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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Ghana: Is Obama shaking his head in disbelief?

President John Mills
President John Mills
...Where is President Mills in all these? Why has he maintained his silence despite the call for him to step in?

Obama decided to choose Ghana out of about 48 countries in Africa South of the Sahara for his maiden visit because of what he calls Ghana's strong democratic credentials, human rights record, rule of law, freedom of speech and assembly and economic performance.

But barely one month after his visit he must be shaking his head for praising the country and authoring those praising words. He now wished he had not visited the country at all. He has now realised that Ghana too is an African country where nothing good could come from. The question he is asking is, "Is this the country that I visited just one month ago? I thought they were peaceful democrats who respect the rights of their citizens" shaking his head in disbelief. He is now angry with his advisors for deceiving him into choosing Ghana. "Ghana is no better than my father's Kenya" he might be exclaiming. "In my father's Kenya they steal, they arrest, they detain, they kill and they engage in violence during elections. In Ghana too they steal, they arrest, detain, kill and now in Akwatia election violence is ongoing. So what is the difference he might have asked Mr. Johnnie Carson his top envoy to Africa.

Ever since Obama's visit a lot has happened in the country. Barely a day goes without an opposition member been arrested and detained by the Bureau of National Investigations or someone been beaten to death or shot dead by the Police and the BNI.

Ghana is slowly joining the likes of Zimbabwe where the state security apparatus arrest and detain Movement of Democratic Change MPs or members at will. Like Guinea where life has become so cheap that Ghana's ambassador was attacked by the state security forces, our nation too is slowly turning into a police state with the BNI arresting and detaining people and interrogating them without their lawyers being present.

We are told that Lawyers who followed Asamoah Boateng to the BNI were pushed and heckled by operatives of the Organisation. The lawyers were also not allowed to sit in during the BNI meeting with their client even though the laws of our land dictate that a person must have his lawyer present when being interrogated. Even though the BNI claims to have secured a bench warrant for Asamoah Boateng's arrest his lawyers were not shown a copy of the warrant.

Besides, the BNI operatives did not spare the wife of Asamoah Boateng. She too was dragged and pushed into a gutter. Like all unprofessional security agencies who use brute force, threats, intimidation, harassment the BNI is increasingly showing itself as no exception. Any cultured organisation treat women with respect and dignity but the behaviour of Atta Mills' BNI leaves much to be desired. Their unprofessional behaviour at the airport where they allowed Asamoah Boateng and his family to finish going through departure formalities only for them to enter the plane and ground it is a continuation of what they did in 2001 under Kufour regime where they harassed members of then NDC opposition members. Why did the BNI allow the family to board the plane before going in to disturb everyone there?

Betty Mould Iddrissu the Attorney General who should know better is as pathetic as the BNI itself. Instead of rising to defend Mrs. Asmoah Boateng and her children she has joined the BNI wagon in mistreating them. Women are their own enemies indeed. Consider the trauma Asabee's children are going through having to watch their parents being forcefully removed from the plane. What examples are we setting for them? Two times they have seen their parents being yelled at, being dragged, being pushed around at the airport and in the plane. How can the peace lover Mills explain to these kids what is happening to their parents? Is this what Mills call father of all?

When a court ruled that the passport of the former foreign minister be handed to him the BNI and the Attorney General say no way. We will give to him at our time and place of choice. This shows that neither the BNI nor the A-G respect the court and its ruling. Contempt of law? Well Not in Atta Mills' Ghana. The BNI says it arrested and detained Asamoah Boateng because they could not locate him. Instead of going to Asabee's house the BNI went to his in-law's house as if Asabee lives in his in-law's house. What effort did the BNI make to contact Asabee's lawyers when the BNI could not find him? There is no indication that the BNI called Asabee's lawyers to find out about his whereabouts. Did the BNI leave a note in Asabee's house to the effect that he was being sought? The only excuse the government has given concerning Asabee's arrest is that he was arrogant when he was in government. But no where in our constitution has it said that a person should be arrested if he is arrogant.

Asamoah Boateng was prevented from travelling by the BNI even though he had told the court he would be travelling for a week. He was later arrested and detained for days and when his sympathisers organised themselves to hold a candle vigil for him they were tear gassed, beaten and murdered by the BNI and their police counterpart.

"Can't the BNI go about its work professionally without the drama that it is creating? Is the BNI aware that public opinion is against it?" a panel member retorted on Joy FM's program News File on Saturday 15 August 2009.

The culture of violence and impunity seem to be growing by the day. The recent election campaign violence in Akwatia where people have been killed and several vehicles destroyed all point to the growing insecurity and lawlessness in the country. NPP General Secretary Nana Ohene Ntow claims he has been assaulted by NDC supporters with NDC's Asiedu Nkatia also claiming that members of the NDC have also been assaulted. Supporters of both NPP and NDC are causing mayhem forcing a curfew to be imposed on the town. Due to the violence the Eastern Regional Security Council has been forced to issue a directive to the effect that the election cannot go on.

When Mpiani was invited by the BNI he too was detained for more than 10 hours before he was finally released.

Mr. Sammy Crabbe, NPP Regional Chairman claims he was threatened with arrest and detention when he appeared before the BNI for a “friendly conversation.” He has since sued the BNI and A-G for abuse of his human rights.

Peace FM Online has reported that the Eastern Regional Women’s Organiser of the NDC, Evelyn Ama Koran, was beaten by the Akwatia NDC executives, for being a hypocrite.Source:peacefmonline.com, Friday, 14 August 2009.

Since January 2009 Ghanaians have witnessed unemployed youth, apparently from the President's own NDC party threatening and forcefully seizing toilets in Accra, Cape Coast, Kumasi and Tamale. These NDC lawless thugs have used force, threats and intimidation against employees of National Youth Employment Programme and National Health Insurance Authority at Juaso, Bibiani and some other places and demanding their sack.

"The harassment of certain individuals by the NDC government is very unfortunate especially when the head of the government is a Law Professor who should know well when it comes to human rights abuses" says a Political Activist.

Slowly a peaceful nation is becoming like a banana republic. Former President Kufour has already warned that trouble is slowly brewing in the country saying the government is behaving like there has been a coup.

The Christian Council of Ghana, a well respected body in the country has also added its voice to the ongoing mistreatment of citizens of this nation. The Council on Friday 13 August 2009 expressed regret about recent events surrounding the former Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mr Stephen Asamoah Boateng and the Bureau of National Investigations and called for peace.

A statement signed by the Reverend Fred Deegbe, General Secretary of the Christian Council of Ghana, said it had also noted with regret the loss of life and the alleged treatment of his wife and legal counsel on Thursday."We believe that citizens should be treated with honour and dignity in accordance with the law and due process, as we seek justice and accountability," it said.

The Christian Council of Ghana noted with concern the "culture of vendetta that seems to be taking root in our country" and called on the government and various leaders "to eschew this so that we can live in peace and progress and be the truly democratic and lawful country we seek to be". Source: Ghana News Agency, 14 August 2009.

The Council has therefore petitioned the President to step in to calm the situation but he seems not bothered, even though he professes to be a peace enthusiast. Will the President listen to the Christian Council? So far there is no indication that he will. The question many Ghanaians are asking is what would have happened if Mills had said he was not a peace loving man? Definitely half of Ghanaians may have been given to his dogs.

The Statesman in an editorial critically condemned the government for failing to protect the rights of its own citizens. Part of the editorial reads, "What we find most worrying is the posture of the government, specifically the President and his Attorney General, both of whom are lawyers. They are exhibiting a very worrying contempt for the rule of law and civil rights. The editorial quoted two prominent civil society actors calling on the government to protect the rights of its citizens rather than abusing them. "The head of Legal Resources, Edward Amuzu, is calling on Mrs Betty Mould Iddrisu to rather focus on defending the fundamental rights and liberties of the citizen than to fighting against it", it says. Source: myjoyonline.com, Friday, 14 August 2009. But will they listen to such a good advice? No, I don't think so.

Where is President Mills?

And where is President Mills in all these? Where is his leadership in the ongoing saga and who is advising him to keep quiet while Ghanaians are being murdered? Has he chosen not to say anything for fear of being attacked by those who placed in him in the Castle? Is he trying to please the many factions in the NDC and Rawlings in particular for promising not to attack his government again? Does his silence mean that he is aware of everything that is going on but has chosen not to do anything about it? Mr. President what could be more important issue to attend to than BNI's infringement of people's human rights? Nobody knows what is going on except you Mr. President.

There are two words that sum up Mills' poor handling of everything in the country. Weak leadership. Since he took office Mills seems to have been overwhelmed by the responsibilities of government and as a result has chosen to blame his predecessor for all his woes. He has constantly been saying that the debt incurred under Kufour's regime is preventing him from improving the economy. A very cheap excuse isn't it?

Is President Mills not worried about the spate of defeats that his government continue to suffer from the Courts? Is he not worried about the poor performance of the economy which has taken a nose dive since he took office? The Governor of Bank of Ghana has declared that he can no longer work with the Law Professor and as such he is calling it quit at the end of this August. This apparently is because of the poor handling of the economy by Mills and his agents.

The economic situation in the country seems to have moved from worse to the unthinkable and there are many indicators which point to the fact that the economy has been left to sink under the watchful eyes of the President. Since taking office, inflation has been soaring, hitting more than 20% in June. Fuel prices are higher today than they used to be 6 months ago. Unemployment is more than 20% and is still rising steadily with companies like Vodafone threatening to slash over 950 jobs. The Cedi has lost more than 30% of its value putting prices of commodities beyond the reach of the ordinary Ghanaian.

Under the watchful eye of the President fuel shortages is becoming a norm with drivers in Greater Accra, Volta, Brong Ahafo and Northern Regions being forced to queue for long hours to the detriment of their businesses. Fishermen in the country have complained bitterly that they cannot get premix fuel to go fishing despite the fact that they are in their peak season, a situation that has forced them to issue threats to government that they will hit the streets if nothing is done to salvage the situation.

In a message that sums up the failure of Mills' government and the displeasure of Ghanaians with the performance of the government someone texted to Joy News at 6pm that "Mills promised us free fuel, now we cannot get it to buy. Better Ghana indeed". Source: Joy News at 6pm, Wednesday, 12 August 2009.

Depicting a government that is in disarray, sick and falling apart, the Spokesperson for Jerry Rawlings, Mr. Kofi Adams has even called on the President to stop sleeping behind the wheel and sack people in his government that he Adams considers to be saboteurs. “In as much as their actions are condemnable, I think that the best thing for the President to do is to quickly clear out those who are perceived to be sabotaging his administration, to satisfy party members,” he said, adding “We have four years mandate from Ghanaians and they expect us to deliver. If there are some people who are sabotaging the government, they must be removed". “We want to deliver to the people of Ghana and if one's actions are clearly undermining the activities of the government, then that person must be sacked for another person to take over". Source:The Chronicle, Thursday, 06 Aug 2009.

There are reports that NDC Propagandists in the Northern and other Regions have turned against the government and is bashing it for failing the nation. One such Propagandist is Mahama Sayibu, "a regular radio panelist who until now was seen as a supporter of the party and spoke in its favour on local radio stations, seems to be moving to a different direction. He has in recent times taken an entrenched position, made a u-turn and lashing at the Mills administration, to the shock of the NDC party kingpins in the region. Source:Daily Guide, Monday, 10 August 2009.

To make matters worse the government has suffered even in the areas where it has placed much effort. Over the last couple of weeks the government has suffered defeat after defeat in Court.

The defeats and the refusal to contest Mr. Crabbe's case have further sent a shockwave to the centre of the administration, demoralizing the already dysfunctional government machinery and sucking the remaining energy of ministers and staff alike. The Attorney General and her deputy who were caught pants down, have issued pronouncements to the effect that government is not pleased with the three judgments. Why will the government be happy when Mills is sleeping behind the wheel?

The heart of the government was further shattered by the wind of deep seated corruption that has been blowing in the government and in the party. First came the confirmation by the Auditor General that its report has implicated Alhaji Mohammed Mumuni (current Foreign Minister) in financial malfeasance and wrong-doing. Then came the corrupt Muntaka khebab and pampas saga and allegation that he travelled to Germany with Ms Edith Zenayela who is believed to be his girl friend at the expense of the nation forcing him to resign as sports minister.

The Muntaka saga was quickly followed by the allegations that Mr. Mahama Ayariga, Spokesperson of the President purchased five tractors meant for poor Ghanaian farmers and paid for only one.

A black hole was created in government when it was revealed that the Finance Minister Dr. Kwabena Duffour suggested that, "donor inflows to the country must be channeled through his bank, Unibank" forcing Dr. Duffour to vehemently deny it.

But his denials did not settle the matter for the government when news surfaced in Nigeria and Ghana that the NDC's 2008 election victories were made possible through a $3.5m illegal cash donation made to Jerry Rawlings by the Governor of Rivers State in Nigeria. While panting for breadth the government and the party were given knockout blow when the Serious Fraud Office in the United Kingdom begun court proceedings against Mabey & Johnson for paying millions of pounds as bribe to top officials of the NDC government that ruled between 1994 and 1999.

In admitting the failure of his government Mr. Haruna Iddrisu, Minister of Communication speaking on Joy FM's News File programme on August 8, 2009 said "the recent premix saga was embarrassing for the government and promised it will never recur".

Also speaking to Joy News? Elvis Adjetey, a youth activist of NDC Mr. Mohammed Aboagye said the leadership has not shown interest in the welfare of those at the grassroots since the party assumed office. He said “the way and manner our leadership are behaving now, leaves the grassroots supporters with little hope.” Source: myjoyonline.com, Tuesday, 11 August 2009

And he is not alone with that assessment. Mr. Gabriel Aggah founder of Atta Mills Foundation in an interview with the Chronicle descended heavily on the government and its operatives accusing them of growing horns while doing nothing to help the ordinary Ghanaian.

My advice to President Mills is that he must get serious and solve the many problems facing the nation. And to all those who wish Ghana well I want to urge them to stand up and defend the constitution and the rights of citizens of this nation. We must not forget that what is happening in Somalia, Sudan and other places did not start in a day. They are the fruits of years of harassment, detention, torture. Rwanda was not plunged into turmoil in a day. A seed was sown and was nurtured before it started bearing the fruit that resulted in 800,000 people been murdered in just under three months.

The onus is on President Mills to act. He can choose to rein in on his attack dogs or he can choose to ignore the atrocities they are committing and allow the problem to fester on before exploding into another Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Chad or Zimbabwe. As for Obama he is still disappointed but he has consoled himself knowing very well that Ghana is still part of Africa.

By Lord Aikins Adusei
Activist and anti-corruption campaigner. He blogs at ghanapundit.blogspot.com

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