Successful election will bolster Ghana’s democracy

Wed, 1 Jun 2016 Source: Kate Baaba Hudson

Ghana’s status and reputation as a democratic nation will be further bolstered in November this year when the country holds its seventh democratic election.

A peaceful, safe and fair election would see Ghana cement its place as the leading democratic country in West Africa, the British High Commissioner to Ghana, Mr Jon Benjamin, has stated.

He said the British government recognised that the path of electoral democracy was often bumpy, with its own share of potholes and that was why just recently, the British government announced a £4-million Deepening Democratic Governance Programme funded by its Department for International Development (DFID).

“This programme will see us working alongside the Electoral Commission, the police service, the Judiciary and civil society, with the UK as a trusted partner but entirely neutral with regard to the outcome of the election,” Mr Benjamin assured.

The High Commissioner said this during a reception he and his wife hosted at their residence in Accra recently, to mark the 90th birthday celebration of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

The High Commissioner noted that “we don’t think it even needs to be said that we will always happily work with whoever is elected in Ghana at any given election. We favour no party and we have no candidate,” he added.

“The election project I have just mentioned is a partnership; it is technical, logistical and administrative and not party political,” he emphasised.

Mr Benjamin said the partnership was designed as their final electoral assistance programme to Ghana, in recognition of the fact that by 2020, Ghana would be a firmly established middle-income country, running its eighth consecutive democratic election.

He stressed that this electoral project was just one example of the unique partnership. He addedd that he was proud that 11 different British government departments were working here in Ghana — each one of them an example of Britain’s shared partnership of cooperation and collaboration in so many fields.

Across the broad spectrum of their work, he said Britain, through those departments, was partnering with Ghana to achieve great results; adding that it had recently signed a bilateral compulsory prisoner transfer agreement and was working closely together to counter the threat of global terrorism.

Multilateral development assistance

Over the past year, he said, the UK had provided well over £100 million in bilateral and multilateral development assistance to Ghana, focusing on health, education, governance and economic development.

Together, he said, the areas of assistance were making a difference in the lives of Ghanaians, particularly young Ghanaians, who are the key to the country’s future.

As an example, he said the Head of DFID Ghana, Mr Jim McAlpine, was in the Brong Ahafo Region last week to hand over 54 adolescent reproductive health facilities; two in each of the region’s 27 districts, which the UK had either built or refurbished. Saying that generally, the UK would continue to support Ghana as a committed and leading development partner and friend in the years ahead.

"The vibrant Ghanaian diaspora community in the United Kingdom comprised several hundred thousands of people, many of them now third and fourth generation British citizens," he noted. This, he said was best showcased by the Ghana-UK Based Awards (GUBA), which is now celebrating its sixth year anniversary.

Mr Benjamin noted the work of the British Council in Ghana and announced that this year, it was running a series of events to mark the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, which would include a comedy stage production highlighting the challenges that faced women in Ghana.

Mr Benjamin, however, reiterated Britain’s respect for the considerable contribution that Ghana continued to make to peace support operations worldwide, including some of the most dangerous and demanding missions such as those in Mali and South Sudan.

He said there were so many interpersonal links between the two countries, not forgetting the five Ghanaian footballers currently playing in the English Premier League and other players of Ghanaian heritage.

Total trade

He said the total bilateral trade in goods and services between the UK and Ghana was £1.3 billion.

The High Commissioner noted that Ghana was UK’s fifth largest export market in sub-Saharan Africa.

Mr Benjamin pointed out that a vibrant British community here in Ghana continued to play a significant role in commercial relations between the two countries.

British companies continue to invest in Ghana, forming partnerships with Ghanaian companies; creating jobs, building local capacity and expertise in sectors such as education, health, agriculture, infrastructure, oil and gas and financial, legal and professional services.

“I believe that the partnership between our two countries will only enhance our progress together. We are better; together we are stronger and only together could we create a more prosperous future for UK and Ghana relationship.”

Queen Elizabeth’s birthday

The High Commissioner said the day was very special, since it was on that day in 1926 the then Princess Elizabeth was born.

He said celebrations were going on throughout the day all over the world to mark the 90 years of the Queen.

On her 21st birthday, in a radio broadcast from Cape Town, over four years before she would accede to the throne, the then Princess Elizabeth dedicated her life to the service of the Commonwealth,” he recalled.

He quoted the Princess as saying, “I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service.”

It was one thing for a 21-year-old to utter those inspiring words, it was another to live by them for well over 60 years. For us as UK public servants, it was truly humbling to comprehend the scale of service that Her Majesty the Queen had given to the UK and the Commonwealth, he said.

Mr Benjamin said Her Majesty had worked with 12 different British Prime Ministers, six Archbishops of Canterbury and with many heads of state throughout the Commonwealth.

He said he was the Queen’s 18th High Commissioner to Ghana.

There have also been 12 US Presidents and seven Popes during Her reign, a reign which last year surpassed Queen Victoria’s, to become the longest in Britain’s long history.

Her reign had seen huge change globally, politically, socially, and culturally, he noted, adding that through all of that, she had been steadfast, a rock of strength and a constant in their lives.

“Above all, one thing shines through and that is Her Majesty’s strong sense of duty and devotion to her people. This dedication, that has been evident throughout her long reign, has earned her huge respect and admiration in her own country, and throughout the Commonwealth and wider world. We repay that respect today,” he stated.

Columnist: Kate Baaba Hudson