Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Bishops call for representative government

The Catholic Bishops Conference recently issued a communique in which they touched on wide-ranging issues affecting Ghana's socio-political and economic development. Significantly, they pointed out that in the wake of the confusion created by inept politicians the impression that Ghanaians cannot rule themselves must be discarded and a fresh attempt made for representative government.
Since the coup of 31 December 1981 which ushered in Flt-Lt. Jerry Rawlings and his Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC), the country's Catholic Bishops have constantly commented on the affairs of the state. Recently the Bishops conference issued a communique expressing delight at the dramatic relaxation in tension in the country.

This point has been widely reported in the Ghanaian press to the virtual exclusion of other points raised by the Bishops, such as their caution against the repudiation of politicians and politics based on the frustrations of recent past.

Describing this trend as negative thinking, the Bishops declared that it will not be in the interest of the nation to continue in the impression that Ghanaians can never rule themselves through a representative government.

They noted the fact that many politicians betrayed the trust placed in them but that does not necessarily make politics obnoxious to the people. The Bishops therefore called for the identification of a new breed of honest, self- less and serviceable Ghanaians who can take the reins of an elected govern- ment of the people.

Excerpts from the communique signed for and on behalf of the Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference by Rt Rev. Peter K. Sarpong, Bishop of Kumasi and Vice-President are reproduced below:

We have been anxiously watching and analyzing our situation from every angle, fully aware that man is a very complex entity, who cannot be considered only from the economic or political view point without being dehumanized. We note with satisfaction and thanks to God that this year has seen a dramatic relaxation in tension all over the country. This is no doubt due to the decrease in the number of cases of brutality and harassment of innocent citizens which characterized the onset of the change in political orientation and which we had to condemn to uphold the dignity of the Ghanaian.

We are also happy about the prevalent conciliatory atmosphere in which every effort is being made to bring back the Nation to true economic self- sufficiency. Many Ghanaians who fled the country are no longer afraid to return home to join in the struggle to better our conditions.

More particularly impressed are we with the austerity economic measures, aimed at the long-term resuscitation of the economy. In this connection, we would like to reiterate the appeal we made in July, 1981, to have the rehabilitation of our roads, and the cocoa and gold industries which are our chief foreign exchange earners placed at the top of our economic priority list. We would also like to stress even more the need for food production and preservation, and for continued encouragement for farmers.

"As we once remarked, Ghana can be saved only when we unite in the spirit of tolerance, respect for one another, and awareness of our limitations."

The amicable overtures towards some countries, which easily have been antagonized by the unprovoked attacks on their integrity and identity by some sections of the Ghanaian community - albeit a small section - is to us also very praiseworthy. The fact that the curfew has been lifted after nearly two-and-a-half years should be a welcome sign of the sense of political security. So also should the reopening of the borders with neighbouring countries appear to be evidence of self-confidence and of healthy friendly relationships with the countries concerned.

To all intents and purposes then we have reason to be optimistic. As we once remarked, Ghana can be saved. But Ghana can be saved only when we unite in the spirit of tolerance, respect for one another, and awareness of our limitations. We believe that human beings by themselves cannot save themselves. Sinful man is incapable of liberating sinful man, and all of us are sinners. We have to look up to the Source of Peace and Love if we want to achieve true peace and liberation. St. John says: "If we say we have no sin in us, we are deceiving ourselves and refusing to admit the Truth; but if we acknowledge our sins, then God who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and purify us from everything that is wrong." (1 John 1:8-9).

Without this true conversion of heart, no political ideology or strategy can work miracles for us. Even now, with all the good signs showing on the horizon, prices are going up. The spiralling cost of living makes any salary structure unrealistic. The effect of this is the lowering of morale and indifference towards work. The moral effect of the present economic situation is becoming alarming. We appeal to all Ghanaians of good will to sympathize with their Nation, be sensitive to its problems and contribute to its problems and contribute what they can to the solution. The destiny of our Nation is in our own hands.

Discipline now is at its lowest ebb. There is apathy and near despair among the masses of Ghanaians, the ordinary people. It is clear that the Education System in our country needs to be overhauled. We renew our appeal to get Religious Bodies involved more meaningfully in the education of our children. The problems with Our Education System are more than those of finance and management. The real problem lies with its content and purpose. Character formation is absolutely necessary if Education is to serve as an instrument of patriotism. It is our belief that in Ghana where most people belong to one religion or another, such character formation is impossible outside the framework of Religious Formation undertaken in accordance with the religious traditions which we have inherited in this country. We would hope that the Church and other competent religious bodies would be given full scope and freedom to play their natural role of handling the children of the nation for the nation. This involves the right to open, own and run schools, in addition to those we already have.

We believe that both for international peace and stability of our nation, and for our reputation and national image in the outside world, we must continue to make every effort to be fair to every Ghanaian. In this regard we renew our appeal for the immediate release of anyone who may still be in political detention.

Even if a section of the Ghanaian Community, still remembering vividly the frustrations of recent past, would repudiate politicians and politics, we would do well to resist the temptation to perpetuate such negative thinking. It would surely not be in the interest of Our Nation to continue in the impression that we can never rule ourselves through a representative Government. Many politicians betrayed the trust placed in them. This does not necessarily make politics obnoxious to the people. Our task is to try to identify a new breed of honest, selfless, and serviceable Ghanaians who can take on the reins of an elected Government of the people. If our Nation completely lacked any of these citizens we would have cause to despair of the possibility of having anybody from whatever quarters to rule us.

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