The government of Ghana has decided to create more districts and to justify the exercise, the Hon. Minister for Local Government is reported to have stated in Manso Amenfi and Mpohor in the Western Region that the 'creation of 42 more districts in the country is to deepen democracy, promote development and bring governance closer to the people'. It is the firm belief of the Center for African Democratic Affairs (CADA) that even though new districts were named in all the ten regions in the country to give the semblance of a holistic review of the local government structure of the country, the exercise did not take cognizance of the legal provisions under the Local Government ACT, 1996 (ACT 462) and therefore cannot be said to be democratic.
One of the four basic elements of democracy is the rule of law. In Part one of ACT 462 – Districts and District Assemblies Establishment – these procedures are stated under these sections:-
- (2) The President may by executive instrument, (a) declare an area to be a district, and (b)assign a name to the district – that is what the Minister has done on behalf of the President;
- (3) The President shall in the exercise of the powers under subsection (2) (a) direct the Electoral Commission to make appropriate recommendations;
(4) The Electoral Commission shall, before making recommendations to the President under subsection (3), consider factors including (a) in the case of (i) a district, that there is a minimum population of seventy-five thousand people; (ii) a municipality that the geographical area consists of a single compact settlement and that there is a minimum of ninety-five thousand people; (iii) a metropolis, that there is a minimum of two hundred and fifty thousand people; and (b) the geographical contiguity and economic viability of the area, namely, the ability of an area to provide basic infrastructural and any other developmental needs from the monetary and any other resources generated in the area. It is doubtful if these population factors were respected in the creation of the 42 districts. If the law was ignored then the exercise cannot deepen democracy in the country as is being claimed by the government.
Population figures from the 2010 census for some of the districts that are to be split to create the new districts are as follows:-
- Western Region – Suaman/Dadieso -138,415; Mpohor/wassa East -123,996; Bia – 116,332;
- Central Region - Twifo/Heman/Lower Denkyira – 116,874;
- Greater Accra Region – Dangbe West – 122,836; Dangbe East – 130,795;
- Volta Region – Akatsi – 128,461; Adaklu/Anyigbe – 64,404; Krachi West – 116,804;
- Eastern Region – Akwapim South – 123,501;
- Ashanti Region – Sekyere East – 93,937;
- Brong Ahafo – Asutifi – 105,843; Sene – 118,810; Tain – 108,386;
- Northern Region – West Gonja – 84,727; Tolon/Kumbungu – 112,331; Zabzugu/Tatale – 123,854;
- Upper East – Talensi/Nabdam – 115,020; Bulsa – 92,991;
- Upper West – Lawra – 100,929; Nadowli – 94,388;
If these districts are split, they cannot meet the minimum population threshold for qualification as a district. The fact that there are some existing districts with lower populations does not justify a repetition of previous wrongs. The announcement of the creation of new districts has led to many agitations as many people want their communities to either be upgraded to the status of districts or their towns are made capital towns of the new districts. Such exercises must be done with transparency and integrity. There is a perception that the exercise was selective to satisfy a parochial political interest. Perception is as important as reality.
The idea behind the population threshold is that with a minimum population of seventy-five, there will be a sizeable number of people in the economically active group who could be relied upon to offer communal labour and also pay basic rate to generate the initial capital to fund projects. Such involvement of the people gives them the sense of ownership of the concept of local governance and is therefore empowered to demand performance by the administration. Because some districts have lower population, they cannot generate enough revenue so such districts always wait for the release of District Assembly Common Fund before projects are started. This defeats the decentralization policy.
If the rush to create new districts without recourse to the existing laws was meant to force the Electoral Commission to cede constituencies to such areas it will not wash since the Commission adheres to laid down regulations whenever constituency boundaries are reviewed. If the Commission accepts to cede constituencies to the new districts that do not adhere to the existing legal provisions, it will amount to gerrymandering and therefore unconstitutional and undemocratic. Let us all bring democracy home and nurture it to take root in Ghana.