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The Presidential Address

Inaugural speech by President John Agyekum Kufuor, Fourth President of the Republic of Ghana at Independence Square Accra January 7th 2001

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker of Parliament, My Lord Chief Justice, Your Excellencies brother Presidents and Vice President, Nananom, Your Excellencies Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Distinguished guests, fellow citizens and friends,

One hour ago, I took a solemn oath before Parliament to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of Ghana. I swore that I now dedicate myself to the services and well-being of the people of Ghana and to do right to all.

Please join me in giving thanks to the Almighty for bringing us to this new beginning for our country. We demonstrate today our maturity and our cohesion as a nation by the smooth transfer of power from a democratically elected government to another.

This is the first time this has happened in our 43 years of existence. It is an achievement of which we can all be justifiably proud, and which we can happily celebrate. But we cannot rest there. What we can, and must do is to try and utilize the advantages that come from this historic achievement. The spontaneous joy and feeling of goodwill that is in the country since 28th December 2000 should not be allowed to disappear without translating it to tangible improvements in the lives of the mass of our people.

We have work to do and that starts today. Our greatest enemy is poverty. And the battle against poverty starts with reconciling our people and forging ahead in unity. We have gone through turbulent times and we should not in any way down play or brush aside the wrongs that have been suffered. I do not ask that we forget, indeed we dare not forget, but I do plead that we try to forgive.

That way, we can concentrate our energies on the big battle of bringing prosperity to our nation. It is not beyond our capabilities. We have all the ingredients here, a fertile and beautiful land endowed with goodness and richness and blessed with a dynamic and entrepreneurial people. As we strive to realise our potential, I must acknowledge the help and encouragement that our foreign friends have extended to us. I acknowledge their role in the electoral process and the deepening of our democracy. I am grateful for the many messages of congratulations and the universal praise that we have received for the conduct of the elections and the transition.

Having helped us so far to get where we are, our international friends should keep faith with us. They must remember that we face grave challenges with our economy, challenges that are likely to put severe strains on our people's belief and enthusiasm for the democratic process and its slow and painstaking methods. We have been down this road before, in the second and third republics, when adventurers were able to exploit temporary difficulties by promising instant solutions and overthrowing constitutionally elected governments.

We need the continued support and help of our foreign friends and I urge them to consider seriously the appeals that are being made for the relief of debts. This will enable us build our economy. We are currently spending a fourth of all our revenue annually on simply servicing our debts. Such a burden is not sustainable and is likely to dampen the enthusiasm of our people when they do not see any democratic dividends.

It is imperative that our people see concrete evidence that democracy is more than just sweet words. They should see that there is a difference in their lives, they need to be freed from poverty, hunger and disease and this should be done in conditions of freedom.

We on our part in the new administration, accept that we need to sacrifice and work hard. We pledge to cut waste and corruption from public life. There will be, under this administration, ZERO TOLERANCE of corruption and I make a solemn pledge to you my compatriots, and fellow citizens that I shall set a personal example.


We shall also cut our coat according to our size of our cloth and utilize whatever help we get in the most appropriate manner.

Ours is not a poor country and even though we are now a poor people, there should be no room for the despondency that has settled on large sections of the population.

In this regard, I want to make a special appeal to our young people. We need your energy, we need your dynamism, we need your creativity and above all, we need your dreams to rebuild Mother Ghana.

This, is where it is happening, this is where you should be and this is where you should be helping to translate your dreams into reality.

I must at this stage, pay tribute to the many members and supporters of my party, the New Patriotic Party, who have worked so hard to bring about this victory. Many of you have toiled for long years without any thought of reward, spurred on only by our common belief in democratic freedoms and the certainty in our ultimate victory. To you I say, "Ayekoo", and remember the more difficult fight for the betterment of our people has only now begun.

I must also acknowledge the contributions made by our compatriots who live outside the country. Currently you contribute a third of the capital inflow into the country. Many of you do more than just send money home, many of you have kept up keen interest in the affairs at home, and some of you have even been part of the struggle of the past twenty years.

I salute your efforts and your hard work and I extend a warm invitation to you to come home and let us rebuild our country.

Never again should Ghanaians have to resort to dubious means to get to or live in foreign lands simply to make a living. And certainly never again should Ghanaians have to seek political asylum anywhere in the world.

To those of our compatriots who have made homes beyond our shores, I make a special plea for your help; we need your newly acquired skills and contacts, we need your perspective and we need your capital.

To those who left and have stayed out only because of the military revolution or political differences, I say come back, come back home where you belong and let us join in building a new Ghana.


I pledge that it will not be a case of one set of Ghanaians coming back from exile to be replaced by another set of Ghanaians going into exile. Multi party democracy is here to stay in our country, and there is room for differences of opinion, our political opponents have their honoured roles to play and I urge all of us to extend the same tolerance to each other that we want for ourselves.

During the campaign, the amount of enthusiastic support that came from our women for the cause of change was remarkable. I believe this is because our women are at the sharp edge of the economic realities in the country. You go to the market, you have to make sure there is food on the table and children are fed and dressed well. I believe that is why you have been in the forefront of this democratic revolution.

I salute you, the women of Ghana; I salute your hard work and your dedication. You deserve to be treated with respect, and the burden you carry on all our behalf must be lightened. I salute you for the uncomplaining way you look after all of us. What reputation we have as Ghanaians comes from the love and attention given us by our mothers, sisters and wives and you must be safe on our streets.

I therefore condemn in the strongest possible terms the murders of women that have plagued us and have thus far not been solved. I shall do my best to ensure that the police give the highest priority to solving the murders and bringing the perpetrators to book. Nothing should stand in the way, and I promise that my administration will give all the help needed to enable the police get to the bottom of these gruesome murders. With God's help and guidance, we shall soon see the end of this most unpleasant chapter in our history.

And to make sure that you take your rightful place by your men- folk, my government will establish a Ministry of Women Affairs, of Cabinet rank to ensure all policy is pervaded with due consideration for your interest.

The potentials of our nation have always been known, and I take the fresh mandate given us so enthusiastically, as a mandate to renew our pride and self-esteem in ourselves.

As we continue to take pride in the historic struggle for democratic freedom in our country, it is appropriate that we also salute with pride those who led the struggle for a return to constitutional rule in the past 20 years.

Our pride will be even more justified when we have put our economy on a sound footing. My government will do its part in creating the right atmosphere of safety and security and assurance that there will be rule of law. Every citizen will have protection under the law and nobody will be victimized because of tribe, religion or political affiliations.

When disputes arise, as they will, because we are human beings, we expect the judiciary to resolve them by the rule of law and with fairness. We urge them to renew and restore the faith of our people in the administration of justice so that it will be manifest that our country is a safe place to invest in.

Whilst we set about creating the enabling atmosphere, we shall give all the help and encouragement we can to our entrepreneurs so that business flourishes. We have pledged to create wealth and we know that the main agency for the creation of wealth in all its manifestations in the private sector.


My government will therefore support every feasible venture. We will encourage, in particular, small and medium scale ventures in all sectors of the economy. We believe an added gain will be the strengthening of democracy through the many individuals who will be empowered through this wealth creation. The message to the business community both here and abroad therefore is, "Ghana is open for business" come in and let's do business.

Our business people have the responsibility to lead the economic transformation of our country. The challenge that faces them is to recognize the implications of the global economy and the fact that a nation's prosperity depends on its business being competitive. My resolution is to launch a golden age of business and enterprise in our country that will transform the lives of our people within the next decade.

To get to this golden age, our farmers and workers must join the crusade through their hard work and discipline. They must accept a new work ethic, embrace new methods of working and constantly update their skills to make us an integral part of the global economy. I intend to make dialogue and co-operation with the TUC and all workers a central feature of the fight to bring economic prosperity to our people.

There has been enough suffering in our country, there has been enough of children whose dreams die before they have a chance to grow and there has been enough of our elders who, having served their nation, are forced into indignity in their old age.

From today we must learn to smile again, we must learn to appreciate the good in each other and we must feel pride in being Ghanaians. Fear must be banished from our public and political life. We should reward excellence and recognize hard work. We are a blessed people and with God's guidance our smiles might even become laughter in the not too distant future.

I make a special plea to all branches of government, the Legislature, the Judiciary and all the institutions of state to join in the building of our nation.

As the duly elected Chief Executive of the Nation and the Commander in Chief of its Armed Forces, I expect, indeed, I demand loyalty from the public and civil services and the Security Services. We cannot afford to waste time and energy. Our people have been very patient but they will not forgive us if we do not start work immediately.

Today we have been joined in our celebrations by many of our neighbours. I wish to thank all of them, His Excellency the President of Senegal Abdoulaye Wade, The President of Cote d'Ivoire, Laurent Compaore, and President of Togo, Gnassingbe Eyadema, The President of Mali, ...Alpha Omar Konare, our special guest of honour the President of Nigeria Olusegum Obasanjo, and Vice President Jacob Zuma of South Africa. Thank you all for the honour done to Ghana and me personally by you presence here with us.


We cannot hope to build a vibrant and prosperous Ghana unless we are at peace with our neighbours. I pray that our sub region which has been in such turmoil for so long will have peace so that we can bring some happiness to our people. I pledge that Ghana will do her part in helping to maintain peace in the region. We shall also play our part in helping to continental institutions and their reform to make them relevant to the needs of the peoples of Africa in the 21st century.

Thank you brother Presidents for joining us. Africa has good reason to be proud of what has happened in Ghana today.

We in Ghana have good cause to be proud. Today, let us smile and take that smile with us into tomorrow as the hard work starts.

Thank you for your confidence. I pray that with God's guidance and blessing, and the support of you the good people of Ghana, I shall lead you to a prosperous, progressive and peaceful Ghana.

Thank you and God bless us all.