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Opinions of Thursday, 28 February 2008

Columnist: Pryce, Daniel K.

President Kufuor Must Replace Interior Minister and IGP Now!

Kwamena Bartels, Ghana’s Interior Minister, is no novice to politics, having served previously in the Kufuor administration as Minister for Private Sector Development and Presidential Special Initiative. In fact, while Private Sector Development Minister, Kwamena Bartels played a key role in getting his daughter, Sheila Bartels, and her cronies awarded a contract worth 4 billion cedis, when the facts on the ground did not indicate that the minister’s daughter ? and the company she represented ? had the best dossier, and the requisite expertise, to be handed such a huge amount of money. The conduct of the minister during the vetting process prior to the official declaration of the winning bid sums up what has always been wrong with leadership in Africa: gross and stolid meddling in the work of bureaucrats; undue political influence that undermines the confidence of the proletariat in the government of the day; and the lack of personal credibility that results in the waging of brazen crusades against subordinates who renounce the greedy gambits of these purveyors of corruption.

That Kwamena Bartels, after initially denying being a signatory to the formalities that led to the selection of his daughter’s company for the Ghana Private Sector Development Fund-Italian Credit award, could appallingly and rapaciously hang on to his position as a minister of state, despite obvious malfeasance, is a uniquely African predicament. It is now a known fact that Mr. Bartels took part in two of the three formal processes that culminated in the selection of Sheila Bartel’s company for this fund, and his previous attempts to refute involvement was verisimilitudinous, at best. While Mr. Bartels’ gaffe in the contract saga was sinister enough to warrant his dismissal by the president ? sadly, to get a government official in Africa to resign over palpable malfeasance is tantamount to an attempt to both put out the unremitting fires of Hades and quash the odious impiety of the infernal forces that run the place ? it is for a different reason that I am calling for Mr. Bartels’ dismissal!

Not too long ago, I published an article in which I suggested that former president Jerry Rawlings be appointed Interior minister by the next administration to help assail the fiendishness and pervasiveness of armed robbery in Ghana. I was somewhat shocked by some of the profanity-laden ripostes to my article, since I was only contributing my quota to nation-building, the latter an endeavor for which I receive no remuneration, considering the fact that a recent poll on Ghanaweb.com had identified armed robbery as the nation’s greatest contemporary challenge, trumping the economy by about 15 percentage points! Insults and personal attacks will not reduce Ghana’s escalating crime rate. Although strictly an Internet poll, these responses to the Ghanaweb.com survey suggest a growing disaffection among the populace with the government’s inability ? or perhaps unwillingness ? to solve the crime quandary. Well, scratch Jerry Rawlings’ name from consideration. Let the government appoint a new consensus candidate for the Interior ministry job immediately, even before the next president assumes office.

Let us get back to Kwamena Bartels. In view of the fact that the Interior minister has been ineffective as the nation’s top law enforcement officer, he must be replaced immediately with someone who knows how to get the job done. Ghanaians are now living in great fear, even though they have a tax-supported police service to protect them. Deploying additional policemen to a particular geographical location after a crime takes place is not the best way to combat the heinous activities of these armed robbers. With its superior intelligence, the government must embark on a concerted effort to identify the networks behind these criminal activities, extirpate them, and restore the confidence of the citizens in their government once again. How viable is economic activity in the nation if people cannot move about freely and conduct business?

It was very disheartening to read a report published January 31, 2008, on Ghanaweb.com, in which some foreign journalists covering the African Cup of Nations were beaten and robbed in the Accra suburb of Tantra Hills. No one had a right to inflict “some bruising, a fat lip and a few scratches” on these visitors, as they are no different from the average sightseer to the country. The preceding case is just another one in an endless list of attacks on innocent citizens and foreigners, and mere condemnations of these vicious acts are simply no longer enough. As exasperating as the foreign journalists’ story may sound, we should all be more enraged by what these hoodlums are doing to our own people. Ghana’s Interior Minister, Kwamena Bartels, and the IGP, Patrick Kwarteng Acheampong, are clueless as far as policing the population is concerned. And since the Interior minister and the IGP lack the credibility necessary to motivate and supervise the police service, both men must be replaced immediately, since they are unlikely to resign honorably.

It is necessary for the president to replace the IGP, and a decision must be made quickly. After all, Ghanaians have little confidence in a police service hierarchy that has, for some time now, been tainted with several allegations of wrongdoing, the most recent being the disappearance of 67 cartons of cocaine from the headquarters of the Criminal Investigations Department. My initial response to the news item was total disbelief, coupled with trepidation. How on earth could such an act have taken place within the confines of the head office of this august investigative body? Why was Ben Huga, the drug baron from whom the police seized the 67 cartons of cocaine, granted bail, in contravention of existing laws, and allowed to sneak out of the country to plan future “invasions?” So, what happened to all the internal security safeguards? Getting to the bottom of this matter should not become another protracted investigation, as is bizarrely common in such cases. This imbroglio is truly an indictment of the Ghana Police Service, and the IGP must be axed as a result!

I call on President Kufuor to take a bold and decisive action to sack all erring appointees in his administration, if he wants to protect his legacy as the man who accentuated the rule of law and freedom of speech in the country, as well as the man who emphatically swore to take down corrupt officials in his administration, even if the tag of “progenitor of Ghana’s current democratic experiment” belongs to Jerry Rawlings. Sacking the Interior minister and the IGP should be the starting point of a serious housecleaning exercise, in order to restore the confidence of the electorate in the current and future administrations. The last time I checked, John Kufuor and Aliu Mahama were the only ones who traversed the country canvassing for votes prior to the 2004 general elections, so any appointee serving in the current administration is doing so only at the behest of the president. President Kufuor must therefore act now before his administration’s image is permanently tarnished, not to mention the possibility of his administration becoming an albatross to Akufo-Addo, the New Patriotic Party’s 2008 presidential aspirant. Let us return Ghana to the nation that it once was: an oasis of ingenuousness, common sense and genuine public service.

The writer, Daniel K. Pryce, in addition to two undergraduate degrees, holds a master’s degree in public administration from George Mason University, U.S.A. He is a member of the national honor society for public affairs and administration in the U.S.A. He can be reached at dpryce@cox.net.

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