Presidential Communication

Sun, 25 Feb 2007 Source: Kennedy, Arthur Kobina

Last week a high-powered delegation including religious leaders, led by the Chairman of the Council of State, delivered an invitation from the President, H.E. John Agyekum Kufuor, to his predecessor, Mr. Jerry John Rawlings, for him to attend the 50th independence celebration. The timing and manner of the invitation once again, served to underline the difficulty in the relationship of the two men. In a democracy, there are necessary and mostly formal communications between various organs and institutions of government. Even though mostly informal, one of the most delicate is the communication that must of necessity occur periodically between a President and his predecessors. Indeed, even in established, democracies like the United States, the rituals of such communication has taken time to develop. It is said that in the early days of the American republic, it was not uncommon for the President whose term was ending to leave town weeks before the arrival of his successor. Today, there is a meeting soon after the election and the two ride together to the inauguration. It was thus considered encouraging by most people, when the President and Mr. Rawlings met after the elections in 2000 and before Mr. Kufuor took office.

While the motive behind the meeting between the government delegation led by Prof. Adzei Bekoe and Mr. Rawlings’ entourage was commendable, it raises important national issues.

First, why was the Press camped in front of the former President’s residence during the meeting? Could the President’s invitation not have been delivered to the ex-President without the Press camped on his doorstep? It is obvious that there are certain things that are better done away from the glare of publicity and our leaders should be cognizant of that.

Second, was the purpose of the visit to invite just the former President or to invite the National Democratic Congress? If the former President chooses not to participate, does it mean that the NDC, which is the official opposition in Parliament and hopes to form the next government, will choose not to participate in the independence celebration? Will Professor J.E. Atta-Mills boycott the independence celebration of the country he hopes to lead? Whatever the answers to these questions, the idea that the opposition party in parliament requires an invitation to celebrate our independence is ridiculous! Indeed, whether invited or not, the NDC should, like millions of Ghanaians who are planning celebrations, have a grand celebration.

The next issue arising out of the meeting is what was discussed. There are newspaper reports that the former President had conditions for attending the celebration. Amongst the issues his delegation raised were the deaths of the Ya-Na and Mobila, as well as the legal problems of his wife and associates, including Mr. Abodakpi. If the references to the death of the Ya-Na was reported correctly, was Mr. Rawlings, seeking to blame the Kufuor administration for the Ya-Na’s death, thereby accepting blame for all the royal murders during his time? This kind of unprincipled grandstanding is unbecoming of the former President. The demands to set aside sentences handed down by courts and to abort trials that are still on-going or yet to start, undermines the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary. It is calculated to show the whole world that our judicial system is completely politicized and that is wrong. I am shocked that Mr. Rawlings, the man whose name was once synonymous with accountability has stooped blatantly to shield his wife and acquaintances from justice. If we should let the powerful who commit big crimes go free because an ex-President can demand their freedom, how in good conscience can we punish ordinary people for their petty crimes?

My humble advice to the President is: Mr. President, support the rule of law. You are a good man and, good men in good times, should not set bad examples for bad men in bad times. You should neither persecute nor shield anyone, regardless of party from justice.

Finally, let us unite regardless of ethnic group, party or faith in a joyous celebration of the mercies that God has bestowed on us in the last fifty years. As we celebrate however, let us accept that some and, this includes a former President, may choose not to join us, as is their right in a democracy!

Ghana Osee Yeee!!!!

Yee Yeeee!!!! Ghana ooooo Yee!!!! Ghana ooooo Yee Yeeee!!!!

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Columnist: Kennedy, Arthur Kobina