Soldiers taking part in a parade during the Independence Day celebration
Soldiers taking part in a parade during the Independence Day celebration

This Year’s Independence Day Theme    

In his State of The Nation Address, President Akufo-Addo made this statement – “In spite of all its shortcomings and difficulties, the people of Ghana have shown admirable commitment to multi-party democracy and have not fallen for the instigations to resort to the violent overthrow of an elected government.


The past 32 years of the Fourth Republic have witnessed the most sustained period of stability and economic growth in our country, and we should be proud of what we have achieved, and seek to protect and build on it, and that is why the theme for the 67th independence anniversary celebration, on 6th March, is “Our Democracy, Our Pride”.

My growing concern about the deterioration in some aspects of the quality of Ghana’s democracy made this part of the president’s address resonate the most with me. In my opinion, the government could not have chosen a more appropriate theme. We are at a critical juncture where we must have an honest reflection of the current state of Ghana’s democracy.

Points of pride

There are points of pride to celebrate about Ghana’s democracy. The President is right when he says, “the people of Ghana have shown admirable commitment to multiparty democracy.” I have regularly argued that as a people, Ghanaians have made their “peace with democracy.” The evidence is quite clear from the Afrobarometer survey that indeed Ghanaians have embraced democracy as the preferred way for governing the country. Our support level for democracy remains very strong at 77 per cent as of the most recent Afrobarometer survey (Round 9, 2022). 

Again, as per the results of the Afrobarometer Survey, our attitude toward democratic norms is admirable. It shows positive dispositions and collective support for a) elections as the preferred method for choosing leaders; b) multipartyism and the desire for many political parties; c) no more than two terms for a sitting president; d) checks on presidential power; and e) freedom of the media to report on government activities.  

These are some of the important points of pride that Ghana can celebrate about its democracy this Independence Day. Our commitment is also reflected in the fact that we have had eight successful elections, three of which (2000, 2008, 2016) resulted in the peaceful transfer of power from an incumbent government to an opposition party. Yes, the outcome of two (2012, 2020) became the subject of litigation at the Supreme Court. But for me that is another point of pride. Election disputes in other places have been settled violently and therefore our election contestants must be commended for marching to the courts to resolve their disputes on those two occasions.

I do not argue that our elections have been completely devoid of acts of violence. Overall, our elections have been peaceful.

Shortcomings difficulties

On the other hand, the president is also right in acknowledging that our democracy has its “shortcomings and difficulties.” And it is these “shortcomings and difficulties” that I am hoping will get the much-needed attention as we prepare to celebrate this year’s Independence Day on the theme “Our Democracy, Our Pride.” While I do not doubt our commitment to multiparty democracy, I believe we cannot gloss over these shortcomings and difficulties because they have the potential to undermine our faith and commitment to democracy. 

Ghanaians will not opt for non-democratic alternatives, is my strong belief. But when faith and commitment to democracy is undermined, I worry that democratic politics will be used for perverse gains.

I have captured and shared in my work some of these challenges based again on data primarily from the Afrobarometer survey. They are– a) our support for democracy is high, but our satisfaction with the way democracy works is low thereby creating a huge gap between support and satisfaction; b) the feeling that ordinary people are more likely to be punished for breaking the law than officials; c) the growing mistrust  and perceptions of corruption in our democratic institutions; d) the impression that our elected leaders do not listen; and e) an unfortunate acceptance that not much about our democracy will change in the next five years.

During such celebrations, there is the temptation to simply acknowledge there are shortcomings and move on to celebrate the positives.  However, these are not the kind of shortcomings and challenges we can ignore because there is a strong commitment on the part of Ghanaians to democracy. 

It is precisely because of our strong commitment that we must take these challenges seriously and make a firm commitment to address them.

This year, I am hoping that there is an open and honest accounting of these challenges and an articulation of what we must do – leaders and citizens – to address them.

Our Democracy, Our Pride. Our Commitments, Our Challenges.

The writer is the Executive Director of Democracy Project, a political think tank.

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