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29.12.2019 Feature Article

Empowering the Grassroots

Empowering the Grassroots
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The withdrawal of the bill that would have allowed for the election of MMDCEs in Ghana connotes a failed promise by the President and the government. The election of MMDCEs was a campaign promise of the two major political parties. The President, then a candidate did not indicate the process and nature of how MMDCEs would be elected.

The rejection, by the public, of the attempt to modernize the system of governance at the grassroots was premised on some ignored issues. Those issues are fundamental to the success or otherwise of the new system to be introduced.

The grassroots in Ghana must be empowered to initiate their developmental agenda endogenously. This can be done by devolving power from the national level to the subnational level. The current President had strengthened the practise of decentralization by creating new regions. Devolution of power can still be a cherished idea to radically modernize the current system of democratic rule.

The transition of power from the central government to the grassroots by practicing pure devolution can be pursued in Ghana. It will help quicken the process of making decisions at the MMDAs if it is properly rolled out. A proper system to check quality decision making may be needed or instituted. A proper devolved democratic system should not only include systems, platforms and institutions transferred to the grassroots but should include the transfer of power to the people to elect those who lead them and the institutions created at the grassroots.

In a new package in the form of manifestos in the coming year, the political parties must indicate how future MMDCEs will be representatives of the locals rather than the government.

Currently, appointed MMDCEs represent the government and its goals and not the people at the grassroots. The grassroots must be empowered to have the control over those who rule or lead them and their institutions. To empower them, there must be devolution of power.

The recent failure to amend the part of the constitution that makes it difficult to devolve power to the grassroots should prick the government to search deeply for a better means of empowering the locals in Ghana. The need for heightened devolution of power at the grassroots is supported by the constitution of the Republic of Ghana. Article 240 (2) sub-sections (b) and (d) outline what the Parliament of Ghana needs to do to ensure a proper decentralized system at the local level. Article 240 (2) sub-section (b) instructs that “Parliament shall by law provide for the taking of such measures as are necessary to enhance the capacity of local government authorities to plan, initiate, coordinate, manage and execute policies in respect of all matters affecting the people within their areas, with a view to ultimately achieving localization of those activities”.

Sub-section (d) of Article 240 states that “as far as practicable, persons in the Service of local government shall be Subject to the effective control of local authorities”.

The constitution of Ghana enjoins the Parliament of Ghana to put the needed measures to enrich the ability of local government to initiate their plans, coordinate them and execute policies that affect the people in all regards. These clearly indicate the need to devolve powers to the grassroots. The processes and reasons to undertake such an ingenuous step are provided by the constitution. In order to augment the ability of the local government authorities, it is better the government uses the system that it had initiated and halted.

The election of MMDCEs is best for such an agenda and fits the ideals as well as the dictates of the constitution. The election of MMDCEs that will ensure that the locals have the power to control those who lead them will help achieve full-scale devolution as required by the constitution of the Republic. The localization of development activities will lead to endogenous development which will embrace the efforts and ideas of the local people.

There is a clear indication of the demand for modernization of the political system that is practised at the grassroots. This was shown in the overwhelming endorsement of the election of MMDCEs that is not based on political lines. The citizen need to be empowered in order to have the power to demand proper accountability from their leaders. The appointment of MMDCEs is taking away the power from the people to claim answerability from the executives at the grassroots.

The attempt to address this need in the coming year must focus on devolution of power to the grassroots. The election of MMDCEs can take the form of an open process for the locals to elect those they deem fit to lead them. This will curb the system of polarization that is eating into our system and gaining momentum each passing day. The political parties should have the courage to develop an open system for the election of future MMDCEs without using party colours and lines. This proposed system, though does not favour the political parties, will take away central government control of the leaders at the grassroots and be transferred to the locals. The current system is central government focused and ignores the devolution of power.

The creation of new regions and districts does not complete a proper practice of devolution of power. The transfer of power to the grassroots does not end at the creation of institutions and platforms at the grassroots. The power to take decisions and demand proper accountability should be transferred to the locals by making them the electing authorities whom the leaders will be answerable to. Empower the locals to elect those who lead them without using party lines. It could bring collaboration from all the folks with interest in community development.

Emmanuel Kwabena Wucharey
Economics Tutor- Kintampo SHS

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