Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Ghana Democratic Movement Delegates Conference

Restoration of democracy in Ghana is a must

Ben Mensah

What is to be done to restore democracy to Ghana? Ben Mensah reports on the international conference of the Ghana Democratic Movement in London.
Last week Ghana's former Vice President, Dr Joe de Graft Johnson, had cause to re-echo the most common question posed in politics: what is to be done? This was made in relation to the current struggle to restore democracy and human dignity to Ghana and the occasion was the International Dele- gates Conference of the Ghana Democratic Movement in London on August 23.

"The fight is ours. We cannot sit back and hope that some group of dedicated patriotic soldiers will overthrow the regime and restore democracy. If there is such a group naturally we wish them well," roared back the Vice President in reply to his own question and in the presence of packed and enthusiastic participants of the conference from the USA, Zimbabwe, West Germany, Switzer- land, Belgium and Great Britain.

The overwhelming attendance at the conference was a great achievement by the leadership of the Ghana Democratic Movement, organisers of the conference and a big boost to the campaign to replace Flt-Lt Rawlings dictatorial and bloody regime with a democratic administration in Ghana.

Problems that had rocked the struggle were highlighted by Dr De Graft Johnson in his keynote address when he noted that an organisation of a mass movement to restore democracy to a country like Ghana and to overthrow an illegal, vicious and murderous dictatorship like the present regime is not an easy affair. "We should anticipate that Rawlings will hit back and he will hit back hard. We must pre- pare for him. His first obvious attack will be at our weakness."

"Any group like us advocating for restoration of democracy will encompass people of diverse political opinions. It is in order to preserve the freedom to maintain our various political opinions and to be able to express them freely that we fight for democracy. In Unity is strength."

Noting that Rawlings and his associ- ates are evil men who have perpetrated monstrous atrocities, Dr De Graft Johnson emphasised that this evil can never be uprooted by half-hearted expression of discontent.

A review of the three year activities of the Ghana Democratic Movement was given by its chairman, Mr J. H. Mensah who also presented an analysis of the movement's alternative pro- gramme to Rawlings rule.

This programme is based on the abolition of the ideology and institutions of class war, which in the view of Mr Mensah is not consistent with democracy. Other areas covered by Mr Mensah were local government, administration of justice, state security, economic system and foreign policy.

But the more interesting and in my view useful part of the conference was during the afternoon session when there were presentations of papers by the various delegates after which there were series of lectures.

"Any group like us advocating for restoration of democracy will encompass people of diverse political opinions and to be able to express them freely that we fight for democracy. In unity is strength."

Dr Jones Ofori Atta who was scheduled to lead a discussion on the economic reconstruction of Ghana did not show up and his place was taken up by Mr Vincent Bulla, former minister of trade and industries.

However it was the lecture by Col Annor-Odjidja, the former director of military intelligence on the role of the military in Ghanaian politics which aroused so much discussion.

Dilating on various subtitles such as the role of the armed forces, causes of military intervention in politics in Ghana, causes of successful coups in Ghana, possible counter-action and whether our soldiers can govern, Col Odjidja concluded: "after two decades of military intervention in our politics surely the time is now appropriate to think of how to deal with this problem conclusively." Col Odjidja's suggested short term strategy, is based on a singular objective of ending military domination of our government by re- storing the free political process. To achieve this Ghanaians at home and abroad must be persuaded to unite strong pressures on the PNDC to leave them with no other choice but to quit and hand over to an interim civilian administration to prepare a programme for return to elective government.

Finally, the Colonel called for Ghana's present backers to be lobbied that it is not in their long-term diplomatic and economic interest to support the PNDC.

Colonel Odjidja said he had not made any calls for violent intervention because he believes that the use of soldiers to achieve political ends only creates future prospects for more violence. Moreover, he said, a conference called to examine ways and means of restoring democracy in Ghana cannot in all seriousness advocate this as part of a credible response.

Contributions from the participants included some from men who have held public office and therefore dealt with the military establishment. Both Mr J.H. Mensah and Dr De Graft Johnson referred to the corporate interests of soldiers which are insisted upon by military leaders and thereby lead to a lack of defence policy to be debated upon or discussed by the government.

The former Vice President revealed for the first time that it was due to the insistence of these corporate interests of the armed forces by the then Chief of Defence Staff, Maj-Gen Nunoo- Mensah which led to his removal from office. Brigadier Barnor who replaced him did not help. He chose to follow the footsteps of his predecessor.

I do not know how former and present members of the armed forces would react to the virtual denunciation of the Ghana Armed Forces by the man who, for many years, was head of their intelligence wing, but I did not envy his position where he also had to answer questions from his civilian audience who were in no mood to accept excuses from any member of the military about their role in the politics of the country.

Perhaps it was most appropriate that the Vice President, Dr De Graft Johnson, advised everyone present to accept blame for the army's dismal performance. Without suggesting whether the army should be disbanded or not Dr De Graft Johnson referred to Britain where, because the people have a stake in the British society, they ensure that some of their best children join the army to protect their interests. This situation is unlike Ghana where kids who have nothing useful to do in society are despatched to the army.

The result, as Dr De Graft Johnson pointed out, was the admission of men with Scottish, Togolese and other foreign parentage and doubtful back- grounds into the armed forces. On that note the discussion on the military ended to allow for some time to discuss and adopt the conference resolution.

The usefulness of the conference did not lie only in the lively interaction among the very impressive number of delegates. The topics discussed provided a significant forum for the political education of Ghanaians who are determined to ensure that their country is properly governed. My hope is that other Ghanaians who have for various reasons not played an active part in the struggle to restore demoo- racy in their country will, like members of the Somali delegation be inspired by the success of the conference, to join forces to achieve unity and eventually their objective

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