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Opinions of Saturday, 31 July 2010

Columnist: Atta-Boakye, Ken

General Concerns Over the 1992 Ghana Constitution

Ken Atta-Boakye

Obviously, the 1992 Ghana Constitution has had its ups and downs. It has been the most negatively talked about public document. Many Ghanaians have expressed concerns over the flaws that were associated with it. Right now, Ghanaians don’t have confidence in it and would have wished that it could be overhauled. While in office, (2000-2008) ex-President Kufour promised to review it but that didn’t come on. Presently, President Atta Mills has appointed a Constitution Review Committee (CRC) to engage in constructive discussions with the general public for recommendations to amend aspects of it. This pre-supposes that all is not well with the constitution and that it is imperative all appropriate measures should be taken to resolve the inaccuracies to bring about harmony.

It must be clearly stated and for that matter categorically too, that the constitution was drafted under the duress of then Flt. Lt. J.J. Rawlings’ PNDC military leadership. Ghanaians were unhappy with military leadership and eleven (11) years into such regime (1981-92) the political, social, and economic circumstances were unacceptable and required immediate change to constitutional democracy. To fulfill such a condition Flt. Lt. J.J. Rawlings appointed/hand-picked some influential personalities to form National Constitution Commission to draft the 1992 Constitution under his watch. That he didn’t step down and hand over the reigns of the administration to the Chief Justice to oversee the political direction resulted in all the perceived flaws. Those who drafted the constitution were thus, under the whims and caprices of their master who appointed them. Of course, they were also aware that as leaders they would enjoy the undue benefits. Can such a constitution stand the test of time? This is our dilemma!

The Kofi Annan International Policy Center in Accra has organized Workshops and Seminars involving NGO’s and Policy think tanks (IMANI) to address some of the flaws to no fruition. For instance, when the workshop discussed that the appointment to higher positions (Regional Ministers, District Commissioners, Metropolitan Executive) by the President was undesirable and inappropriate, one of the Ahwoi’s probably, who was a privy to the draft constitution defended the provision that the President needs to appoint people who would support his policy initiatives. If this were correct we should advocate for a one-party state and brace up for dictatorship. I beg to differ. It is old school mentality.

Recall how the Indemnity Clause was inserted to insulate the PNDC officials (1981-92) from any criminal liability. People have expressed concerns that it is not fair and should be scraped. But remember, these same leaders who inserted the clause are now Parliamentarians who are supposed to amend it. Parliament easily approved of ex-President gratia awards when they realized that they too had a better deal. Is it not the same constitution that debars diaspora Ghanaians who have citizenship other than that of Ghana from contesting for topmost positions in the country? Ghanaians who changed their citizenship to avail themselves with opportunities to succeed where they sojourned are no enemies of their motherland. Other West African countries, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, don’t consider them traitors except Ghana. At least, it is brain gain, we should recognize that. Why should we put the cart before the horse because of selfish motives? President Atta Mills is wasting money on Commissions and Committees.

The Constitutional Review Committee is window dressing. The issues they are correlating are already out there in the public domain. Touring the ten regions will only put money in the pockets of some people at the expense of the nation. The nine-member team is in Canada now. Think of their Air tickets, per dium, hotel accommodation, boarding/lodging, sitting allowances, etc, etc. I can’t imagine the cost of this exercise when it is over. It is exercise in futility and would be a waste. The best the CRC can do is to recommend and that recommendation has no binding power on parliament to implement. These so-called ‘honorables’ have a mindset of being above everything and have no clue about the public duty entrusted on them. They should be the first to address these constitutional problems. But they care the least about the problems.

We shall continue to spend time and resources about constitutional amendment without coming to a desirable conclusion as well as achieving any meaningful purpose. It is a mind-boggler and should be resolved once and for all.

I strongly suggest that there should be a clarion Call on Constitutional Lawyers to volunteer to correlate public views on the aspects of the constitution that need to be amended and submit them in a referenda format for the Electoral Commission to act on. The issues could include:
i) Should the Indemnity Clause be removed? Yes/No
ii) Should Regional Ministers, DCE’s, MCE’s be elected? Yes/No
iii) Should Ghanaians with other citizenships be allowed to contest topmost positions? Cabinet Positions, R M’s, DCE’s, MP’s, MCP’s or CEO’s of corporate bodies. Yes/No
iv) Should MP’s be exclusively assigned to Parliamentary duties? No Cabinet Positions, Board Members! Yes/No
v) Should diaspora Ghanaians be allowed to vote in General Elections if they are ready to bear some of the overhead costs? Yes/No

The 1992 Constitution was only good at the time to usher Ghana into a lasting democracy which had eluded the nation for decades and now that Ghana is treading successfully on tracks of democracy, amendment to undo some of its anomalies is so imperative that the absence of it or even a delay of it will be an affront to true world standard democracy. Thus, it is hoped that if the aforementioned step is taken it will help to correct some of the flaws in the constitution at a minimal cost. It will also ease off the worries and frustrations over the constitution. Thank you.

Ken Atta-Boakye
Woodbridge, Virginia, U.S.A. (