The National Peace Council (NPC), National House of Chief (NHC), Manhyia Palace, Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG), and Civic Forum Initiative (CFI), together with Graphic Corporation and Ghana Broadcasting Corporation , will jointly inaugurate The National Interest Dialogue (NID) on “Multi-party Governance Reforms” on Monday April 28, 2014. This is the third initiative of the above mentioned group following the historic Kumasi High Level Meeting on November 27, 2012 and the National Peace Summit in Accra on July 19, 2013

At the National Peace Summit in Accra the participants called for proposals that would strengthen national cohesion and spur inclusive growth and development while consolidating national peace in the country. In response to that call, the IDEG and the CFI have developed a set of proposals for addressing critical and persistent challenges to effective multi-party governance in the country.

These are the: (i) recurring threat of political violence in the multi-party elections, (ii) weakening of national cohesion, (iii) politicization, corruption and paralysis of the public service bureaucracies, (iv) emergence of a political duopoly, self-serving politics and exclusionary governance, and (v) the lack of sustained political dialogue to build national consensus on measures for peacefully resolving the challenges facing the nation.

All five challenges are matters of profound national concern. They underscore the fragility of the multiparty governance system and pose serious risks to it stability and sustainability in the long –term. Before 1992, these challenges accounted for the instability of the multiparty governance system in the country

However, despite attempts to manage multiparty governance system for more than two decades during the Fourth Republic, there is growing public concern that the challenges appear to be intensifying and not being adequately addressed by political leaders and policy-makers

The clearest evidence of this apparent failure is that the proposed amendments to the 1992 Constitution have either not address any of these critical challenges or done so effectively (see Constitutional Review Commission Report, March 2012, the Government White Paper on the CRC Report, June 2012, and Daily Graphic interview with Chair of the Constitution Review Implementation Committee, April 2014).

Until 2010 when the late President of the Republic, Professor John Evans Atta Mills, authorized a review of the 1992 Constitution, constitution-making in post-colonial Ghana generally occurred following a coup d’état – as was the case with the 1969,1979 and the 1992 Constitutions. With the exception of the 1992 Constitution, the multi-party governance system collapsed and had to be restored under successive constitutions.

In this respect therefore, the late President’s decision in 2010 to open the 1992 Constitution to a review that participatory is remarkable. In contract with the past it marked the first time since independence that the Constitution was being reviews in a relatively peaceful context. It is equally noteworthy that the decision to undertake a review of the 1992 Constitution was itself a response to calls by civil society and allied groups for constitutional amendments to address a broad range of issues, including some critical challenges of the multi-party governance system.

The popular expectation was that constitutional amendments would not only strengthen national cohesion through inclusive representation of diverse groups in Parliament but also enhance accountability in governance through effective parliamentary oversight and popular election of the chief executive of the metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies

Another expectation was that the institutions of state and governance, especially the civil service and the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) would be strengthened in order to make them more efficient and responsive to the social service and development demands of the citizens and the communities through the pursuit of equitable and inclusive development policies and programs by all governments.

The decision to review the 1992 Constitution during the period when the country enjoyed relative peace and stability received nation-wide and popular support. This was evident in the high and extensive levels of citizen participation in the consultative phase of the constitution review process and the subsequent validation of the findings at a national conference in March 2012.

However, the open and inclusive nature of the CRC process rapidly narrowed as the process advanced to the stage where specific decisions and hard choices had to be made to reform the Constitution. Consequently, the recommendations of the CRC were not effectively disseminated to the public and subjected to inform public discussion before the NDC Government issued its White paper on the recommendation. Although the government claimed that it had accepted “95 per cent” of the CRC’s recommendations to public scrutiny

Since then, the constitutional review process had appeared increasingly closed to the general public.

The Constitution Review Implementation Committee (CRIC), which was appointed sometime in October 2012, had worked largely out of public view, operating more as a technical group to implement the Government White Paper on the CRC Report.

The Ghanaian public is not privy to information on its proposals to governments as well as its roadmap for amending the constitution. Clearly the CRIC does not have a credible public education strategy to inform the Ghanaian public on its work and recommendations.

This regrettable lack of transparency in the process leading to the amendment of the 1992 Constitution has not only engendered public speculation- that the constitutional amendment process would be closed either by October 2014 or by the end of the year.

The public is in the dark not only about the details of the parliamentary component of the reform process but also on the modalities and dates for the proposed referendum to amend the Constitution. Furthermore, there is hardly any public awareness of the role of the CRIC and the EC, not to mention the NCCE and civil society actors, in the processes ahead of the referendum.

In the circumstances, public awareness and civic support for the constitutional review process had steadily diminished and a process that requires the participation of the people in whom the sovereignty of the nation resides has been reduced essentially to an opaque and bureaucratic exercise.

If this situation were allowed to persist to the end without any serious effort at bringing the voices of the people into it from now on, the constitution amendment process may turn out to be an exercise that failed not only in sustaining broad-based public support but also in addressing the fundamental problems that inspired the call for constitutional reforms.

There is a real risk that the objective of the late President Mills to strengthen the constitutional framework for democratic governance through constitutional review in order to consolidate national development, unity, peace and stability of Ghana, would not be achieved.

With the objective of averting such a consequence, the above-named partners that convened the high-level meeting in Kumasi in November 2012 and the National Peace Summit of July 2013, have decided collectively to act again in the national interest.

The group is proposing a set of reforms aimed at filling the gaps in the constitution review and amendment processes. These are a set of inter-locking reforms crucial to:

(i) promoting inclusive government in the country;

(ii) eradicating the threat of political violence in the country’s electoral democracy;

(iii) strengthening the national cohesion;

(v) transforming the public service bureaucracies to deliver effective, professional and impartial services; and

(iv) transforming the political parties from being election machines into effective development tools.

These reforms, if adopted and implemented, will strengthen the development focus and thrust of the multiparty governance system and enhance the peace, stability and unity of the nation.

The group is convinced that if its proposals are adopted and incorporated in the forthcoming amendment of the 1992 Constitution, the foundation for consolidation peace, stability and advancing sustainable democratic development in Ghana in the long-term would become stronger.

The most pressing task now is to campaign vigorously to persuade the President and his Cabinet, Parliament and the leadership of the political parties to adopt the proposed multi-party governance reforms and incorporate them in the proposed amendments of the 1992 Constitution.

The related task is also to persuade them to support parliament and in the public to endorse the package of reforms, including the multiparty governance reforms, in the forthcoming referendum on the amendment of the 1992 Constitution. (of doubtful importance. Reconsider its retention.)

On Monday, April 28, 2014, the partners will inaugurate a nation-wide conversation and campaign in Accra under the theme: ‘The Urgency for Multi-Party Governance Reforms Before 2016 Elections’.

. The conversations and campaign have been packaged as the first events of “The National Interest Dialogue” that will serve as a mechanism for promoting broad-based and inclusive participation in the constitution amendment process and the Multi-Party Governance Reforms.

Beyond the campaign for a positive decision on the partners’ proposals this year, the MPG reforms will be implemented over a five-year period, from 2014 to 2020 so that a transformed multiparty governance system is expected to be firmly in place by the end of 2020.