Accra, March 8, GNA - Information Minister Dan Botwe stressed on Wednesday that building the human resource and competencies of political parties should be an integral component of programmes aimed at entrenching democracy in Africa.
Unfortunately, the Minister observed, political parties were often exempted from human resource development and skills development programmes that would promote good governance.
Mr Botwe expressed these concerns when he opened a meeting of experts, in Accra to discuss proposals for the establishment of the Africa Institute for Democracy and the Rule of Law. The experts represent civil society, electoral commissions and governance institutions from Ghana, Senegal, Mali, Benin, Nigeria and Togo.
Freedom House, the oldest non-profit organisation in United States, spearheaded the founding of the Institute to provide training and skills for effective functioning of a political system based on democratic principles and the maintenance of rule of law.
African policy makers and government officials are targeted as the key beneficiaries but civil society activists, media professionals, unionists and other key professionals would also be covered. While urging the proponents of the Institute to also target political parties, Mr Botwe explained that they were critical institutions whose development would strengthen good governance and democratic cultures.
Mr Botwe said: "Once we have accepted multi-party democracy, it is essential to provide skills to workers of political parties from the grassroots level to the top because it is these institutions that groom people to become Parliamentarians and Ministers.
"It is at the party level that manifestoes are written so why should we not build their capacity to write the best ones." The Minister also noted that political parties needed the skills and training to enable them to manage ethnic and cultural diversity that often influenced African politics, organise better campaigns, manage emotions and intolerance, improve human relations, write progressive speeches and deliver them well on platforms.
"Parties must be trained on how to perform in government and in opposition to bridge the gap between theory and practice of politics for the progress and survival of parties."
Mr Botwe also advised the experts to consider women's needs in their deliberations since their contributions were important for building strong democratic cultures.
Dr Jebrine Ibrahim, Director of the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD), acknowledged Mr Botwe's suggestions, saying they were excellent contributions that needed to be considered to ensure that political parties developed beyond individual leaders and ruling parties.
Additionally, he said, the participatory deficit that existed in governance in Africa had to be addressed.
Dr Momar Diop, Project Director of Freedom House, observed that his NGO was of the view that violent conflicts, civil wars, economic hardships, poverty and many of Africa's problems were the result of bad governance.
"Even countries that boast of a democratic framework and hold multi-party elections still lack good governance, transparency and accountability," he noted.
Despite considerable variation in respect for the rule of law and human rights, corruption is pervasive, hampering the development of Africa's democratic nations."
Freedom House's Survey of Freedom in the World, rated only 11 African countries as "free" in its 2004 report. Ghana, Mali, Benin, Namibia and Senegal were among free countries.
As a means of resolving these, the proposed Institute, would run both long and short training programmes that would address the specific needs of countries.
The recommendations of the three-day meeting, he said, would be used to enrich the draft proposal. This would be followed by similar meetings in Southern and Eastern Africa after which the Institute would take-off by the end of the year.
Initial funding would be provided by the National Endowment for Democracy, USA, but the location is yet to be decided. Dr Kofi Konadu Apraku, Minister of State responsible for NEPAD, noted that Africa under the umbrella of the African Union was making progress towards entrenching democracy and reducing poverty. However, it still had serious challenges such as overcoming civil wars and conflicts, strengthening and sustaining political leadership and reducing the burden of diseases and poverty. Former US First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt formed Freedom House in 1941. CDD Ghana is the local affiliate of the organisation.