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Opinions of Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

Boakye Djan and Ghana’s Democracy

Capt (Rtd) Boakye Djan, spokesperson for erstwhile Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), which ruled Ghana for almost six months, remarks that “Ghana’s political party democracy is irrational and needs a revolution of ideas to address the potential for instability that it could create for the country,” reveals a democracy waiting not only to grow out but also to be interpreted from Ghanaian traditional values and its turbulent history.

Either by accident or providence, Boakye Djan has been part of the most violent era of Ghana’s history – in 1979 (June to September) junior officers, including Boakye Djan one of the big-wigs, staged an “uprising” and later “military housecleaning” that saw the consequent executions of former military junta Heads of State - Gen. Akwasi Afrifa of the National Liberation Ccouncil; Gen. Kutu Acheampong and some of his associates of the National Redemption Council; and Gen. F. W. Akuffo and other leading members of the Supreme Military Council.

Such turbulence has occurred because the elites have had weak grasp of the Ghana nation-state, as development project, from within its foundational traditional values and norms. The apparent misunderstanding and rot of Ghana, as a development scheme, by its elites wasn’t only among the civilian population but also the armed forces – from the military to the police to the border guards. In fact the number one target of the Boakye Djan and associates’ military intervention was to “clean” the rotten values in the military. But the rot in the armed forces was also a reflection of the rot in the larger civil society.

Largely unknown to Boakye Djan and his associates, their violent attempts to clean the rotten developmental values was in line with traditional Ghanaian ideals, where, as Maxwell Owusu, of the University of Michigan, explains in “Rebellion, Revolution, and Tradition: Reinterpreting Coups in Ghana,” traditional institutions such as the militant Asafo organizations overthrow rulers who have violated traditional governance norms and values such as “not been accountable to the people.” Owusu reinterpretation of Ghana’s 21 years of military rule from the perspectives of Ghana’s “traditional beliefs and practices, indigenous political ideology, attitudes and outlooks” is to balance the overriding analytical viewpoints that had for long explained Africa’s military coups from Marxist and non-Marxist positions that grounded images and views of change that originated from Western historical experiences.

It is from such background that Boakye Djan’s observation that “Ghana’s political party democracy is irrational and needs a revolution of ideas to address the potential for instability that it could create for the country” should be viewed. Boakye Djan's examination of the potential instabilities emanating from Ghana’s budding democracy is short of the fact that democracies the world over evolve differently, at different pace, and have different colour and substance informed by the history and traditional values. This makes democracies in India, USA, Britain or Japan slightly different from Ghana’s. And makes excessive drawing of parallel between Ghana and United Kingdom, as Boakye Djan broadly did (ghanaweb.com/Daily Graphic, 31 December 2007), not only morally weak and unintelligible but also misunderstanding of the traditional values and norms influencing Ghana’s promising democracy. As Ghana’s democracy evolves it will have its distinct “traditional beliefs and practices, indigenous political ideology, attitudes and outlooks,” as Owusu would say, in relation to the global democratic principles.

If the analytical viewpoints of Ghana’s democracy are also seen from “traditional beliefs and practices, indigenous political ideology, attitudes and outlooks,” and not solely from Western historical experiences, it may not be “irrational,” as Boakye Djan thinks. In this regard, despite Boakye Djan’s suggestions that Ghana’s democracy “needs a revolution of ideas to address the potential for instability that it could create for the country,” he hasn’t done so for the past 16 years when formal multiparty democracy was initiated in Ghana.

Part of the revolution of ideas may come from drenching Ghana’s democracy in its “traditional beliefs and practices, indigenous political ideology, attitudes and outlooks.” It is from here that Ghana’s democracy could be interpreted from its traditions and norms, as the British, the Americans or the Japanese have done, in relation to the global democratic



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