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Thursday, 7 December, 2000, 12:36 GMT
Ghana after Rawlings: Quiz the experts

Ghana's presidential elections will mark a momentous change for the West African nation, as President Jerry Rawlings's 18-year rule draws to a close.

As part of our in-depth coverage of the elections a panel of non-party political experts, Audrey Gadzekpo and Professor Gyimah Boadi, answered your questions on what it all means for Ghana.

They took part in a special BBC African Service radio programme, broadcast from the capital, Accra, on December 6, the day before the poll.

Click here to listen to the radio programme.

Transcript of highlights


Questioner:

Ghana has been under the dictatorial leadership of the former flight-lieutenant for the past 19 years. His behaviour stems mainly from his fear of retribution from his opponents and the many Ghanians he has painfully affected. What role should Ghanians play to allay his fears so that he will not think of coming back as he notoriously has in the past?


Audrey Gadzekpo:

I think it is a very legitimate question. I think that one of the things that was not discussed enough in this election period is the role of President Rawlings after he leaves office. He is still young and energetic and he has a lot of ideas. I think perhaps Ghanians should have talked more about how to dissuade him from coming back into politics.

During the first presidential debate that was one of the questions that was posed to Mr Kufuor who is the NPP presidential candidate. Here I am paraphrasing him, but he had said that as a former statesman, Rawlings would be called upon from time to time to do statesmanlike services provided he will keep within the bounds of the law. However, I doubt that occasional statesman assignments would be enough to occupy somebody who has been in the middle of affairs for so long.

A committee has been set up to look at how to settle former presidents, not just for Jerry Rawlings, and to provide some sort of settlement package. Beyond that Jerry Rawlings would have to decide what he wants to do within the opportunities that are out there for him.


Professor Gyimah Boadi:

To start with I believe there is a lot to love Rawlings for and there is a lot to also hate him for and the two are in some sort of a balance. I think as far as the public is concerned what will happen to Rawlings out of power has a lot more to do with what Rawlings himself does out of power.

There has to be a sense of gratitude to Rawlings for presiding over two terms of an elected administration for following constitutional provision on term limit and handing over. If he should hand over smoothly to whoever emerges as the victor in this election and he leaves office and he plays the role of the statesman as opposed to the role of a coup-maker, I see no reason why Ghanians would go after him in this line of action.


Questioner:

I believe that many Ghanians do not have confidence in the electoral commission and would like your views on this?


Audrey Gadzekpo:

The electoral commission has had a lot knocks in the years that it has been in existence. I think that trust and confidence is built over a period of time. I think you are right that there are certain things that have happened that have undermined the trust that was being built with the electoral commission - the confusion about the date of the election for example.

But this is not the only election we are going to have and we need to try and build confidence in the system. Part of the problem has been the electoral commission was seen to have been appointed by the incumbent government in 1992. It was seen to have been appointed by a system that was set up by people who then won the election. But the EC have tried very hard to assert their independence but that in the coming years I am optimistic they are moving towards trust with the electorate.


Professor Gyimah Boadi:

I fully support Audrey's comments and sentiments on the issue. I think the public were being too harsh on the electoral commission and you would have to put this in perspective. Of the many institutions of democratic governance set up under the 1992 constitution, which one of them can escape this accusation of being mistrusted? Do we trust the judiciary - we don't. Do we trust parliament - we don't. When you add them all up the EC is not nearly as bad as some of the other ones.


Questioner:

To what factors may we attribute the current low sense of nationalism, considering the constant brain-drain and poor investment of the government?


Professor Gyimah Boadi:

I am not sure I agree with the basic thrust or the implication of your question. I do not think the sense of nationalism among the people of Ghana is that low. I don't think those Ghanians who travel abroad do so as a reflection of low sense of nationalism. I think it is rather a reflection of dwindling opportunities in the country and also a genuine desire on the part of many Ghanians to go to improve themselves professionally and economically and return home to contribute from off-shore as it were much better. My general impression is that Ghanians are far more nationalistic than their government have the right to expect.


Audrey Gadzekpo:

I fully agree with the Professor on this. I would like to add another dimension which is perhaps more frivolous. I have lived abroad and I usually tease Ghanians that when you meet a Ghanian who lives abroad it is almost as if they haven't unpacked their suitcase yet. They talk in terms of going back home soon. When you talk to them further you realise that they probably have lived there for 20 or 30 years and yet they think that they are on their way home. It is because they never disengage from home. They consider that having left Ghana it is a temporary thing and they plan to come back home some day no matter how long it takes. They are just waiting to get the right economic and professional qualifications that would enable them to survive better.


Questioner:

My main fear in regards to the departure of Rawlings is whether our democracy will stand the test of time. Rawlings is the only Ghanian head state in our 43 years of post-colonial rule who has been able to successive thwart any attempts at potential coups. Do you think that future civilian administrations will be able to ensure that there will never be another military take-over in light of the fact that they probably will not possess the special relationship Rawlings and the military have?


Professor Gyimah Boadi:

I think the questioner is putting too much weight unnecessarily on the personality factor in Ghanian politics. I believe we have to recognise that Ghanians themselves for the kinds of experiences they have gone through in 40 years of independence do not want coups and they have demonstrated this in so many way in the last 8 years. When we return to democratic rule I think that the civilian politicians, especially those on the opposition side have demonstrated that they do not want coups.


Audrey Gadzekpo:

Coups in Africa can never completely go away as long as we have adventurers there. I disagree with the questioner in that he is afraid that Rawlings is the only reason we have stability in Ghana. I think that stability takes more than just one party. Wars are fought between more than one party. What we ought to expect from civilian governments is that they build strong institutions that give people a chance to vent their frustrations. Also a government that can work with the military and understand the destabilising forces in the military, given our history, and be able to react to those forces.


Questioner:

Corruption was an issue when Rawlings first seized power nearly 20 years ago and once again it is an issue in the country - what is your view?


Audrey Gadzekpo:

I think corruption is a real issue because again it has economic implications. If you have limited resources and some of those resources go the wrong way into the wrong pockets, I think it is a cause for concern. One of the disappointments of the Rawlings' years has been that he is going to end his term of office and when you look at the balance sheet, at least by public opinion, the verdict will be that corruption is greater than it was 20 years ago. At least that is the perception in the country. All the candidates have said in their campaign messages that they are going to tackle corruption. The NDC candidate said - "We are going to make corruption so expensive that it won't be worth your while". But they have specified how they are going to do this. Other candidates have implied that they will have their ministers resign.

There is no doubt in my mind that Ghanians and civil society are going to insist that any government that comes into office will do something about corruption.

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