The Supreme Court of Ghana
The Supreme Court of Ghana

My case for Constitutional review (2)

I understand that constitutions should not be needlessly tampered with.

The American Constitution, which is 234 years old, has been amended only 27 times, most recently in 1992, though there have been over 11,000 proposed amendments since it became operational in 1789.

However, we should not miss the reason why the American and other veteran democracies have preserved and carefully avoided fiddling with their constitutions.

Theirs followed lengthy and meticulous preparations, including extensive and intense intellectual debates.

They recognised and were guided by their history and traditions before crafting institutions and systems for practice democracy.

They did not copy blindly from others.

The same cannot be said for Ghana’s Constitution.

That is why I make the case for a comprehensive constitutional review.

Towards that end, and with the limited space I have, the following restrained recommendations are proffered.

• Advance inclusive politics.

We should consider a “proportional representation” electoral system, where parties gain seats in Parliament in proportion to the number of votes obtained in elections.

This would bring more parties into Parliament and encourage wider participation.

It will mitigate the unbridled partisanship and the “winner-takes-all” syndrome.

• Redefine power distribution (devolution of power). Presidential powers should be circumscribed to mitigate abuses, capriciousness and impunity.

Devolving power and restructuring governance will promote popular political participation and make communities key agencies for development.

This requires effective decentralisation, both in political (election of leaders) and fiscal (power to generate revenue) terms. 

Promote relevant traditional/cultural values.

We should delve into our history and culture to create some core indigenous values to complement our democratic practice.

Research by our traditionalists, anthropologists, sociologists and others should help to regenerate some of our traditional institutions.

Chieftaincy should be brought into local governance.

With the immense social/cultural capital of chiefs, they can bring dynamism to local development by presiding at district assemblies.

Strengthen institutions and structures that enhance transparency and accountability in public life.

The legislature should be independent of the executive by eliminating the hybrid system.

Assets declarations should be enforced and include end-of-service accountability.

Public officials should be held to high ethical standards and breaches must be sanctioned.          

Remake key governance institutions truly independent. Appointments to institutions such as the Supreme Court, the Electoral Commission (EC), the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO), and the Special Prosecutor should be made by independent panels, as in Israel, regarding its Supreme Court, and elsewhere.

Other models insulate political partisans, including the President, from making such appointments.

Above all

Above all, and in the interest of peace and sane development of the country, serious consideration should be given to an interim special arrangement for a 20-year “Uniting for Peace and Progress” national agenda.

This period of “Unity” or “Union” government will be devoid of extreme partisanship to enable a long-term national development plan with a single-minded, focused and disciplined approach.

Backed by an elected Parliament, the formation of an all-inclusive government for the period will be based on meritocracy.

It’s worth noting that countries achieving rapid progress in recent decades, most of them in the same league as Ghana in the late 1950s, adopted a single-minded approach to development and took between 20 and 30 years to change their circumstance, mostly with tamed opposition and overbearing leadership.

Paul Kagame of Rwanda exemplifies this model in Africa today.  

Although the Rwandese and other such models are knocked for their autocracy and suppression of citizens’ rights, a Union Government for Ghana could be fashioned differently and within the democratic framework.

Practice democracy should be made to meet the exigency of our time.

We just have to rethink governance because our current path forebodes danger.

The writer is a former UN Senior Governance Advisor

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