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Ghana?s Democracy And Her Values

Fri, 8 Apr 2005 Source: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

The on-going uproar generated by Ghana?s democracy ?Bad Boy? ex-president Jerry Rawlings? comparison of President John Kufour to the country?s arrested top armed robber Ataa Ayi during the ?Wahala? demonstration in Accra against the impending fuel price increases reveal the on-going schism between Ghanaian values and her democracy project. The unnecessary rupture occurs practically because Ghanaian values do not dictate her democracy project, making many a politician?s behaviour not influenced by some of Ghana?s rich traditional values, as is the case in Singapore and Japan. Earlier, President Kufour too had referred to ex-President Rawlings as ?abonsam?, meaning the devil, in Takoradi. Despite various condemnation against Rawlings and the call for him to apologize, more so his utterances inappropriate of a former head of state, the politics of insults has been part of Ghana?s political culture since independence from colonial rule in 1957, some of this wrongly borrowed from outside because of colonialism and globalization. This reveals the fact that Ghanaian elites have not been able to fit their traditional values into their democracy project, thus making our politicians sometimes appear unintelligent.

From first president Kwame Nkrumah?s Marxist/Socialist regime to prime minister Kofi Busia?s capitalist administration to president Dr. Hilla Limann?s socialist regime to president Jerry Rawlings? social democracy government to the incumbent president John Kufour?s capitalist government and all the various military juntas that Ghana has to come experience, the colonially imposed political values have dominated Ghana?s traditional ones, unlike other ex-colonies such as Singapore, South Korea and Japan that have been able to skillfully mix their indigenous values with the legacies of the imposed colonial ones. A World Bank study has called for such mixture of colonial legacies and African values in Africa?s democracy and development projects. This doesn?t mean some thoughtful Ghanaians have not called for rooting the Ghana?s political values her traditional values first and the colonially imposed ones second so as to lessen confusion, disorder, and misunderstanding regarding Ghana?s democratic growth and development. For all democracies the world over is driven first by each societies cultural values and history, and any other second.

In the spirit of Ghanaian values, Hon. John Dramani Mahama, member of Parliament for Bole Bamboi, has advised Rawlings to apologize to President Kufuor for comparing him to the country?s top armed robber. Mahama should have equally advised Kufour and his associates to apologize to Rawlings for the various insults heaped on him. There is embedded within Ghanaian/African cultural huge democratic values that are waiting to be used to flower a unique Ghanaian democracy. Freedom of speech, civic virtues, maintenance of law and order are all embedded in the Ghanaian/African values that could guide democratic growth if shaped to influence public policy. Aware of revelation of signs of confusion of values within Ghana?s democratic project, Mahama observed that ?there is freedom of expression but unlike a country like the United States where freedom of speech is so accepted that they can go on demonstration and call President Bush a fool and say all kinds of things because it is within their culture, it does not pertain here. In our culture it is not easily acceptable for persons like the ex-president and the sitting president to engage in insults. Our culture finds it difficult to accept this practice.? As Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr. of the United States? Nassau Community College of the State University of New York indicated in his on-going series, ?The Enduring Legacy Of Dr. J. B. Danquah,? as far back as March 22, 1950 the pro-independence campaigner against colonial rule Dr. J.B. Danquah floated a Ghanaian democratic vision rooted in Ghanaian/African cultural lens, but was rejected by either Ghana?s weak or unrealistic or confused elites at that time and the situation has existed till today. Writes Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., ?Thus where Nkrumah envisaged chieftaincy, and consequently indigenous African cultures, as militating against the rapid material advancement of Ghana, and the African continent as a whole, the more cognitively and philosophically grounded Danquah envisaged the same in terms of the psycho-cultural. In other words, rather than gauging the level of Ghana?s development in terms of the number of factories and first-class highways, the intellectual and psychological balance of the general Ghanaian national temperament had to be fore-grounded as the most significant gauge, or measure, of the country?s level of civilization.?

In ?Compatible Cultural Democracy: The Key to Development in Africa,? Daniel Osabu-Kle, a Ghanaian-Canadian political scientist at Carleton University in Ottawa, talks of African values shaping democracy and development and the colonially imposed political values creating ?pollutants? in Ghana/Africa democratic development. By pollutants Osabu-Kle means un-African values that have come about because of contact with the colonialists and that are disturbing original African values needed to drive democratic campaigns and that are stifling Ghana/Africa?s development. ?At present people are not proud of their culture because of pollutants ,? said Osabu-Kle. Osabu-Kle, who, like other Africanists, makes the case that for democracies in Ghana/Africa to be stable Ghanaians/Africans have to go back to their culture, retrieve the democratic values within and use them to develop a democratic ideology befitting today?s democratic projects.

Such thinking comes up almost always as Ghana?s traditional values dances with the colonially imposed ones in the country?s democratic development such as the call for prominent Kings and Chiefs in Ghana to mediate the bad blood between Kufour and Rawlings and the need to let Ghanaian values guide the country?s democracy; such as Kings and Chiefs increasingly getting involved in local and national development; and Kings and Chiefs advising politicians when they go ?astray.? But as Ghana?s democracy moves on, with occasional democratic strains and stresses here and there, it will naturally has to deal with Ghanaian indigenous values, and it is in this sense that Ghana?s elites have to attempt to root the country?s democracy in her cultural values.

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Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi