Regional Harmony and Ethnic Balance Vital, Mr. President!
Regional Harmony and Ethnic Balance Vital, Mr. President!
On February 4, 2010, the informative and oft-accessed Ghanaweb.com Internet portal carried a very important, yet confusing, news item about plans by the Ghana Armed Forces to enlist 1,200 Ghanaians who will train and later serve as officers in the three main branches of the military: Army, Navy and Air Force. According to the report, originally attributed to Emmanuel Akorli of Peace FM, 800 of the total number of recruits will train as Army officers, another 200 as Air Force officers, and the final 200 as Navy officers. The news about the aforesaid recruitment exercise was revealed by Lt. Gen. Joseph Smith, Minister of Defense, at a session of the legislature, after he was quizzed by the Hon. Derek Oduro, member of Parliament for the Nkoranza-North constituency of the Brong Ahafo Region.
Whether the Ghana Armed Forces ought to effect the recruitment of new personnel at this time is debatable, but what I find confusing is what the minister of defense would say to the session of Parliament about the matter. According to Lt. Gen. Joseph Smith, "7,357 out of total applicants of 46,124 have been short-listed for recruitment based on general eligibility and educational requirement" (Ghanaweb.com), so my question is this: Why does the defense minister's statement to Parliament come across as though the recruitment exercise – identifying the right candidates and putting them through an initial interview – had not even begun, when, in fact, an initial recruitment had already taken place, with 7,357 candidates already chosen from a mammoth pool of 46,124 Ghanaians? Since the 1,200 final candidates will, obviously, be chosen from the 7,357 previously short-listed applicants, the Ministry of Defense should publicly disclose: the ethnicities of the eventual candidates, the breakdown for the 10 regions, and the ratio of men to women.
Of the three requirements I have stated above, the ethnicities of the 1,200 finalists would appear to be the most important, as there has lately been so much anxiety about the ethnic affiliations of President John Fiifi Mills' political and senior military appointees. Many Ghanaians have complained quite recently that President Mills has been keen to appoint too many Ewes and northerners into his administration, and while no one has come up with an elaborate and convincing list of appointees to prove that the president has, indeed, ignored regional representation and ethnic balance in his decision-making, we ought not to wait until a disgruntled group goes on the rampage before the government acts to correct a real or perceived anomaly. If the accusations are nothing but a perceived anomaly, the current administration still ought to come out with a comprehensive list of appointees – and how those decisions were arrived at – in order to promote unity and cohesiveness within the Ghanaian populace.
When President Kufuor was in power, he undoubtedly appointed too many of his cronies, party aficionados, friends, and members of his ethnic group to positions of authority – but the Mills administration must not do the same: it should improve upon President Kufuor's aforesaid dismal record. The present administration is quite cognizant of the fact that ethnic imbalance in political, military and senior civil service appointments will lead to disaffection among Ghanaians, and these same voters will be needed in 2012 to return the National Democratic Congress (NDC) to power, not that I am endorsing the NDC. As far as party affiliation is concerned, this administration has a right to appoint only NDC members to the highest offices in the land, but regional harmony and ethnic balance ought to be observed for true participatory democracy to take place in the country. Even in the U.S.A., perhaps the world's most effective but rancorous democracy, only one or two members of the opposition are ever appointed to cabinet-level positions, so to expect this administration to appoint many members from rival political parties is impractical and foolhardy.
If Ewes make up 13-percent of the Ghanaian population, then it behooves the president of the republic to make sure that Ewes hold no more than 13-percent of top and sensitive jobs, and if Asantes make up 14-percent of the population, then members of this ethnic group ought to have a proportionate representation as well. The same goes for ethnic other groups – Ga, Fante, Nzema, Akwapim, Krobo, Sisala, Dagomba, Gonja, et cetera. In practical terms, the president cannot be expected to exactly match political appointments with ethnic-group percentages, but the numbers must be very close to maintain ethnic harmony and regional balance in appointments.
When the final list of the 1,200 military recruits eventually comes out, no one group should make up more than its reasonable percentage within the larger population, since the Ghanaian military is not a private institution, but a public one for all Ghanaians. The Ghanaian Constitution, Chapter Five Article 17(2), states: "A person shall not be discriminated against on grounds of gender, race, colour, ethnic origin, religion, creed or social or economic status." As such, any person of Ghanaian ancestry who is sacked from his or job due to political interference or ethnic bias has a right to sue said employer in a court of law, since such an adverse action would be a violation of that person's constitutional rights.
It is even more important for Ghana's legislators to correct injustices in the system by passing laws and implementing changes as corrective measures against real or perceived abuse by the Executive, should the latter be found violating the constitutional rights of citizens, as far as job opportunities are concerned. Chapter 5 Article 17(4)(a) of the Ghanaian Constitution empowers the legislature to take corrective action, if necessary: "Nothing … shall prevent Parliament from enacting laws that are reasonably necessary to provide - (a) for the implementation of policies and programmes aimed at redressing social, economic or educational imbalance in the Ghanaian society." As such, if the Mills administration rewards one ethnic group a higher-than-normal number of places in the current military recruitment exercise – or any other future recruitment exercise – the legislature may pass a law to correct the anomaly: the Ghanaian legislature has the power to take corrective action in matters pertaining to job distribution, political witch-hunts, and covert ethnic biases within the government.
Ghanaian politicians, as leaders of our democratic experiment, are responsible for the nation's political survival, as negative actions – nepotism, cronyism, ethnic supremacy, unjust dismissals – on their part could present the military a justification to engage in an insurrection and return the country to the dark and gloomy days of the past. A careful look at events in Guinea should be enough warning to all that the military has no business both in politics and the day-to-day management of an economy. Why else would the Capt. Moussa Camara-superintended junta go scot-free after killing 157 of fellow Guineans and methodically raping hundreds of women during a pro-democracy rally in September 2009? And why else would Lt. Aboubakar Diakite, a former aide to Capt. Camara, attempt to kill the latter, if not for the fact that one mutiny always leads to another, resulting in a world of distrust, coercion and repression? I wish to laud the Ghanaian military for sticking to its constitutionally mandated roles since 1992, when the country was returned to multiparty democracy, for Ghanaians would rather elect their own leaders, no matter how thorny and cumbersome the task, than have soldiers impose themselves on the nation.
President Mills ought to occasionally review his political, military and senior civil service appointments to make sure that no one ethnic group is over-represented in any of these important areas. President Mills, the wise man that he is, is solely responsible for the harmony and peaceful coexistence of all tribal and ethnic entities in our nation, via the excision of favoritism along ethnic lines. While the nation's leader is not under any obligation to give top positions to members of opposition groups, he is required to make sure that all the regions and ethnic groups are fully represented in government, to foster unity and cohesiveness, as alluded to earlier.
And dismissing ordinary civil servants who got to their respective positions on merit, just because they are members of the "wrong" ethnic groups or political parties is indeed a tragedy. In effective democracies, civil service jobs, apart from those top positions that are necessarily political appointments, are not subject to wholesale changes when power changes hands, as an effective civil service must exist to carry out the directives of any new administration. I implore anyone who has been illegally dismissed from his or her civil service position to seek redress in a court of law, or to write to his or her legislator for action. The culture of nepotism must be eradicated in our dear country. The barbarism of ethnocentrism must be severed from our collective conscience. Together, let us fight for equality and justice for all citizens, which is the only way we can both correct past wrongs and avoid future injustices in the nation.
The writer, Daniel K. Pryce, holds a master's degree in public administration from George Mason University, U.S.A. He is a member of the national honor society for public affairs and administration in the U.S.A. He can be reached at [email protected]