Ghana stakes regional influence on democracy

Sun, 18 Jan 2009 Source: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

By Kofi Akosah-Sarpong

The highly successful general elections in Ghana have revived its former clout as the centre of Pan Africanism where other African states came to drink from its ideals and hope. Now instead of radical Pan Africanism with its leftists sloganeering, Ghana is emerging as the centre of genuine democracy and freedoms in an African which democracy and freedoms are anything but.

Since the triumphant second run-off presidential election on January 2 that saw John Evans Atta Mills winning by just over 40,000 votes, perhaps the most neck-to-neck presidential polls in Africa of recent memory, the whole Africa, more the stability challenged West African region, has been fired up, enjoying in Ghana’s success. African democrats, intellectuals and ordinary people talk of Ghana’s rise and its re-position as the “Black Star of Africa.” While Ghana may not be rich like Nigeria or South Africa or Libya, its radiation of hope and ideals is more the result of its democratic and freedoms growth.

Ghana’s developing democracy has touched base with its ancient Pan Africanism ideals and hope that the new ruling National Democracy Congress (NDC), which is made up of Nkrumaist Pan Africanists, embodies. It is not surprising that just a week into their rule the NDC has stated that it will “vigorously pursue African unity as part of its foreign policy.” Though the NDC is aware that for the past five decades Ghana’s foreign policy hasn’t changed, in a partisan manner it thought Ghana under President John Kufuor “de-emphasis on African Unity.”

De-emphasized or not, the revival of African unity as Ghana’s foreign policy is as result of democratic growth for the past 17 years and its unique success in a region where democracy and freedoms have been sham and threat of instability hovering. As the UN warned last year stability of Sierra Leone and Liberia is still suspect. Former Liberian warlord Prince Yomi Johnson, whose unit killed former president Samuel Doe, has warned against a witch-hunt by the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which leaked report, intends to arrest him, among others, and “vowed to resist any effort to arrest him.”

This should inform President Mills and his NDC that any foreign policy driven by African unity and attempts at African unity today have to be cooked in a Ghana that projects greater democracy, rule of law and freedoms. This makes the revival of Ghana’s leadership position in Africa, especially it’s thought of futuristic West African integration, a democratic and freedoms act.

West Africa, the poorest region in the world, for some time the most instable and for long military coups ridden area, would not just be integrated from empty Pan African rhetoric as was the case some fifty years ago. The integration architecture, as a Pan African act, has to be driven by certain common values that are democracy and freedoms, as Africans’ and world’s praise of Ghana after the January 2 presidential election indicate.

Whether under Ghana’s first President Kwame Nkrumah or any president for that matter, the integration of West Africa cannot occur in a region where there are unfreedoms, threats of civil wars, violation of the rule of law, fears and harassment, endemic corruption, high octane ethnicity and stifling of democratic aspiration. The Gambia is yet to account for its killing of some 40 Ghanaians and other Africans. The new Vice President John Mahama, as an NDC opposition figure, had suggested stein position on the Gambian issue and, if possible, cut-off relations with the Gambia. Democracies do not cut each other off; democracies do not fight, democracies much more co-operative as the global experiences demonstrate. The resolving of the Gambian issue would be done better in a West Africa where all the governments are as democratic and freedoms driven as Ghana is exuding now.

While the global praise of Ghana’s democracy and freedoms ascendancy demonstrates the reach, influence and power Ghana has acquired, it also provides President Mills, who isn’t known as democracy and freedoms struggler, and didn’t campaign on such ideals during the 2008 general elections, as was his main contestant Nana Akufo-Addo of the now opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), with the convenient room to wrap his intended African unity and West African integration around democracy and freedoms.

The only real threat to President Mills’s African unity and West African integration vision lie in de-emphasizing democracy and freedoms, as medicine to cure West Africa’s long simmering instability as the region’s body, Ecowas, cut-off Guinea from its fold, which transition government was overthrown by its military after President Lansana Conteh died on December 23. Or just revert to the old, empty Pan Africanism that had no innate African values driving it or that wasn’t tied to the global prosperity ideals driven by democracy, rule of law and freedoms but the same old, same old anti-imperialism jingles. West Africa is still waiting to see whether Mauritania’s military junta will revert the country to constitutional rule by June this year as it promised.

Other African states that have pump-up by Ghana to take its long lost leadership position in Africa were moved by Ghana’s rising beautiful democracy and freedoms, and not any undemocratic and unfreedoms that characterized attempts at African unity and West African regional integration 50 years ago during the era of Nkrumah, Sekou Toure, Siaka Stevens, Dauda Jawara, and William Tubman. Today, Ghana’s stake in regional influence would be informed by democracy and freedoms.

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi