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Opinions of Wednesday, 15 October 2003

Columnist: Asibey, Akwasi

JAK and JJ: Reconciling the Irreconcilable?

When it is said that Ghanaians are peace-loving people it is a fact not a clich?. It is this preoccupation with maintaining peace that must be at the core of recent calls by civil society organisations such as the Ghana Bar Association (GBA) and the Christian Council of Ghana (CCG) for the current president of the Republic, Mr. John Agyekum Kufour, and the immediate past president, Mr. J.J. Rawlings, to put aside their differences and work together for the sake of the nation.

At its last general meeting held in Elmina, the GBA passed a resolution in which the Association noted "with serious concern the mistrust, animosity and unhealthy relations existing between His Excellency President John Agyekum Kufour and Ex - President Rawlings which needed to be tackled. If the two cannot sit together and take decisions together (sic) then it means that there is something wrong".

I support any efforts that will consolidate the fledgling democratic governance in the country.

However as far as the apparent differences between President Kufour and Ex - President Rawlings are concerned, we need to be less schizophrenic and dig a little bit deeper into the background and philosophy of the two gentlemen in order to understand why things are what they are now. Is it indeed worthwhile to reconcile two people whose worldviews are as different as day and night? We need to know what the two sons of the soil stand for to guide us to fashion a strategy to 'reconcile' them.

I do not pretend to have any great insight into or understanding of the two very important men of our country. We will delve into their philosophical positions and policies.

Mr. Rawlings by all accounts is a populist, a gun-totting pseudo revolutionary who burst onto the Ghanaian political scene first in May 1979, then June 1979 and again December 1981, promising to make Ghana a corrupt free society.

For good measure and as recent revelations at the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) have confirmed, hundreds of innocent Ghanaians either lost their lives and/or properties/livelihood. His conversion to multi party democracy since the early 1990s does not hide the fact that Mr. Rawlings believes in using violence as an instrument to effect change in society.

Under his administration, especially during the PNDC years, Ghana recorded one of the worst human rights abuses in her short history. The abduction and killing of the three judges and the ex Army Officer were duly calculated to undermine the rule of law and to intimidate those who dared to challenge his administration.

Mr. Rawlings is miffed that no due recognition is given to what he perceives as major achievements under his government.

Yes, it is true that between 1981 and 2000 some major programmes were initiated. For example, the structural adjustment programme (SAP) was aimed at removing distortions in the economy and positioning the country to embark on market driven economic development. His own government through reckless spending and excessive corruption undermined the initial gains, resulting from the SAP.

There were massive infrastructure development beginning with the modernisation of the road network in Accra, rehabilitation of some major roads such as Tema-Akosombo, Kumasi-Sunyani, Kumasi-Mampong, Yamoransa-Anhwia Kwanta, Anwhia Kwanta - Kumasi, Kintampo-Tamale and Aflao-Ho.

His administration implemented a radical local government reform programme. Overall Mr. Rawlings' record is not impressive. There was no appreciable growth in national wealth and in personal incomes.

So it is utterly strange that Mr. Rawlings will lead a crusade to vilify the Kufour administration, calling it the worst government the country has ever had. On what basis did he make such an assertion one may ask?

President Kufour is well educated, suave and politically sophisticated. He cut his political teeth in his early 20s and has been politically active even during the rough and tumble of military regimes. He is a liberal democrat by conviction and subscribes to the principles of the rule of law, respect for human rights and human dignity and a strong believer in free enterprise. He is an excellent political strategist who continues to be under-estimated by his opponents.

He does not pander to populist demands. His decision to implement the highly indebted poor country programme (HIPC) and the astronomical increase in the price of petroleum products did not endear him to some Ghanaians. But those decisions had to be taken to enable the country embark on sustainable growth and development.

President Kufour's commitment to good democratic governance has led his administration to initiate an impressive array of reforms such as the repeal of the Criminal Label Act, the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), the proposed Freedom of Information Bill and the Whistle Blowers Bill should further deepen democracy in our country.

The amendment to the Bank of Ghana Act, the proposed Information and Communications Technology (ICT) policy, the Presidential Initiatives on Cassava, Salt, Textiles, Sorghum, Cotton, Oil Palm as well as the creation of the Ministry of Private Sector Development should go a long way in deepening market reforms and in strengthening the development of free enterprise and modernisation of the economy generally.

The Kufour administration has initiated several infrastructure projects, including road construction such as Tema-Sogakope, Accra-Kumasi, Tetteh Quarshie interchange, Circle- Ofankor six lane road and many others. And very soon work will start on Mallam- Kasoa-Yamoransa road.

Mr. Rawlings' method of governance may have worked in the 1980s and parts of 1990s but it has long been discredited. He ought to accept that he has played his part. He should therefore sit back and allow others to take the country to another level of development.

This is the sort of message the GBA and the CCG should carry to him!