Accra, Aug. 10, GNA - The US Government and the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) on Monday signed an agreement for a grant of 400,000 dollars, about 3.6 billion cedis, to enhance the conduct of Election 2004.
CDD-Ghana would use the grant to promote civil society participation through domestic election monitoring and observation to ensure peaceful, transparent, free and fair elections. The five-month project is called: "Meeting the Challenges of Election 2004 in Ghana: The Role of Civil Society."
Ms Sharon Cromer, Ghana Mission Director of United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Dr Baafour Agyeman-Duah, Associate Executive Director of CDD-Ghana, signed the grant agreement. Among those present at the signing were the Deputy Chairman of the Electoral Commission (EC) in Charge of Operations, Mr David Kanga, the US Ambassador to Ghana, Mary Yates and the Chairman of the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO) Mr Justice V. C. R. A. C. Crabbe. As part of the project, the CDD would monitor pre-electoral issues, including political rallies, the use of state resources for elections, quality and quantity of voter education and actual and potential incidents of violence.
The Project would involve the recruitment, training and deployment of 38 pre-election monitors and 4,800 election-day observers. Ms Cromer said USAID believed that Ghana's development would not come from the government alone, but it also required the active engagement and input of civil society at all levels, various unions and private sector industry groups at the national level.
She said USAID's new strategy for the period 2004 through 2010 was aimed at further supporting the powerful role civil society and communities played in developing the country.
"For this reason, under our new strategy, USAID will work in partnership with civil society to improve the health and education system to spur economic growth and strengthen democratic and decentralised governance," Ms Cromer said.
Ms Yates said the three previous elections in the Fourth Republic had demonstrated that Ghana's democracy was getting stronger and stronger.
"Ghana is now one of the handful of Sub-Saharan African nations and new African democracies with a record of fair elections." She said election 2004 was an important test for Ghana's democracy with its own challenges as the first general election after a peaceful transfer of power.
Ms Yates pointed out that the perception of an uneven electoral playing field; the abuse of incumbency and vote rigging might generate conflict.
She said it was encouraging that the flag bearers of the various political parties had given the assurance to conduct their campaigns in a clean and dignified manner, and that civil society groups, from religious leaders to labour unions and the media, had already begun urging political leaders and their followers to avoid conflict before, during and after Election 2004.
Dr Agyeman-Duah said with the support of other organisations, CDD-Ghana was hopeful to extend its number of observers from 5,200 in 2000 to 7,000 this year.
He said trained observers had since last month started monitoring the election process. Fifty more observers would be monitoring the abuse of incumbency, which the ruling Government had promised to refrain from. Dr Agyeman-Duah said his outfit would be organising debates among the political parties in 20 conflict prone constituencies.
It would also begin weekly political debates among key personalities of political parties on Metro TV, an Accra TV station, from August 25 to November 2004 on issues of national importance before the debate for the presidential candidates.
The debates would treat issues on health, education, the economy and democracy, among other things, for the electorate to make informed decisions in relation to the code of conduct of the parties and media manipulation and intimidation.
In total the US government has provided 900,000 dollars towards Election 2004.