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21.02.2005 Diaspora News

Ghana's democracy a showcase for West Africa - Prof

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From: Clemence Okumah, GNA Special Correspondent in Cambridge, United Kingdom.

Cambridge, Feb. 21, GNA - Professor Christopher Clapham, Editor of the Journal of Modern African Studies, University of Cambridge, on Sunday described democracy in Ghana as a "showcase" for the West African Sub-Region and urged Ghanaians to unite to safeguard their political achievement.

He reminded Ghanaians that though there was serious competition and rivalry between the various political parties that struggled for independence, which was achieved in 1957, the country had not been divided along ethnic or religious lines.

Prof. Clapham, who was speaking in an interview with the Ghana News Agency in Cambridge, observed that the country, since the inception of the Fourth Republic in 1992 was proving to become what could be described as a stable and distinct democracy.

He said Ghana had passed 'the political litmus test' and laid a solid foundation for the 'new democracy' when there was peaceful and orderly transfer of power from an incumbent government, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), which lost power in the 2000 Elections to the New Patriot Party (NPP) that was the main opposition party.

Prof. Clapham, who is also an Associate Professor at the University of Cambridge, noted: "This transition and development is unprecedented in the country's political history. Undoubtedly, Ghana has gone deep in its democratic experiment. But what remains to be done now is for the people and Government to work hard to translate these gains into economic independence."

He applauded that multi-party activities were not just centred in Accra and the big cities for the intellectuals and elite alone but that there was mass participation by all Ghanaians in the democratic process.

Prof Clapham stated that the beauty of it all was that politics in Ghana was characterised by lively political competition throughout the country without serious incidents, among political parties and activists, who convinced the people to accept their policies and vote them into power.

He noted that democracy was not alien to Ghana adding: "I am not surprise at all that the country has reached this stage. Ghanaians have the knowledge of perfect liberal traditional political institutions such as chieftaincy. This has enabled the people to easily accept democratic reforms, making the transformation of the country into an acceptable and admirable modern democracy relatively smooth."

Prof Clapham stated that rival traditional groups like the "Asafo Companies, Clans and Council of Elders" that could be replicated to modern political parties or political structures, acted as a check on traditional rulers.

He observed that when a ruler died, there was consultation among the 'king makers' as to who most qualified to ascend to authority while claimants to the stool or skin stiffly competed and lobbied for the vacant position.

Prof Clapham expressed regret that while Ghana was politically maturing; her neighbours; Togo and Cote d'Ivoire and other countries in the West Africa Sub-Region seemed to be engulfed in political turmoil, retarding development but said: "We should not expect these countries to automatically follow or copy the trend of Ghana's political development just because they are Ghana's neighbours."

He explained that because countries in West Africa had different social, cultural, historical and political backgrounds and experiences it would take some time for those countries in political crisis to reach the level of Ghana.

On the political evolutions of the different states in the Sub-Region, Prof Clapham said when Ghana was struggling to establish an acceptable political system amidst disruptions by the military there was relative peace and stability in Cote d'Ivoire.

He said it was rather sad that leadership crisis had ensued, dividing the country along ethnic and religious lines soon after the death of President Felix Houphouet-Boigny, the first president of Cote d'Ivoire. 21 Feb. 05

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