Speech By Speaker Of Parliament On The 25th Anniversary Celebration Of Westminster Foundation For Democracy Held In London
About 1988, the insistence of the donor community that financial assistance would have to be based on the conditionality of good governance, brought a wind of change in the economic and political management of a number of countries in Africa. New constitutions were drafted and promulgated and multi-party elections held.
In Ghana, the current constitutional and legal framework resulted in new electoral register, political parties, revised electoral systems etc. Indeed, in Ghana, when complaints arose about the 1992 Elections donors further assisted with transparent ballot boxes, new electoral register, the counting of the ballot papers at every Polling Station immediately after voting, Photo Identity Cards, enhanced election monitoring by foreign observers etc.
The resultant pattern of these interventions in Ghana is peaceful change of government. The arbitrariness which accompanied military rule have largely been overcome.
Nonetheless, there are challenges which should be resolved before we can say that the second wind of change has been fully attained.
In the same way that development partners were critically involved in the first phase, so could they participate in the consolidation process by measures which include:
(i) Strengthening the legal framework which regulate elections
(ii) Identifying weaknesses in the laws relating to elections and providing against the grey areas. For example, should stealing of ballot papers not be specially provided for?
Second, if there is doubt about a person’s date of birth or nationality, how do you allow any two registered voters (usually political party representatives) to verify age or nationality. People who do not stand in loco parentis cannot vouch for a young person’s age, for example.
(iii) Training judges in electoral adjudication process,
(iv) In the wake of confusion after every election, how do we tackle the various sources of conflict before they erupt into a conflagration which will derail all the gains made?
(v) In West Africa, there are numerous complaints relating to the
Electoral Register being infiltrated by non-nationals. If there should be a West Africa Electoral Commission which is donor-driven, we can have one register for West Africa to help solve the problem.
Furthermore, as donors are withdrawing from Election Monitoring we can establish a West Africa Electoral Commission to superintend.
The third part of this presentation is that Africa needs a New World
Economic Order to enable democracy survive. It is a truism that poverty, misery and disease militate against political stability. The central political thesis of Karl Marx is that the exploited in society have nothing to lose but their chains. If we do not find a solution to this economic mantra, we may labour in vain.
The United Kingdom needs to partner Africa devise a new paradigm for economic partnership which will seriously consider the economic welfare of Africa. Europe must be concerned about the poverty in Africa. The effect of globalisation is that any bubonic plague in Africa may not remain in Africa. We cannot have a global order in which a whole continent is compelled to gravitate towards Europe in search of greener pastures. We cannot replace political refugees with economic refugees. We cannot forget that colonisation befitted Europe immensely and this could the period for some New World Economic Order.
In Africa’s, trade with Europe, the latter always find some reason for rejecting the former’s products. An equitable system should be established to give technical assistance to remove obstacles. Our cocoa processing, fruit processing, destoning of our rice and allied local industry development techniques need to be sharpened to create employment and improve the lot of the people.
The New World Economic Order should enable us produce beyond raw materials. It should encourage industries and processing.
WTO arrangements create problems for Africa. It should address the imbalances in the current WTO arrangements. Developing countries form three-fourths of the WTO Membership and by votes can in theory influence the agenda and outcome of trade negotiations but they have never been able to use this to their advantage because of the global dependency syndrome. Furthermore, Developing Nations have fewer resources to attend the series of meetings of WTO each week in Geneva, often entering into negotiations less prepared.
Nelson Mandela once commented on the Uruguay Round that “the Developing countries were not able to ensure that the rules accommodated their realities …..it was mainly the preoccupations and problems of the advanced, industrial economies that shaped the Agreement” (Kwa, Aileen, focus on the Global South, Bangkok, 1998). He added that the rules applied uniformly are not necessarily fair because of the circumstances of members.
The WTO concept of free trade rather helps in dumping cheap products onto Africa and eventually, killing our industries.
No industry in any part of the world developed without initial protectionist policies. The current world economic order is grossly unfair to Africa and cannot sustain democracy. With time, the vicious cycle will bite deeper. Poverty stricken people are gullible and soft targets for the enemies of democracy, the military or populist usurpation of power.
The true empowerment of a woman is when the political, religious, educational, marriage, economic and health issues are simultaneously addressed and made compatible with each other.
However the situation is dire in Africa. For instance, fewer than 20% have access to education, two-thirds of women have no contact with health personnel after child birth, accounting for more than half of the world’s maternal and child health ( Our Africa) Essentially, if one woman is educated, a family and nation are simultaneously educated as the famous Ghanaian Dr Aggrey said.
According to UK Essays, quoting Arunachalam (2005), gender subordination is a strategy of tradition-bound society, fact remains that majority of the women even today live in a mirage brain-washed by the custodians of the traditions, customs and patriarchs, sacrificing their owner, dignity and pride and even their identity with no reference in the human history whatsoever. Consequently multi-faced personality are little or seldom known. They still continue to live as an extension of their counterparts. In Ghana, there are five witches’ camps in the northern part of Ghana and women are segregated to accommodate alleged witches who live in poverty because they cannot engage in economic activities.
We cannot deepen good governance without improvement in the role of women political representation and national administration.
Women political representation and leadership is about 20% of the population in Africa. Political stability and development demands a change.
I invite the United Kingdom to consider that the second wind of change must be consolidated. First by filling the gaps still remaining to be dealt with and secondly and more importantly, releasing the stranglehold over African economies which promote the vicious cycle of poverty.