January 23, 2022

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Ghana’s The latest Democratic Erosion Belies Its Sterling Status

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Due to the fact using workplace in 2017, Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo has shown a pattern of significant-handedness, authoritarianism and impunity that belies his thoroughly crafted worldwide image of a debonair and progressive African leader. The most recent controversy involves a bill, supported by customers of Akufo-Addo’s administration and critical spiritual establishments in the nation, that would criminalize shows of similar-intercourse affection and advocacy for LGBTQ rights, punishable by up to a 10 years in prison. Ghana has very long experienced a combined record on protecting LGBTQ legal rights, but for substantially of the earlier 4 a long time in specific, LGBTQ Ghanaians—as perfectly as their allies and advocates—have faced a chilling crackdown.

The draft anti-LGBTQ law is only element of a broader erosion of rights and freedoms in a region that is generally portrayed as a uncommon democratic “success story” in West Africa. In 2018, Akufo-Addo fired the head of the electoral fee, Charlotte Osei, and changed her with a reputed sympathizer of the ruling New Patriotic Party, or NPP. The dismissal, reportedly on grounds of economical malfeasance, drew condemnation from Ghanaian civil modern society teams, as the situation had extended been considered as nonpartisan and Osei was a revered elections professional.

Then, in the operate-up to the 2020 presidential election, the federal government deployed the army to the eastern Volta region, ostensibly as a coronavirus mitigation evaluate and to halt migrants from neighboring Togo from crossing the border. One particular NPP lawmaker even named the deployment a “peacekeeping force” that was essential to reduce foreigners from voting in the elections. 

Critics, having said that, condemned this as a form of voter intimidation, provided that the Volta location is a stronghold of the opposition Nationwide Democratic Congress, or NDC. Eventually, the election was overshadowed by much more than 60 violent incidents and five deaths across the place. Akufo-Addo was declared the winner with 51 percent of the vote, but the NDC disputed the results, citing alleged irregularities and voter suppression in its strongholds. Having said that, Ghana’s Supreme Courtroom unanimously dominated to uphold the incumbent president’s reelection. 

Regardless of pledging to beat corruption and the weakening of condition institutions below his predecessor, John Mahama, Akufo-Addo’s administration has alone been dogged by several corruption scandals, as well as allegations of nepotism and cronyism. As Nelson Oppong wrote in a briefing for WPR late previous yr, the government’s combined anti-graft history came into sharp focus when the country’s anti-corruption czar resigned in November, citing political interference and the government’s absence of aid for his efforts. The gap amongst Akufo-Addo’s rhetoric and the lack of benefits has led numerous Ghanaians to deem his anti-graft endeavours a failure

Media freedoms in Ghana are also weakening, the country’s ostensibly strong press freedom qualifications notwithstanding. In 2019, an undercover journalist who was investigating corruption allegations in opposition to the then-president of Ghana’s football association was murdered outside his house. And reported circumstances of torture and bodily abuse of journalists by Ghanaian security forces have risen in new yrs, drawing the consideration of neighborhood and worldwide advocacy teams. 

Even with all of this, Ghana is often referred to in global discourse as a “beacon of democracy” in a troubled region—a point of enormous pride for Ghanaians. Because the close of navy rule and the return of multiparty democracy in 1992, power has alternated among the two significant parties, the NDC and NPP, when area and worldwide observers have lauded Ghana’s elections as free of charge and honest. And contrary to several other African democracies, Ghana has vivid regional and area functions with robust support bases. For the duration of his 2009 go to to Ghana, previous U.S. President Barack Obama referred to the country as a “vibrant democracy,” and once again praised it in 2012 as a “model for democracy” in Africa

Economically, Ghana’s trajectory has been just as remarkable. Its GDP grew at an typical amount of 4.5 percent per 12 months in between 2005 and 2016—considerably bigger than other sub-Saharan African countries—and the poverty rate decreased from 31.9 percent to 23.4 per cent during the exact time period. In 2010, sustained economic expansion and poverty reduction resulted in the country’s graduation to reduced-center money position, according to the World Financial institution. Ghana carries on to rank amid the top rated places for overseas immediate financial investment on the African continent, with burgeoning technologies and leisure sectors that have the probable to gas Ghana’s financial diversification away from a reliance on commodity exports. 

Akufo-Addo has also centered on creating up the country’s tourism sector, like through his broadly praised “Year of Return” initiative in 2019. The application, which coincided with the 400th anniversary of the first recorded arrival of enslaved Africans to the present day-working day United States, inspired customers of the African diaspora to reconnect with their roots by traveling to Africa—specifically Ghana—as effectively as investing in and settling on the continent. Even though some critics elevated questions about the reliability of the tourism figures cited by the government, as nicely as the initiative’s exclusion of functioning course and impoverished Ghanaians, it however elevated hopes for future advancement in the country’s tourism marketplace.

Scratch less than the surface of Ghana’s democratic “success story,” &#13
and a single finds a extra intricate narrative of creeping authoritarianism and religious conservatism.

These aspects explain why several intercontinental observers tend to idealize Ghana, primarily in distinction with other African societies. But scratch underneath the floor of the country’s democratic “success story,” and just one finds a extra sophisticated narrative of creeping authoritarianism and spiritual conservatism, as very well as wide social inequality pushed by far more than two many years of neoliberal financial policies. 

“We have held what have been commonly touted as peaceful elections for about 20 a long time, and have had a rather free of charge press till the previous pair of years,” Wunpini F. Mohammed, a Ghanaian professor of entertainment and media reports at the University of Georgia, instructed me. “This seems to be the thread that is keeping jointly Ghana’s ‘soft power’ on the world-wide phase.” She notes that a lot of the Ghanaian diaspora lead to the persistent fantasy of Ghana’s exceptionalism. “Despite these commonly held misconceptions about the power and performance of Ghana’s democracy, Ghanaians living in Ghana have shown time and all over again that this is not the situation, and possibly we should start out listening to them.” 

Mohammed’s place was underscored by an incident that took area in the course of past year’s Black Lives Issue protests. Times just after the murder of George Floyd, members of the Ghanaian government and the Black American diaspora in Ghana held a memorial service in Floyd’s honor, with speakers that included the U.S. ambassador to Ghana, the director of Ghana’s diaspora affairs place of work and the country’s tourism minister. But when a Ghanaian activist group held its individual solidarity vigil the next day, vocally condemning not just Floyd’s murder but scenarios of injustice in Ghana, armed safety forces broke up the celebration and arrested its direct organizer. 

The juxtaposition of how the two scenes performed out predictably drew outrage and fees of hypocrisy from Ghanaians, whose anxieties above violent criminal offense, major-handedness from safety forces and a weak economic system have risen in latest decades. People considerations have not diminished amid the ongoing outcomes of the coronavirus pandemic and a polarizing election, and they have been on notable display in recent months.

In late June, at a demonstration adhering to the killing of a young civil legal rights activist by unidentified assailants in the southern Ashanti region, two protesters have been killed and at least 10 far more hurt throughout clashes among security forces and demonstrators. The Media Foundation for West Africa, an Accra-based mostly NGO, condemned the killings and injuries in sturdy phrases, describing them as “a new reduced in Ghana’s descent into lawlessness.” 

And in July, a demonstration spearheaded principally by younger Ghanaians lamented the state of dwelling circumstances in the region. The march took place on the streets of Accra and featured a lot of the latest graduates bemoaning the stubbornly substantial youth unemployment price. The protest grew out of a social media campaign arranged all around the hashtag #FixtheCountry, which bears similarities to other networked protest strategies across Africa, such as final fall’s #EndSARS protests in Nigeria. 

Predictably, Ghanaian authorities have responded to the marketing campaign with bellicosity, issuing stern warnings versus any planned marches and detaining #FixtheCountry campaigners. That did not quit additional demonstrations from having location in Accra on Aug. 4.

For Ghanaians, especially the country’s youth, anxieties persist about an economic system that some characterize as “growth without the need of improvement.” These issues predate the coronavirus pandemic, but have certainly been exacerbated by it. Mirroring traits throughout West Africa, broader disaffection with electoral politics is coinciding with the expanding reputation of heterogenous, youth-pushed, decentralized protests and social actions, reflecting the despair of young Ghanaians. Some observers have even warned of a probable convert toward a far more overt authoritarianism, the place impunity and even political violence turns into normalized

Civil culture, for its part, has taken recognize and proceeds to sound the alarm. “Ghana’s 1992 constitution has made a political technique that vests great amounts of electric power in politicians and their allies, and up coming to nothing at all in common Ghanaians,” Joseph Asunka, the CEO of Afrobarometer, instructed me. This undemocratic and unaccountable technique is “a cancer that is fast nibbling absent the necessary organs of our establishments of democracy,” he extra. The dilemma now is irrespective of whether international observers will place apart their clichés and bromides and start out spending attention.

Christopher O. Ogunmodede is an affiliate editor with Planet Politics Evaluate. His coverage of African politics, worldwide relations and security has appeared in War on The Rocks, Mail & Guardian, The Republic, Africa is a State and other publications. Abide by him on Twitter at @Illustrious_Cee.

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