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General News
Run-Off Triggers More Demands 12/20/2008

... Effect Of Kufour administration''s recent panic measures
It appears the disability movement in Ghana may stay away from the presidential election run-off unless President John Agyekum Kufour inaugurates the National Council on Persons with Disability before the poll date of 28th December 2008.

Taking a cue from the Kufour Administration''s recent panic measures following the first round of voting, a national leader of the disability movement has indicated that the inauguration of the Disability Council will be a condition for the group''s participation in the impending polls.

"We demand that the council be inaugurated within the three weeks" that Ghanaians have to go back to the polls, said Mr. Alexander Tetteh, National Administrator of the Ghana Society of the Physically Disabled (GSPD), in an interview with Public Agenda last weekend. "I''m serious about this demand," he pointed out.

It was obvious from Mr. Tetteh''s point of view that the disability family felt peeved about certain "panic" measures, which the government and some of its agencies have taken in the aftermath of the December 7 polls.

The ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) failed to secure a "one touch" victory in the presidential polls, as well as, obtain a parliamentary majority. After the first round the government took some measures including the National Petroleum Authority (NPA)''s downward review of fuel prices which in turn led to a reduction in transport fares. The government also announced the release of commercial drivers jailed for road traffic offences.

In addition, The Western Naval Command and the Ghana Air Force launched the "Operation Stock Control" under the Anti-Pair Trawling Operations of the Ghana Armed Forces. Analysts hinted after the first round of voting that pair trawling was a major issue based on which the opposition National Democratic Congress swept constituencies along the coast. However, its opponents have poured cold water on the initiatives, saying they were intended to influence voters.

These measures have triggered the demand by the disability group who felt left out of the election-provoked distribution of goodies.

Mr. Tetteh was categorical that "They (government) must correct this injustice before we disabled people would decide to vote."

It was not the first time Mr. Tetteh had made the inauguration of the council a condition for voting. In October, he cautioned at the inauguration of the GSPD''s Akuapem South Branch that "If the council was not inaugurated, it would be difficult for PWDs to vote in the December polls."

The Persons with Disability Act (Act 715), June 2006 requires the establishment of the National Council to give impetus to the implementation of the law. But two-and-half years after the enactment of the law, there still is uncertainty about the establishment of the council.

In June this year, Hon Paul Okoh, Chairman, Parliamentary Select Committee on Employment, Social Welfare and State Enterprises told persons with disability at the second national disability day that he was "reliably informed" that the Council had been formed and had started its operations.

He indicated then that the Council had not been inaugurated "because we want it to be done by the President."

Hon Akosua Frema Osei Opare, Deputy Minister of Manpower, Youth and Employment once said that the council was in place and was in fact meeting. She also confirmed that Prof Gyimah Boadi of the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD) was the chairman of the council.

But she has also admitted that the actual implementation of Act 715 was not an easy task. "We are still to do a Legislative Instrument."

In the view of many persons with disability "the soul of the Disability Act resides in the Council."

In December 2007, Mr. Yaw Ofori Debra, then a President of the Ghana Federation of the Disabled (GFD) said, "We call upon the President to expedite action on the setting up of the council."

PWDs constitute a considerable percentage of Ghana''s voter population. The United Nations estimates that between 10 and 12% of any given population is disabled. Going by that analogy, Ghana, with a population of around 23 million, has a disabled population of between 2.30 and 2.76 million. There are over 12 million names in the national voter''s register. And going by that analogy, there should be about 600, 000 PWDs registered as voters. This is significant enough to turn the scale in any presidential candidate''s favour bearing in mind that Nana Akufo-Addo was about 102,000 votes ahead of Prof John Atta Mills in the first round of polls.

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