Fifty years ago this year, Ghana became the first African country south of the Sahara to attain independence. Since its freedom from Britain in 1957, it has experienced periods of instability, but has now transformed into a mature democracy. Ghana has been praised internationally as a model administration for Africa. In the second section of a five-part series on the anniversary of Ghana’s independence, VOA’s Peter Clottey focuses on governance in the country.
Ghana’s Minister for Water Resources, Works and Housing - Hackman Owusu-Agyeman –doesn’t need much prompting to sing the praises of his countrymen as they prepare to celebrate 50 years of freedom from colonial rule. The official is one of the key members of President John Kuffour’s government, and says modern-day Ghanaians should be proud of upholding the tenets of good governance.
“There have been tremendous strides in a positive direction in the way we govern ourselves,” Owusu-Agyeman told VOA. “I believe that the whole international community has now recognized that. We (are) the first African country to … actually undergo the (African Union’s) Peer Review Mechanism, where every facet of our governance process has been examined microscopically.”
Owusu-Agyeman acknowledged that Ghana had experienced “difficulties” through the years, but maintained that the present administration was committed to the rule of law. He described the series of coups that periodically rocked the nation following independence as “regrettable” and the chief factor for Ghana’s instability in the past.
“These are unfortunate parts of our history as a nation which sometimes we would like to forget,” Owusu-Agyeman admitted, before continuing: “But on the other hand, we also need to pinch ourselves from time to time to remind ourselves that if we do not stand up for what is right, we may fall into such difficult situations as the times when we had the military (coups).”
He said he was proud of Ghanaians who had endured “difficult times” but had resolved to move forward towards democracy.
“Having gone through all this trauma, we then decided as a people that the way to get out of the quagmire of poverty, deprivation and want is to really manage our affairs in such a way as we uphold the rights of each and every citizen, (so) that freedoms are not trampled upon. So we have managed to get out of all these difficulties because as a people we made a conscious decision never again to allow the military to interfere in the act of governance,” he explained.
The Minister reiterated that Ghanaians now enjoy freedom of speech and individual rights, in contrast with the past.
“There was a time when the very fundamental human rights of people were abused, and times that gave us great cause for concern. But on balance, as a people we have managed to ride the storms and the residues of all these political upheavals … We are putting the past behind us,” he stressed.
Owusu Agyeman said Ghana would strive to strengthen economic governance, in an effort to ease poverty and create wealth.
“The challenges are really in the field of economic governance, and in this I’m talking about all what one has to put together as a nation to develop and grow the economy by way of creating wealth leading to employment creation … All that we do (must be) calculated to improve the total stock of wealth at the disposal of the nation. Then we will be doing very well, ” he said.