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General News
Kufuor Faces Hectic Tenure 1/31/2007
Good governance and human rights advocates have identified five-prong agenda which will define President Kufuor’s one-year tenure as Chairman of the African Union (AU). In their views, sampled in Accra yesterday, the advocates pointed to conflicts in the Darfur region of The Sudan, Somalia, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire and the economic emancipation of Africa as the indices by which Kufuor’s legacy to the continent would be measured.

The advocates are the Executive Director of the Institute of Democratic Governance (IDEG), Dr Emmanuel Akwetey, a Senior Lecturer at the Legon Centre for International Affairs (LECIA) of the University of Ghana, Legon, Dr Vladimir Antwi-Danso, the acting Head of Governance Issues at the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), Mr Kwesi Jonah, a professor at the Faculty of Law of the University of Ghana, Prof Kofi Quashigah, and a human rights activist, Nana Oye Lithur.

Mr Jonah said the conflicts in Africa were critical challenges facing the continent and urged President Kufuor to “proactively work to ensure that he brings these conflicts to an end so that he can leave behind a legacy”. He said President Kufuor ought to bear in mind that his term as President of Ghana was close to an end and that his chairmanship of the AU was not a permanent job.

“He has a short time, but within that short time he should make a mark and leave a legacy,” he remarked.

Mr Jonah said the election of President Kufuor as the AU Chairman was significant in three respects — the fact that Ghana was a founding member of the erstwhile Organisation of African Unity (OAU) which later became the AU, the fact that the election coincided with Ghana’s 50 independence anniversary and the fact that President Kufuor was the first African President to submit himself to the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM).

He said President Kufuor should set excellent examples on good governance, social and economic liberty, peace and stability and other demands of the APRM for his peers to emulate.

Mr Jonah said it was also important that the President showed an example of reconciliation and pointed out the need for him to reconcile with former President Rawlings. Asked how that reconciliation could be achieved, considering the nature of their differences, he suggested the need for an impartial mediator who enjoyed the confidence of the two leaders.

According to Mr Jonah, such a personality had been missing in previous attempts to reconcile the current and the former Presidents but expressed the belief that the Immediate Past Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), Mr Kofi Annan, aptly fitted that role.

For his part, Dr Antwi-Danso said one of the major expectations of the new AU Chairman was to resolve the conflicts on the continent, as well as ensure post-conflict peace building in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire.

Furthermore, he said, there was the need to ensure that Africa moved forward towards integration and economic emancipation, adding that the President must explore his good relationship with leaders of some Western countries to the benefit of Africa.

Dr Antwi-Danso said President Kufuor should urge sub-regional economic blocs to work hard to improve the economy of Africa. He admitted that the task ahead was Herculean but was quick to point out that “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a step”, adding that it was important to lay the foundation for others to build on it.

Dr Antwi-Danso said Presidents Kufuor of Ghana, Abdulaziz Bouteflika of Algeria, Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal represented a new breed of African leaders who held much prospect for the continent. He urged Ghanaians to support the President to make an impact in his new assignment and desist from mudslinging, the beating of war drums and other acts which bred tension in the country.

For her part, Nana Oye Lithur said the election of President Kufuor as the AU Chairman was another honour for Ghana but indicated that that honour had brought to the President the big challenge of addressing the Darfur crisis and other conflicts on the continent. She said increasingly, the international community had been concerned about the situation in Darfur and expressed the hope that President Kufuor would employ a lot of maturity and diplomatic skills to address the crisis.

Nana Oye Lithur said another challenge that President Kufuor needed to keep his eyes on was the pending elections in some African countries, particularly Nigeria. Back home in Ghana, she said the President had a busy year, characterised by activities marking the country’s 50th independence anniversary and preparations for elections next year.

Nana Oye Lithur urged the President to use his chairmanship of the AU to address the issue of the 44 Ghanaians who were allegedly murdered in The Gambia some time last year and other human rights abuses in that country. She said Africa was overcoming the challenges of constitutional and political rights, with many countries adopting constitutional democracy.

"But the continent now faced the challenge of social and economic rights which must be addressed," she said. Nana Oye Lithur said although the President might not be able to address all the challenges, it was important for him to leave a mark.

According to Dr Akwetey, the critical question was whether President Kufuor would be able to succeed where others had failed or been ineffective, adding that he would be judged on the basis of that performance. He said President Kufuor’s strength lay in the successes he had chalked up with respect to the APRM process and urged him to advocate the need for his peers to live up to those standards of the APRM.

Dr Akwetey said the AU Chairman would be effective if he focused more on a limited agenda, instead of wanting to do everything.

"His performance will also depend on his domestic agenda and how well he balanced the two responsibilities," he said. He said this was not the first time President Kufuor was taking up such responsibility, having been chairman of ECOWAS for two terms, and expressed the hope that he would bring his experience to bear on the new responsibility assigned him.

Prof Quashigah said the immediate concern of the President should be to tackle the Darfur and Somalia crises, stressing that there was the need for the immediate deployment of a peacekeeping force in that region. He said other challenges which might arise in the course of his term in office would determine what action to take.

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