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27.02.2005 Politics

Let's develop the culture of political opposition in Africa - Aliu

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Accra, Feb. 27, GNA - Vice President Aliu Mahama on Sunday stressed the need to foster a healthy culture and build the capacity of opposition parties in Africa to enable them to play the effective roles of making governments accountable and safeguarding the interest of minority groups.

" Multi-party democracy must be the answer to Africa's problems," he declared.

"If political rivals are treated as opponents and not as enemies as in jungle warfare, which is largely the norm in Africa, it could be the trail-blazer for multi-party democracy."

Vice President Mahama, who was opening a conference on the "Survival and Growth of Political Parties in Africa," condemned the situation where ruling parties bullied opposition parties with their majority and opposition parties also took positions that undermined the work of government.

He described the conference organized by Friedrich Erbert Stiftung (FES), Ghana, and the Institute of African Affairs, Hamburg, Germany, as extremely relevant.

The Vice President told the participants, which included politicians, researchers, academics and civil society representatives from 13 countries, to find solutions to problems that weaken political parties in Africa.

These include excluding a section of society as members; low representation of women and the youth in leading roles; lack of funds for decentralizing their structures; lack of intra-intra party democracy and lack of accountability.

He cautioned: "When political parties are shut ideologically, ethnically or socially, persons whose interests are excluded may then see their only solution in founding small rival parties for religious or ethnic purposes, thus providing breeding grounds for conflicts." Vice President Mahama noted that the weak democratic culture in political parties and the disregard for rules and procedures tended to personalize leadership.

He explained: "...Some supposedly democratic parties have un-elected leaders, their accounts are not subjected to independent audit, major policies are not subjected to internal debate, information is not readily shared, some have life patron and so on."

Mr Joerg Bergstermann, Resident Director of FES, said his organization considered political parties as crucial to the entrenchment of democratic governance in Africa.

However, he noted, unlike civil society groups, political parties did not receive financial and technical assistance to function properly. Additionally, he said, little research had been conducted on the problems faced by political parities in Africa in spite of their importance.

Issues to be discussed during the three-day conference include the role of the state in regulating political parties; political parties and internal groupings; policy options of opposition parties after and between elections. 27 Feb 05

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