The Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference, the Christian Council of Ghana, the Office of the National Chief Imam, and the various political parties in Ghana have shown support to the impending referendum to pave way for the election of the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs) in the country.
This was at a multi-stakeholder Conference organised by the Directorate of Governance, Justice and Peace at the National Catholic Secretariat in Accra, to sensitise Ghanaians on the forthcoming
referendum schedule for December this year.
The forum with funding from the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, was informed by the Catholic Social Teachings, which also seeks to support efforts of Government and Stakeholders to enhance the capacity of people at the local level to make decisions that affect their lives and their communities.
With representation from the Church throughout the country, Political Parties, Parliament, ministers of state, and representatives of the Electoral Commission (EC), religious groups, civil society and academia, the forum besides sought ideas on how to promote effective representation, accountability in local governance, and about the direct participation of political parties in local government elections.
Most Rev. Philip Naameh, President of the of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference in a speech read for him expressed worry about the low interest in the upcoming referendum in December has received, and urged participation of all in the exercise, noting that “if successful, will lead to the amendment of an important entrenched article of the national constitution” and mark a turning point for local governance and development at the grassroots.
He reiterated the commitment of the Bishops’ Conference to supports efforts of Government and stakeholders to help improve local governance, adding that the Churches network of parishes and outstations across the country will continue to provide platforms and opportunities for awareness creation and discussion on the merits and demerits of the proposals.
The Archbishop encouraged the clergy and lay faithful, all levels to participate actively in the debates and discussions leading to the referendum.
“As we have done in the past the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference will offer its support, once again, to the Government, the EC, the National Commission on Civic Education and other stakeholders to create awareness and understanding of the issues at stake during the referendum so that the people can make informed choices and decisions,” Archbishop Naameh added.
In the run-up to the 2016 elections the Progressive People’s Party and the NPP Government in their campaign, proposed direct election of the MMDCEs instead of they being appointed by the President, but speakers at the forum largely agree to the proposition of organising the elections based on political party representation, noting that active politics takes place at the local level.
Professor Ebow Bondzi-Simpson, Rector of the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), in a keynote address, said it is not sufficient to elect the MMDCEs, noting it is not enough to change Article 55 (3) for the referendum on the election of MMDCEs.
He said the Bill was limited in scope; stating that there were still ancillary clauses in the constitution such as the appointment of 30 per cent of all district assembly members by the President that need to be dealt with.
Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings, a former First Lady, who said the meeting was strategic, called for the inclusions of women in decision making process at the local level.
Hajia Alima Mahama, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, stated that her ministry has developed a roadmap for the process, urged all the political parties and the general public to be involved in the processes leading to the Referendum in December.
While entreating Ghanaians to shun political patronage in the country, the Minister also entreated political parties to identify women and support them to be elected as MMDCEs.
Meanwhile the Electoral Commission of Ghana has shown its preparedness to carry out the referendum, come December.
By Kwesi Yirenkyi Boateng