From dic­ta­tor­ship to democ­racy

It’s no co­in­ci­dence that Ghana has emerged as one of the most peace­ful na­tions on the globe, writes

CityPress - - Voices -

Black Africa’s first in­de­pen­dent na­tion cel­e­brated its 60th an­niver­sary of in­de­pen­dence this week. A pi­o­neer in many ways, Ghana was the first coun­try in sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa to se­cure in­de­pen­dence from Bri­tain – on March 6 1957. Ghana’s post-in­de­pen­dence ex­pe­ri­ence is also in many ways the African post-colonial story. For­mer pres­i­dent Kwame Nkrumah was a found­ing mem­ber of the Or­gan­i­sa­tion of African Unity, the pre­cur­sor to the African Union. He was also the most in­flu­en­tial voice in the Pan-African move­ment in the early years of in­de­pen­dence.

The Pan-African­ist flame burnt bright­est at the height of ag­i­ta­tion for in­de­pen­dence, draw­ing in the likes of Ken­neth Kaunda of Zambia, Jomo Keny­atta of Kenya, Hast­ings Ka­muzu Banda of Malawi and Julius Ny­erere of Tan­za­nia. But the Pan-African­ist rhetoric was soon ex­tin­guished as its lead­ers se­cured in­de­pen­dence for their coun­tries.

Ghana’s an­niver­sary is worth cel­e­brat­ing. Over the past six decades, Ghana has tran­si­tioned from mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ships to a well-func­tion­ing democ­racy, while its econ­omy has seen both boom and near bust. Its story of­fers lessons and hope that Africa can fash­ion its own dig­ni­fied path to peace and democ­racy.

Nkrumah’s vi­sion for Ghana was founded on the na­tion­al­ist de­mands that drove ag­i­ta­tion against colo­nial­ism. He sought to steer his young coun­try to sig­nif­i­cant progress in health and ed­u­ca­tion. Also on the new leader’s agenda were other so­cial and eco­nomic is­sues con­fronting the coun­try.

This vi­sion was em­bed­ded in his seven-year de­vel­op­ment plan pre­sented to Par­lia­ment on March 11 1964. In his view, the 1963 to 1970 plan would, ul­ti­mately, bring Ghana to the thresh­old of a mod­ern state based on a highly or­gan­ised and ef­fi­cient agri­cul­tural and in­dus­trial pro­gramme.

Nkrumah be­lieved he could oblit­er­ate the de­pen­dency-driven colonial econ­omy he in­her­ited, which re­duced Ghana to an im­porter of fin­ished goods bought at ex­or­bi­tant prices, and an ex­porter of raw ma­te­ri­als sold cheaply. In its place would be an in­dus­tri­alised econ­omy modelled along a so­cial­ist pro­duc­tion and dis­tri­bu­tion sys­tem that would make Ghana self-suf­fi­cient and sel­f­re­liant.

But we will never know what his suc­cess would have looked like. Nkrumah’s vi­sion was cut short by a pro-Western mil­i­tary coup in 1966. The plan­ning of it was known to the US, which con­sid­ered Nkrumah to be a sig­nif­i­cant threat to its in­ter­ests in Africa.

The act­ing spe­cial as­sis­tant for Na­tional Se­cu­rity Af­fairs, RW Komer, praised the coup as “…an­other ex­am­ple of a for­tu­itous wind­fall. Nkrumah was do­ing more to un­der­mine our in­ter­ests than any other black African.”

About 50 years after his over­throw, how­ever, Nkrumah re­mains a house­hold name in Ghana be­cause of his in­vest­ments in ed­u­ca­tion, health and en­ergy. Many of his con­tri­bu­tions to other im­por­tant sec­tors, such as the build­ing of the Ako­sombo Dam, the Ac­craTema mo­tor­way, the Komfo Anokye Teach­ing Hos­pi­tal and the Univer­sity of Cape Coast, con­tinue to sup­port the econ­omy to­day.

Nkrumah’s over­throw in 1966 was fol­lowed by four mil­i­tary takeovers in 1972, 1978, 1979 and 1981. Two demo­crat­i­cally elected gov­ern­ments, es­tab­lished in 1969 and 1979, were over­thrown by the mil­i­tary. Even­tu­ally, the cur­rent suc­ces­sion of demo­cratic elec­tions was es­tab­lished in 1993.

In its early years, Ghana’s flir­ta­tion with so­cial­ism dom­i­nated its pol­i­tics. How­ever, the civil­ian gov­ern­ments that fol­lowed steered the coun­try on to a cap­i­tal­ist eco­nomic path in which the World Bank and the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund of­ten dic­tated the pace.

Yet the coun­try has been un­able to achieve the en­vi­sioned sel­f­re­liant and self-suf­fi­cient eco­nomic poli­cies.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Ghana has made re­mark­able progress as one of the suc­cess sto­ries in Africa’s demo­cratic project over the past 25 years. Po­lit­i­cal power has changed three times – all im­por­tant mile­stones:

From the rul­ing Na­tional Demo­cratic Congress (NDC) to the New Pa­tri­otic Party (NPP) in 2001; From the rul­ing NPP to the NDC in 2009; and From the rul­ing NDC back to the NPP in Jan­uary. With th­ese three turnovers un­der its belt, Ghana is a sat­is­fac­to­rily con­sol­i­dated democ­racy.

Ghana­ians have cast aside the au­thor­i­tar­ian pol­i­tics of the past. In its place is ex­panded po­lit­i­cal space that has helped to shape and broaden the fron­tiers of rights. Free speech and as­so­ci­a­tion are guar­an­teed, civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions have greater in­flu­ence over pol­icy-mak­ing and the me­dia is free to per­form its gate­keep­ing.

It’s no co­in­ci­dence that Ghana has emerged as one of the most peace­ful na­tions on the globe. Ac­cord­ing to the 2016 Global Peace In­dex, Ghana – ranked 44th – is more peace­ful than France (ranked 46th) and the UK (ranked 47th).

Ghana has also made progress in nu­mer­ous mea­sures of well­be­ing, es­pe­cially in poverty re­duc­tion and the pro­vi­sion of health and ed­u­ca­tion. It’s one of the few coun­tries in the world that has recorded a sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tion in poverty.

The health­care score­card is also one of the most im­pres­sive in sub­Sa­ha­ran Africa. Ghana is one of the few coun­tries with a univer­sal health in­sur­ance scheme, and there’s a great deal to show from in­vest­ments in the health sec­tor. The coun­try ranked sev­enth out of 153 coun­tries on measles im­mu­ni­sa­tion be­tween 1990 and 2008.

But many chal­lenges re­main. Eco­nomic growth has been swing­ing like a pen­du­lum. More than a decade ago, the coun­try’s econ­omy was grow­ing at 7%, then roared ahead with a growth rate of more than 14% in 2011.

Since then, growth has de­clined con­sid­er­ably. In 2015, it ex­panded by just 4%.

Cur­rently, Ghana is un­der an In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund bailout pro­gramme be­cause of its in­abil­ity to con­tain its huge bud­get deficit, ris­ing in­fla­tion and fall­ing cur­rency.

The jury is still out on whether the coun­try can turn its eco­nomic for­tunes around again. Un­em­ploy­ment rates are alarm­ingly high – an es­ti­mated 48% – and the coun­try faces a power cri­sis, high de­pre­ci­a­tion of the cur­rency and high in­ter­est rates.

Nev­er­the­less, Ghana is still very much the ris­ing star in some spheres – it’s just strug­gling in oth­ers, like many of its African peers. Ateku is a doc­toral can­di­date in in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions at the Univer­sity of Not­ting­ham in the UK


COM­MIT­TED TO THE CAUSE Ghana­ian dancers pre­pare ahead of the cel­e­bra­tion of the 60th an­niver­sary of the coun­try’s in­de­pen­dence at In­de­pen­dence Square in Ac­cra on Mon­day

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