President Akufo-Addo interacting with Jon Benjamin, former British High Commissioner to Ghana at the event
President Nana Akufo-Addo has ruled out political witch hunting with the establishment of the Office of the Special Prosecutor to tackle corruption-related matters among public officials.
The president, who is currently on an official visit to the United Kingdom (U.K), is hopeful that the creation of the office would allay fears that it is meant to witch hunt political opponents.
“Anytime a politician is stigmatized for criminal conduct, the witch hunting chorus rises from their [the pursuing government’s] political opponents,” President Akufo-Addo remarked during a public lecture at a forum at Cambridge University on Monday.
The topic was on “Democracy and Development,” and it was under the aegis of the Cambridge Union Society of the University of Cambridge, as part of his three-day visit to the UK.
A government may have adequate evidence to pursue a case against persons affiliated with its opposition, but President Akufo-Addo lamented, “Instead of the matter being dealt with on its merit, the cry comes ‘they are witch hunting their opponents.’”
He said the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government is setting up the Office of the Special Prosecutor, which “as much as possible, is insulated from executive control.”
The Ghanaian leader averred, “We have crafted this creature who will be independent of the executive; will not have to take instructions from the Attorney General; would not have to take instruction from the President and will decide for themselves who to prosecute and who not to prosecute.”
The president further noted that his government is hoping to find a “person of stature, of independence of mind and spirit, and good and sound knowledge of the law to fill that office, and then we leave the issues of enforcement of the rules and regulations to that person.”
Parliament passed the Office of the Special Prosecutor Bill after its third reading last week, and the Bill is expected to, among other things, define the modalities for the appointment and operations of the Special Prosecutor.
President Akufo-Addo made a commitment to change the structure of the Ghanaian economy from one that only produces and exports materials to one that processes them for use and sell.
“We are on the path to creating wealth and improving the lives of our people. We are determined to do that by transforming the structure of our economy,” he pointed out.
That, he said, was because “the neo-colonial economy, based on the production and export of raw materials, cannot form the basis of a new era of prosperity for our people.”
Instead, President Akufo-Addo said, “We have to move, and we are moving towards an economy of processed agricultural and engineering goods and services. That is the way to job creation on a mass base, and an improvement in the incomes of ordinary Ghanaians.”
With widespread unemployment prevalent among the youth, which, in his view, represents the greatest threat to Ghana’s democracy and stability, he stressed the belief that only a performing, rapidly expanding economy that generates jobs can provide an urgent solution to that effect.
Since taking over the administration of the country barely 11 months now, President Akufo-Addo maintained that his government had been able to stabilise the country’s macro-economy.
“The fiscal deficit, which stood at 9.5% at the end of 2016, has been reduced to 6.3%. Inflation, within the same period, has declined from 15.4% to 11.6%. Our economy has grown from 3.3% last year – the lowest in 22 years – to 7.9%. Interest rates are declining, and we are now witnessing a more stable cedi, our national currency. We are creating a business-friendly environment that should encourage significant investments in the development of our economy,” he said.
He indicated that the past 24 years of the 4th Republic has been the longest period of stability and economic growth in 60 years of Ghana’s nationhood, adding, “We are nowhere near where we ought to be, but the arguments have been settled, and believe me, this has been a critical bridge for us to cross. And for our Ghanaian circumstances, we dare not undermine confidence in our young democracy.”
The president acknowledged that having a democracy would not translate immediately into the resolution of Ghana’s problems.
That notwithstanding, he was of the conviction that “We in Ghana are in the position to be able to quote the English colossus, Winston Churchill, that ‘it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government, except all those other ones that have been tried from time to time.’”
Talking of democracy, President Akufo-Addo said, “The democracy that we seek to build does not end in casting votes, and electing a President and a Member of Parliament once every four years. We seek to build a prosperous nation with equal opportunities, where all citizens feel they have a stake.”
To that end, he said never again should a Ghanaian citizen feel he has to join the desperados that cross the Sahara Desert and drown in the Mediterranean Sea, because their own country holds no hope for them.
“I know there will always be those among us who would want to try and seek their fortunes in foreign lands. We would wish them well, and pray that they are treated with dignity wherever they go; but it should never be because there are no opportunities in Ghana,” he stressed.
He was convinced that Ghana’s infant democracy had put the country on the path to sustainable development, which would improve the way the natural and human resources of the country are managed.
By Charles Takyi-Boadu, Presidential Correspondent