Former President Jerry John Rawlings has observed that directions taken by countries such as Ghana have served as a source of inspiration to many countries in Africa and beyond.
“As leaders of our countries, we have a responsibility to gauge the mood of the people and always move the political train in a direction that ensures that the electorate feel their interests have been served,” he said in a lecture he delivered on “Democracy and Security in Africa” under the auspices of the Oxford Research Network on Governance in Africa in London on Tuesday.
The former president said in his lecture, a copy of which was e-mailed to GNA, that democracy made true meaning when it was the kind of governance that advertised true people power.
He said security and political stability were key for real socio-economic development and that security relied on a genuine democratic culture.
Former President Rawlings said the multiparty system of governance “prescribed and inflicted on us by some Western powers did not factor the social cultural fabric of our traditional political system that existed before Western multiparty democracy.”
“It is not the absence of military interventions, which we seem to have achieved, that will restore democracy, freedom, justice and development. What is required is the integrity of leadership and ability to empower the people. Leadership should have confidence in our people and not feel intimidated by empowering them,” he said.
The former president said corruption had persisted because leaders had used state machinery to terrorise the people and silence the opposition.
He also noted that “vested interests from outside” had also contributed to perpetuating this by whitewashing such corrupt and autocratic governments.
Former President Rawlings said while national security involved protecting the state, its institutions and sovereignty, human or political security entailed issues of poverty, basic amenities, employment, and abuse of human rights.
The former president said it was most unethical and politically unwise to attempt to govern a people by resorting to a high ratio of physical security as opposed to political/human security.
“Are we not violating people’s human rights, sensibilities and sensitivities with the use of the coercive machinery of the state by terrorising people into a State of subjugation?” he asked.
Former Rawlings said on the other hand, a high ratio of political/human to physical security was a mark of good leadership and a demonstration of confidence in the sense of responsibility of people as this empowered the people.
“If we have the courage to empower our people, it then demands of us a leadership that will necessarily be accountable to the people, be transparent and maintain a high degree of integrity.”
Former President Rawlings also said the use of the judiciary to jail innocent people contributed to instilling fear and emasculating the populace.
“In effect, it creates a false and intoxicating sense of security for the leadership at the expense of the security and the empowerment of the citizenry. We then get away with being corrupt dictators. Integrity, transparency and accountability become meaningless in our leadership. Fear, intimidation and terror tactics are the tools of corrupt dictatorships.”
Former President Rawlings said security could not exist in a vacuum but always overlapped with the political environment.
He said in Africa, democracy and security had always been bedfellows, saying the democratic system of governance related to the free and equal representation of the people in the management of a country.
Former President Rawlings said democracy worked only when it had evolved within a specific socio-cultural environment and fused into the traditional political systems such that it was seen as an indigenous product, but unfortunately Africa had not been given the opportunity to develop this.
Turning to Ghana, the former president traced his rise to power and said the country underwent political and economic metamorphoses that every true proponent of democracy had to concede, laid the fertile framework for what was regarded today as a stable democracy.
He said when he his two terms of office ended and the candidate of his party, Prof. John Evans Atta Mills lost the election, he handed power to President John Agyekum Kufuor.
“The people’s will had decided that John Mills was not the man to lead Ghana at the time. I respected that decision and did not dream of taking power by force or passing a decree to entrench my stay in power.”
He said the stability and smooth transitions recorded within the first eight years of the Fourth Republic was a true manifestation of the will of the people and a belief in the leadership they had elected.
He said no government was without its negatives and he was convinced that his government had some flaws “but what is important is the fact that we were never alienated from the ordinary folk who elected us into power to move this country forward.”
Mr Rawling said contrary to the assertion that the tradition of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) was truly democratic, “the NPP government was an excellent example of an undemocratic regime”.
“Once you belonged to the party you did no wrong. Every effort was made to obliterate the P/NDC legacy and the institutions of government were so politicised that even when they took decisions against government officials such decisions were disregarded with impunity.
“Ghana once again sunk into a democracy of nepotism, non- accountability, power to the rich and a complete disregard for the feelings of the electorate.”
Former President Rawlings said more dangerous was the abuse of the security services structure, the hounding and persecution of some services personnel, refusal to follow laid down promotion procedure and a complete politicisation of the military.
“The NPP could not co-exist with institutions with forceful integrity. The security services were not spared and the judiciary took a serious beating as well. The NPP took us to the abyss as far as democracy was concerned and such methods do nothing to deepen or entrench democracy. It allows for chaos, lack of confidence in the electoral process and political apathy.”
Former President Rawlings said Ghana had managed to stay stable because of the culture of tolerance that had been created between 1981 and 2000 and these achievements were not due to pressures imposed by the West but a desire by a people to prove that peoples’ power is most sacrosanct.