbon situation. A call for widespread civil disobedience will at the minimum stretch the security forces away from those concerns. Certainly civil disobedience will be manipulated to fan Dagbon anxieties. Externally security concerns center on Ivory Coast. I am increasingly alarmed by the use of the term ³Domino effect² in relation to the implications of the conflict for Ghana. Let me cite two examples 1. In the article on IC titled "Heavy heart of darkness" which I forwarded late last year, the Oil industry magazine Upstream (International Oil and Gas Newspaper, edition Dec 5, 2002) introduced the article thus: "The West must stop the tottering dominoes from falling in West Africa if it wants to avoid a meltdown that will wipe out billions of dollars in oil assets and open the door wider to terror groups" 2. And this is how the ADM on January 10, 2003 in an article titled "Xenophobia - La Côte d'Ivoire's Lesson" put it : "As Ghanaians begin the New Year 2003, it is poignant to remind ourselves of the precarious sub-region in which the country finds itself and the dangers about. One such danger is the civil war raging in the Ivory Coast and its implications on Ghana's national security. The once stable Ivory Coast envied by much of sub-Saharan Africa and a source of much needed economic opportunities to many not least Ghanaians, in the sub-Region has slid into yet another one of the vicious cycle of civil wars in the modern history of West Africa. This war is the 3rd in a series of wars raging from the west of Ghana starting with Liberia in the mid 1980s. For Ghana, I suggest that the Ivory Coast war presents perhaps the most serious national security challenge since independence. How it is managed by all including government, political leaders both in and out of government, but also the media and the entire nation will determine whether or not Ghana goes the way of the others in becoming the next domino to fall." I reject the domino theory even if the IC rebels have now refused to go to Paris on the pretext of the latest IC Government ceasefire violation. But I suspect even if by way of only a refugee problem for Ghana, it is additional reason why a call for widespread civil disobedience at the moment could destabilize Ghana.

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