History of Ghana`s Political development
Political and constitutional development
Political and socio-economic development
Political development and democracy
In Africa, Ghana has been as one of the pioneering states in many aspects. Ghana is a country of very many firsts in Africa. This is because it was the first African country to get freedom from the British colonists. In addition, after independence Ghana was the first state to adopt the one party rule. Ghana was also the first new African state to experience a series of military coups. Ghana was also among the first African states to suffer from economic depressions. Additionally, Ghana was among the first African nations to formulate and implement ideologies to mobilise its citizen towards economic growth. Finally, Ghana was the first country in Africa to carry out a peaceful transition from a military rule to civilian rule.
Since independence, Ghana was highly viewed as the state that would set benchmarks for other developing states in Africa. Although Ghana is now an example of good governance and democracy, the road to political stability has not been smooth. Ghana and its people have endured a lot of turmoil and political conflicts coupled by economic recession and ethnic conflicts. This history has affected its people and leaders in various ways. This paper assesses the development of Ghana as a state from various perspectives.
History of Ghana’s Political and constitutional development
Ghana is predominantly a multi ethnic state with the Akan community forming about 49% of the total population. Ghana’s population demography has greatly helped the country to develop over the years. Since the Akan ethnic group shares a common language, it has helped foster a sense of nationhood. During the colonial era, the British used indirect rule over the colony of Ghana. This meant that traditional chiefs became accountable and served the interests of the colonial masters. In this respect, traditional chiefs consolidated a lot of power. However, leadership was distorted because the traditional values of leadership such as customary checks, accountability, and justice were eroded. By the end of the Second World War, there was a lot of political agitation that led to the formation of various political organisations. Through the efforts of Kwame Nkrumah, the colonial government agreed to constitutional reforms. In the early 1950s, the Gold Coast, as Ghana was referred to, was finally accorded internal self governance. Following developments in the constitutional framework during the mid 1950s, Ghana become the first state South of the Sahara to declare independence. Ghana as a state gained its independence from the British colonial master in 1957 (Bennett, 1973, p. 665).
After independence, Ghana was faced with various challenges ranging from the need to channel resources from foreign companies to local developmental issues. In addition, there was a shift of ownership of companies from foreign to local ownership. There was also need to invest in sectors that were viewed as neglected by the colonialists such as social services and education sector. In light of these challenges and the proposed system of governance, Nkrumah’s government succumbed to pressure and was finally overthrown during a military coup in 1966 (Bennett, 1973). At independence, Ghana had no external debt. However, during and after the coup, the country had accumulated an external debt of about $790 million. Nkrumah’s view of industrialisation being led and controlled by the state had failed miserably. From this time onwards, Ghana was to undergo a series of turmoil characterised by military coups and civilian government rule for at least three decades (Price, 1984, pp. 173-174).
Later on in the late 1970s, Richard Jerry Rawlings led a group of low ranking military officers to overthrow the military government led by senior military officials. This coup was extraordinary in the sense that most of its leaders were young officers. One of its main objectives was to clean up the government. The military junta went after individuals and senior military leaders who encouraged and benefited from corruption and carried out court martial before executing the culprits. After four months in office following the handover of power by Rawlings to a newly elected government, there was yet another coup. Rawlings’ government made a lot of structural adjustments to the form of governance that mainly favoured farmers and export businesses. Although the power of corrupt leaders and civil servants may have been eroded, the fundamental causes of patronage ideology to political control were yet to be addressed (Sederberg, 1971, pp. 179-84).
In 1992, Ghana passed a new constitution that paved way for the holding of democratic elections under a multi party system of governance. The new constitution was a move back to the presidential system. However, alterations were made to allow ministers to serve simultaneously as members of parliament. This is a provision that the earlier constitutions had removed. This was done to encourage cooperation between the executive and the legislature. This was informed by a case in which the third republic parliament rejected a budget presented by the executive. After the rebirth of multi party politics in 1992, Ghana has held successful elections in 1996, 2000 and to date (Williams, et al, 2009).
Political and socio-economic development
With the advent of the new constitution, Ghana moved from military rule to a presidential system of governance. The authors of the new constitution dispensation were opposed to the strict separation of powers between the executive and legislature. Therefore, they allowed for the provision of the president appointing some ministers from the legislative assembly. This was in reaction to the third republic parliament that rejected the proposed budget, which was later referred to as legislative obstructionism. The authors were careful not to return the country to the events of the third republic. However, on the other hand, they did not want to go back to the Westminster parliamentary system that was earlier propagated by the Nkrumah government. This enabled the president to pick a majority of ministers from parliament and some from the private sector. This ensured that the president got the required ethnic balance in the cabinet. The president had the ability to appoint ministers from regions or areas where his political party did not have a strong hold. Such regions did not have elected members of parliament from the president’s party to be appointed as ministers. These policies emphasised on both a national interest in a strong presidency and a cooperative legislature with emphasis on the need of the cabinet to be ethnically balanced (Botchway, 1972).
After shifting to constitutional democracy, many development aid partners complained about the slow rate of economic reforms. This is because politicians, as opposed to technocrats, were now taking major decisions. Parliament, which was mostly dominated by Rawlings’ party, was unable to pass a petroleum tax bill and fought against civil service reforms in 1993. Rawlings’ administration is also credited with the starting of the National Institutional Renewal Program that was mandated with the task of enhancing and encouraging good policy development, public sector management and creation of an appropriate wage and grading system. Later on during the following year, an attempt to impose value added tax was withdrawn following massive outcry and opposition from the public and opposition parties. However, the liberalisation of state-owned enterprises was hastened. Some of the most profitable state organisations were sold raising more revenue than was anticipated (Armstrong, 1995).
During 1994, the government embarked on a process to formulate a national development policy framework that was to be famously known as the Ghana–vision 2020. The main highlight of this policy document were development of agriculture, sustainable macroeconomic environment, development of human resource, encouraging entrepreneurship and poverty eradication. The main goal was to sustain an economic growth rate of 8% GDP. During the 1996 general elections, most parties came out with various economic manifestos to challenge the incumbent, with various opposition leaders promising to complete the vision 2020. Opposition parties promised to the battle against unpopular reforms made by the Rawlings’ government such as cost sharing and cost-recovery in health and education sector, promising to better the welfare of the citizens. There was the emergence of independent print and electronic media after the 1992 referendum. In addition, the constitutional provision required state owned media to provide equal coverage of the ruling party and opposition rallies made the campaign very exciting. Although Rawlings’ party won the vote, the opposition, led by John Kufuor, were able to gunner 40% of the total vote and managed to capture 66 parliamentary seats (Evans-Anfom, 1992).
At times, the government is forced to sacrifice sustainable macro-economic management and fiscal policy prudence for the temporary gain of political mileage. This was demonstrated during the 1996 elections. This is evidenced by failure to pass the petroleum tax law and commissioning of unbudgeted projects. This election also revealed that there was a huge tendency of the population to vote as regional and ethnic blocs, which has come to become the norm in subsequent elections. After the elections and politicking was over, the reforms were reignited as parliament passed the petroleum tax law. VAT was introduced, and the independent regulatory organisations in the telecommunication were introduced. In addition, water and electricity were created, and electricity tariffs were increased to cushion operating losses. The vice president spearheaded the national, institutional renewal program in 1997 and ensured that civil service reforms were implemented with urgency. Various programs were initiated to improve the government human resource capacity, monitoring systems and the budget (Leite, 2000).
Ghana was able to reduce the incidence of poverty. The population of citizens living under poverty conditions declined from 51% during the promulgation of the new constitution in 1992 to 43% in 1999. In general, the school enrolment figure had improved. Health care services were improved with the help of various donors. In addition, gains were made in the provision of social amenities, and the infant mortality had reduced by 25% (Sandbrook&Oelbaum, 1999).
Political development and democracy
Before the 1992 elections, there was very limited space for democratic elections to take place. This can explain why most of the politicians, citizen and other sceptics did not expect the current system to survive for long. There had been a lot of previous history of military coups just after democratic elections. After the elections that ensued during the 1996 and 2000 elections, it became apparent that multiparty and democracy were here to stay. However, the approach did not correspond to the ideal westernised form of democracy where parties campaign on their institutional policy and developmental records. In Ghana, it took a shift to political patronage mechanisms. Chieftaincy in Ghana is considered as the pivot around which administration of the society is centred. This has been made possible through a constitutional provision that is devoted to chieftaincy (chapter 22, articles 270-77). These provisions safeguard the institution against any interference, politicisation and manipulation from the state. For example, parliament is restricted from making or conferring any authority power to remove a chief from his office. This is only a preserve of the regional, national, divisional and traditional council of chiefs. The national council includes about 32,000 traditional chiefs who command influence in their regions. However, they are not assigned any special role in the formal government (Ayee, 2007).
The chiefs are most effective in rural settings where the arms of government are not very strong or are not fully felt on the ground. In rural communities, there is no effective access to government institutions such as a police station, government office, or court. Therefore, residents are forced to seek redress from the local chiefs. This critical role played by chiefs in the dispensation of justice is also recognised by formal jurists. It is also noted that, the potential investor in search of land and other investment activities also have to appear before the local chiefs. Although chiefs are restricted by the constitution from engaging in political party activities, they usually serve as the link between the government and the local communities. Government officials and politicians who visit the jurisdiction of the chiefs are required to pay the chiefs a courtesy call. The president is also required to consult the chiefs before making appointments to the district assemblies (Biswal, 1992).
Ghana’s constitution has decentralisation of executive power through the formation of local governments. This has greatly helped to bring government services close to the citizens and at the same time has encouraged economic growth. Ghana has a multi – tiered government structure that comprises of municipal, metropolitan and district assemblies (MMDAs), which act as the basic level of decentralised government. MMDAs are autonomous and have their own structures. They are accountable to the local society that they represent. However, the state is allowed by virtue of the law and practice, to exercise fiscal, political and administrative power over them. The president is the appointing authority of the chief executives who head the MMDAs based on approval from at least two thirds majority of the district assembly. The government is also charged with the responsibility of financing district assemblies despite the fact that they are also required to generate their own revenue. There have been complaints that government funds usually arrive late and that they are budgeted for a given purpose. This makes it difficult for district assemblies to channel this funds to locally identified projects (Tettey, Puplampu& Berman, 2003).
In matters of administration, the constitution provides for the creation of a local government service (LGS). However, the autonomy of the local government service from the national civil service has not been achieved. In general, powers and agencies of the MMDAs are extremely wide. They are described as the highest political power in the district, charged with the development of the district including harmonisation, coordination and integration of all developmental functions in the district. It was envisaged that decision making structures would follow a bottom-up approach. However, this has not been actualised. In many regions, these policies used as the foundation building blocks of the local government system have collapsed mainly due to the lack of financial resources (Ayee, 2007).
Even though Ghana goes through competitive elections and is largely viewed as an example of good democratic state in Africa, the president dominates the legislature. They have a minimal influence on the presidential policies and agenda. Members of parliament are not allowed to introduce any legislation independent of the state. Descent from members of parliament is suppressed by the fact that, party officials can expel a member if he or she is deemed to be rebellious. These facts dictate how members of parliament interact with the executive, constituents and fellow members of parliament. Members of parliament usually encounter a lot of pressure from their constituents in need of development projects and personal assistance. However, they rarely get pressure for them to back any legislation. Votes made by members in parliament do not necessarily affect the member’s re-election. This is because parliamentary elections are not based on party policies or ideologies (Ghana CenterFor Democratic Development, 2005).
Ghana has been able to rise from a near extinction of political structures to one of the model democracies in Africa. The country has been able to overcome most of the challenges that inhibit the development of many new developing nations in Africa, but some area still need to be improved for it to achieve better prosperity. This includes improvement of tax collection, challenges of corruption and misuse of public funds and the reliance of patronage for political support. All in all, the gains that Ghana has made makes it a nation to be emulated by other developing states.