The Local Governance Network [LOGNet], an umbrella body of Civil Society Organisations [CSOs] in Ghana has commenced nationwide stakeholders’ fora to create the needed awareness for the general public’s buy-in and full active participation in the pending District Level Elections [DLE] and Referendum to be held towards the end of this year.
The maiden forum was therefore held in the Northern Regional capital, Tamale this Tuesday on the theme “Improving Stakeholders’ Understanding for Informed Decision Making at Forthcoming Referendum”. Critical participants at the forum came from the Upper East, Upper West and Northern regions and included traditional rulers, executives of CSOs, security personnel, religious leaders, executives of the Ghana Federation of Disability Organisations and representatives from political parties amongst others.
LOGNet is scheduled to hold similar engagement interface meetings with other stakeholders in the national capital of Accra on 18th July, 2019, in Takoradi in Ghana’s Western Region on the 23rd of July and to climax same in Kumasi on 25th July, 2019.
Acting National Coordinator of LOGNet, Mr. Christopher Dapaah in his opening remarks at the forum disclosed that his organisation primarily functions to promote effective and efficient local governance throughout Ghana. He said it thus places itself as an intermediary between civil society and decision-makers as well as between civil society and the international community while serving as the voice for the poorest and marginalized citizens.
Mr. Dapaah said LOGNet’s view was that, the election of Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives [MMDCEs] was an appropriate initiative to vest power back in the people but that citizens had limited knowledge on the Referendum that would actually pave the way for that to happen. He noted that, the initiative would become very meaningful if citizens had indepth understanding on issues regarding Act 55 as entrenched clause and 243 of the Ghanaian Constitution which should then enable them make informed decisions at the forthcoming Referendum in December, 2019.
The LOGNet boss commended Ghana’s Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development [MLGRD] as a major collaborator and expressed his appreciation to the GIZ, the German Cooperation and Global Affairs Canada for their funding support in the discharge of LOGNet’s mandate through the years.
In an address delivered on her behalf by Mr. Alfred Ansah, the Minister for the MLGRD Hon. Hajia Alima Mahama revealed that since 1988, MMDCEs have always been appointed by the President and approved by the General Assembly. She noted that through the decades, Ghana’s democratic development had witnessed significant progress at both the national and local levels but that, the only deficit was the absence of a system to popularly elect MMDCEs.
She stated “the need for a change in the mode of appointing MMDCEs has been identified as a governance gap in our local governance system but the Constitution Review Commission’s Report on the 1992 Constitution added a lot of weight to that need”. She noted therefore that, to rectify this democratic defect, deepen local democracy and bring good governance to the door steps of Ghanaians, the New Patriotic Party [NPP] during the 2016 general elections, pledged to push for the election of MMDCEs to be done on partisan basis, a pledge she insisted Government will never discard.
One of four main discussants at the forum, Professor Ephraim Avea Nsoh who is also the Chief Executive Officer of TEERE, a Bolgatanga-based local governance NGO noted that, stakeholders and ordinary Ghanaians often sacrifice their precious business and office time to attend and contribute to engagement meetings such as the one by LOGNet. As a result, he questioned whether a guarantee existed to ensure that the suggestions and contributions of participants would actually be factored into reports that will be submitted to the authorities at the end of deliberations.
Prof. Avea lauded the initiative of getting MMDCEs elected at the local level confessing that, he himself had been a passionate advocate since his days as Regional Minister for Upper East and Upper West regions. He observed that, the fruition of this election would allow the local citizens to have a direct stake in who becomes their MMDCE noting that such, will make everyone regardless of party affiliations feel and indeed, become part and parcel of true local governance and the practice of democracy.
On the whole, the participants unanimously hailed the initiative but called for the fine details to be made very clear for the understanding of all and for a clearer picture to be drawn so that people are abreast of what sort of decisions to make when the Referendum and actual election day arrives.
Source: PETER WEDAM, DISTRICT INFORMATION OFFICER, BONGO