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General News
African Leaders give Ghana Jubilee Present 1/30/2007
A GNA News Feature by Boakye-Dankwa Boadi

Accra, Jan. 29, GNA - As the Ghana News Agency was doing its normal duty of news coverage, word came in that President John Agyekum Kufuor was on Monday unanimously elected Chairman of the African Union (AU) at its Eighth Ordinary Session, which opened at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Monday.

He takes over from Congolese President Sassou Nguesso. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and NEPAD, told GNA in a telephone interview from Addis Ababa.

Alpha Oumar Konare, AU''s Chief Executive, had told reporters in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa: "By consensus vote President (John) Kufuor of Ghana has been elected to the presidency of the African Union" Was it William Shakespeare, who said great events cast their shadow before they happen? Well, as the lobbying for the position proceeded a number of countries were knocked out for one reason all the other. Sudan had pushed to obtain the chairmanship during last year''s Summit, which it hosted, but African Leaders selected Republic of Congo''s President Nguesso in a compromise deal for him to chair for one year and then hand over to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. But the deal hinged on Sudan demonstrating progress in bringing peace to Darfur, a violence-wracked western Sudan Region. Instead of calming, Darfur''s violence in recent months has spilled into neighbouring Chad and Central African Republic.

It became clear that Kenya was out the race for the chairmanship of the African Union. "We are out of the race," Kenyan representative to the AU, Mr Franklin Esipila said.

Sources said the impending General Election in that country was the basis on which Kenya was locked out of contention as there could be a change of guard.

The AU requires that the one-year chairmanship goes to a President whose term should be uninterrupted during that period. Other contenders at the beginning of the Summit were Tanzania, Rwanda and Ethiopia.

Sources said Ethiopia was thrown out of the race because it recently invaded Somalia.

For a State to get the chairmanship, it must be supported by at least two-thirds of the 53 members or by consensus. Ghana won because both Rwanda and Tanzania did not have an impressive peacekeeping record. Back to Shakespeare; prior to the election Ghana''s Implementation Report on the recommendations of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) had received overwhelming commendation.

The 25 States that have signed up to be peer reviewed were unanimous in their assessment that it was a reflection of the success story of Africa.

The Report captured the progress Ghana was making in the four thematic areas of Democracy and Political Governance; Economic Governance and Management; Corporate Governance and Socio-Economic Development.

Presenting Report at the Sixth Summit of the APRM Heads of State and Government Forum held on the margins of the Africa Union''s ordinary session in the Ethiopian Capital, Addis Ababa on Sunday, President Kufuor gave a detail account of policy interventions and initiatives taken by the Government in response to the recommendations made by the African Peer Review (APR) Panel of eminent persons.

These included a 50 million-dollar Land Administration Project to rationalise land administration and management; the setting up of a Ministry of Chieftaincy Affairs to help to reduce the incidence of conflicts through chieftaincy succession and land disputes and a Public Sector Reform Ministry to enhance the delivery of efficient Government services.

In addition, he said, issues of fair wages and pensions were being seriously tackled, while the country''s debt stock had been reduced by as much as 43 per cent through debt cancellation and the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative.

To help to promote good economic governance and management, President Kufuor informed the Forum that there was now a tracking system in the country''s financial administration through the holding of joint weekly meetings by the Finance Ministry, the Bank of Ghana and the Controller and Accountant General''s Department.

Besides, the Public Account and Finance Committee of Parliament was also being strengthened through capacity building workshops and seminars to enable it to carry out its oversight role in financial matters.

President Kufuor further spoke about the Government''s efforts at decentralising the Registrar General''s Department, the introduction of credit schemes like the Venture Capital and loans to micro and small scale businesses; bringing down of corporate tax and the policy that a manufacturer should no longer pay Value Added Tax (VAT) upfront. He also touched on the introduction of a legislation to enforce compliance with environmental regulations; the revamping of the educational system; the capitation grant; which has increased primary schools enrolment by about 16 per cent; the school feeding programme; free bus ride for pupils; training of teachers and provision of classrooms and equipment.

He said there were, however, some challenges to the country''s implementation of its programme of action, pointing out that, the quest to achieve single digit inflation had not been achieved largely due to the high petroleum prices.

"Ghana, in addition, continues to face capacity and skills shortages in a number of endeavours to meet the national development effort while the public sector was yet to wholly orient itself to private sector growth."

President Olusegun Obasanjo, Chairman of the Forum said Ghana had by its pacesetter role demonstrated that the APRM could spur Africa''s progress.

"The measures taken are concrete and development-oriented", he stated, and suggested that it should be published so that the world would come to know that the APRM was chalking success. South African President Thabo Mbeki described the implementation report as not only focussed and straight forward but that it also tackled in a verifiable manner, how the programme of action was being implemented.

He recommended that it should be made the standard for all African countries.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said Ghana''s Report has brought out a number of best practices, which the other countries would have to copy.

Another fact that might have influenced the African Leaders in their choice, which one must emphasise its unanimity, was the fact that President Kufuor has been seen a model for his generation just as Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah was among his peers during the struggle for Africa''s emancipation from colonial rule.

What a befitting present for Ghana@50. One would like to invite all to savour this birthday wine presented by African Leaders to Ghana and how refreshing with Professor John Evans Atta Mills, National Democratic Congress'' presidential candidate for Election 2008, filing the first congratulatory message to President Kufuor.

Indeed in the words of Busumuru Kofi Atta Annan, Immediate-Past Secretary General of the United Nations, these are exciting moments to be African and of course a Ghanaian.Source:
GNA

 
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