By Rebecca Ekpe
2022 marks three decades of sustaining Ghana’s 1992 Republican Constitution, the supreme law of the Republic of Ghana. It was approved on 28 April 1992 through a national referendum after 92% support.
Ghana’s 1992 Constitution defines the fundamental political principles, establishing the structure, procedures, powers and duties of the government, structure of the judiciary and legislature , and spells out the fundamental rights and duties of citizens.
Ghana is 63 years old, which means at 33 years the people decided to go on a different tangent after a number of Military Coups, with the last spear headed by Late President Jerry John Rawlings, who led the country on the current democratic dispensation that Ghanaians are enjoying .
However, one would ask? How can Ghana sustain the democratic gains made? Obviously, examples can be given, quite close within the Sub-Region where political instability has eroded gains made.
Today, Ethiopia is facing conflict in the Tigray region alongside climate change, a devastating locust outbreak, and the Covid-19 pandemic. Reports have it that the International Rescue Commission, IRC and other aid groups are planning for as many as 2 million people to be displaced internally and for around 400,000 to flee to Sudan for safety. Ethiopia is currently under a state of emergency because of the ongoing civil war. As a result some rights have been suspended.
Ghana’s pride of place is political stability, credit to the 1992 Constitution which has stood the test of time. Also, after almost 30 years of existence, some stakeholders have called for a re-look at the Constitution to ensure that it is relevant to contemporary times.
Local Governance Expert, Dr. Nana Ato Arthur is of the view that the 1992 Constitution served Ghana well, but said, ”It has to be reviewed particularly Chapter 20, on Local Government and Decentralization”.
”To strengthen local democracy, we need to revisit the election of MMDCEs”, according to the Head of Local Government Service.
In an answer to the question of whether the Constitution had served Ghana well, Nana Kojo Impraim, Deputy Director in charge of Monitoring and Evaluation, National Peace Council answered, ”it has”.
However, he was quick to add that, ”some of the clauses have outlived their usefulness, which requires complete overhaul”.
”Too much Executive powers, weak Parliamentary oversight and control”, ”Security Sector Controversies due to the political appointments of the IGP”, ”Appointment of MMDCEs affecting public accountability”, he noted that these issues are all critical to the overall growth and development of Ghana’s political and democratic architecture.
Local Governance Expert and Director General of the Ghana Audit Agency, Dr. Eric Oduro Osae also shared his thoughts on Ghana’s 1992 Constitution and matters arising.
”I think looking at its historical antecedents, it was developed to help us move from a politically unstable governance system ( military ) to a stable constitutional system. The 1992 Constitution is therefore more of a political stability document than a development oriented one”.
The indemnity clauses, too much Executive powers( all the articles under the executive almost entrenched ), denying traditional rulers the opportunity to take part in the political governance of the country by banning them from partisan politics, no election of MMDCEs, having majority of Ministers from Parliament, allowing the President to appoint an EC, allowing the Executive to appoint Heads of Security Services at wil,l leading to changes anytime there is change in government, not putting a cap on the number of Supreme Court Judges, not separating the Office of Attorney-General from the Minister of Justice etc. are some of the areas that requires immediate review if we want to see massive development under a democratic government”.
Constitutional Review Commission
On the issue of the Constitutional Review Commission, CRC Dr. Oduro Osae said, ”the work of the CRC is also a challenge because it recommended a review of more than 50% of the entire Constitution. Majority of the proposed areas of review are entrenched”.
”Since amending each entrenched clause shall require a special referendum, we shall require a number of referendums to have it amended. Considering the Parliament we have today, cost of each referendum as well as our experience as far as referendum is concerned(at least from the last one on the election of MMDCEs on partisan basis), it is clear that amending the Constitution by review will be a herculean, expensive and time consuming exercise”, Mr. Oduro Osae posited.
He concluded that this, ”this is why the CRC report and the accompanying White Paper has stalled to date”.
”I am of the view that we should rewrite the Constitution, since it has served its purpose of stabilizing our governance system, so that we can have another one that can move us forward by way of development”.
”However, in Constitutional Law, there are also conditions that should be met before a Constitution can be rewritten. I think we need a National Nonpartisan Conversation on the subject .The present arrangement is clearly not helping our development as a nation. If you add the issue of no funding political parties by the State to it, we are in big trouble”, he explained.
But how has Ghana’s 1992 Constitution helped to consolidate democracy or otherwise? In Dr. Oduro-Osae’s view, ”it has helped in consolidating our democracy but not in development. Since democracy without development is meaningless, we need a constitution that can help us achieve both”, Dr. Oduro Osae stated.