, 09 November, 2019 / 3:13 AM
As Ghana prepares for a constitutional referendum scheduled for December 17 aimed at amending Article 55 (3) of the West African nation’s 1992 constitution, the Local Ordinary of Tamale, Archbishop Philip Naameh is concerned that not much is being done to publicize the event and create awareness about the “important national exercise.”
“Even though this referendum is expected to take place in December 2019, little is heard of it in public discourse,” Archbishop Philip Naameh of Tamale told participants at the launch of the Regional/Diocesan sensitization programme on the upcoming referendum in his diocese on Tuesday, November 5.
“It is worrying that such an important national exercise was not receiving the level of participation it needed for discussions among Ghanaians,” Archbishop Naameh decried.
He explained, “There are not the usual commentaries and debates that go with elections and politics as we have experienced in recent times, despite the fact that our very development infrastructure is based on effective mobilisation of local resources and participation of local people in governance.”
The proposed amendment would permit direct election of Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs) as well as allow political parties to engage in local elections.
The Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference (GCBC), in collaboration with the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) - a German think tank - has been working to raise awareness and understanding of the issues at stake in this referendum, an effect that does not seem to get national impact that Archbishop Naameh would like to see.
In October, the Bishops in Ghana officially launched the regional and diocesan sensitization programme under the theme, “Participation of political parties and citizens in the District Level Elections.”
The session provided a platform for stakeholders to discuss the theme with the view of raising public awareness and interest.
Archbishop Naameh who is also President of the GCBC called for “increased awareness creation on the referendum by stakeholders and pledged the support of the Catholic Church in deepening the education to enable full participation of citizens in the exercise.”
“The election of MMDCEs would mark the turning point in local governance and enhance accountability and deepen democracy, which would accelerate development,” the Ghanaian Archbishop said.
He encouraged Ghanaians “to turn out massively to endorse the proposal, come December 17.”
Explaining the focus of the referendum, the Northern Regional Director of the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), Alhaji Abdul Razak Saani said, “The referendum was not for the election of MMDCEs, but was seeking inputs from Ghanaians to amend article 55 (3) to allow district level elections to be conducted on partisan basis.”
According to Mr Saani, a key figure at NCCE, “the referendum must record 40 percent voter turnout and out of that number, 75 percent must vote “Yes” to confirm the proposal,” for the amendment to be successful.
The Assistant Northern Regional State Attorney, Mr Francis Ayamwusi Asobayire, said local level elections had recorded low turnouts over the years and appealed to the citizenry to actively participate in the national exercise to achieve the required 40 percent turnout and the 70 percent “Yes” votes.
On the referendum day, members of the district assemblies and unit committees will be elected.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa