JUST SOME few days ago, we did point out that as a nation, we have been paying lip service to our commitment to the decentralization of governance. We pointed out also, the potential for impediments in the way of our district and metropolitan assemblies, when it came to decision taking from any structures that are placed above them.
At that time, we made reference to the Greater Accra Regional Administration, questioning bottom-to-top decision-making, and advocating for a top-to-bottom approach to decision taking. They did not understand how the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), could take decisions for them to endorse.
The decongestion exercise embarked on by the AMA received much applause from a lot of Ghanaians who patronize the Central Business district of the capital. Of course, the street hawkers and other petty traders were not expected to be enthused about the exercise.
Prior to the exercise, it took one not less than one hour on certain days to cover the less than half a kilometer stretch of road in front of the 31st December Market.
Motorists and pedestrians, as well as traders who have rented stores and had their potential customers being regularly intercepted by the street traders and hawkers, were all relieved. The Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly, took a cue from the AMA exercise, to also decongest their metropolis.
Even though we had blamed the AMA for acquiescing for too long, thereby encouraging the congestion to reach that alarming state, and had appealed also to them to carry out the exercise with a human face, we do not think, there is the need to rewind the clock of progress, as the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development suggests.
The directive by the ministry to all district assemblies to put a stop to all on-going decongestion exercises in markets and other places, is a stab in the back of the assemblies.
The April 27, 2005 memo, had also directed the assemblies to seek clearance from the sector ministry, before embarking on any decongestion exercises. What this directive clearly sought to do was to create the impression that the decongestion exercises already underway in Accra, Kumasi and other areas are being carried out without the ministry's knowledge.
This is very sad because at least, the metropolitan assemblies of Accra and Kumasi had given sufficient notice to the public about the impending exercise. If indeed the Ministry and others that now seem to be showing concern really cared about the plight of the traders, then they should have conferred with the assemblies, to find out what mitigating measures they had in place to counter the effect of the exercise.
Simply because there has been a backlash, instead of advancing the work of the assemblies to the next stage of resettling the traders, the ministry is eroding the gains the assemblies had spent millions of cedis to achieve.