Using the courts to persecute political opponents is wrong

Using the courts to persecute political opponents is wrong – Ade Sawyerr

Hardly a day goes by without news that some NDC youth have exercised their democratic right to demonstrate somewhere against someone or the other.

Soon after the elections that brought this NDC government to power, is was about government bungalows being wrongly appropriated by the opposition NPP, then it extended to government vehicles and cars, but recently it has degenerated into activism against appointments of the President John Atta Mills at different levels: local, regional and national.

What may have started as youthful demonstration of support for their party has turned into thuggery of the most disgraceful type, which if not checked, will continue to embarrass the government. In some of these cases the complaints are very strange, that their DCE is giving contracts to the other side and that not enough of members of their party are benefitting from jobs irrespective of whether they have the qualifications or not, in other cases it is about the slow pace of the government in persecuting members of the opposition and yet in other cases is about the removal of someone or the other for accusations of corruption.

That the activism continues may be a good thing of holding their own party to account for the promises, empty or otherwise, that they made at the time of the campaign; but it may just end up focussed on the wrong things and end up holding the government t ransom for any decisions taken without reference to the youthful activists. There is the attendant danger that this misguided activism may undermine the government and create instability.

One would have expected some immediate gains under the NDC government, some strides in the development agenda for the all the people of Ghana, and not just for a few NDC supporters. One would also have expected that there was a plan of action from the government to implement real change; but this government is intent on following the IMF/World Bank orthodoxy and this cannot be good for the country.

Whilst this lack of action by the government in power to attend to issues for which it was elected should be worrying, what it even more worrying are the daily demands by the misguided NDC activists that the courts should be used by the government against its political opponents.

Elections rightly decide who must run the country and the people of Ghana have voted for the NDC. By so doing they rejected the NPP for several reasons one of which was that they have been the most corrupt government that this country has ever seen.

The fact however is that both the NDC and NPP have proved in previous governments that they are not altogether clean; they have been tainted with corrupt practices on procurement and issues of pure sleaze, scandals and abuses of power and office.

The challenge therefore for the NDC government is what it will do to minimise and even eradicate corruption during its watch and ensure that when its time is up and it has been kicked out of office, as will rightly happen in the next election, given its performance to date, it will not leave a trail of corruption as the previous NDC government did.

So this obsession of using a bad and unimaginative law – the law of causing financial loss to the state – a law that by definition is political in nature for crimes that can be difficult to prove, suggests that there is more interest in turning these trials into political showcases than upholding the rule of law.

What this government should be doing is to introduce systems and measure into place that takes away the responsibility of contracting from political appointees. It should strengthen the laws of procurement and contracting and introduce transparency that will help to curb the rampant abuses of power that have started to rear they ugly and undesirable heads.

The government should seek to introduce laws that move the country forward rather than allow the chief legal officers role to be reduced to one of a political exterminator of their rivals. The best way of justifying these persecutions is to show to all that it is also prosecuting its own party members who fall foul of the law.

I know that the NPP when they were in power fell into the same trap. I recall ne imprudent statement from a government minister, a senior one at that, suggesting that by the end of their term in office they would have jailed so many people in the NDC that they would not have anybody to stand at the next elections. As fate would have it they did not succeed in doing that because of their incompetence and not all their trumped up charges held up in the courts.

In the event what happened was a bad decision to jail Peprah and Tsatsu Tsikata bringing the judiciary into disrepute, forcing the resignation of the President of the Bar Association and then when they realised that the public sentiment was against all those show trials, handing out presidential pardons like a confused referee at a keenly contested football match.

Is this what the NDC also wants to do? To persecute its opponents in the NPP whilst allowing its own people to escape the courts?

The President must think again. The fact that he is even remotely involved in the decisions as to who must be tried is bad for democracy; these actions must be taken in the name of the People of Ghana and not in the name of the President or NDC activists and thugs.

Politicians must learn that the rule of law is about the people and not about which party is less or more corrupt, the rule of law is not also about the politicisation of the judiciary, it is about making good laws and using the law appropriately to uphold justice for all in the land.

For surely it is not just the NDC or NPP who are corrupt, because both parties have presided over corrupt governments; it is some Ghanaians who are corrupt and they exist on both of these parties. I had hoped that there would have been no need to return to this issue of political motivated trials but it would seem that the whole tenure of this government is about vengeance against its NPP opponents.

On 31st March 2002, I argued some of these points in an article “politically motivated trials are bad for democracy” that was published on in Accra Daily Mail and on www.Ghanaweb.com

http://ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage///features/artikel.php?ID=22884

Nothing has happened since then to let me change my mind about the wrongful use of the courts to persecute politicians. There are other ways of winning an election; when the NPP were busy prosecuting the NDC without doing anything to their own corrupt party members, the people of Ghana were watching as they are now!

**Ade Sawyerr** is partner in Equinox Consulting, a management consultancy that provides consultancy, training and research and focuses on formulating strategies for the advancement of black and ethnic minority, disadvantaged and socially excluded communities in Britain. He also comments on political, economic and social, and development issues. He can be contacted by email on jwasawyerr *

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