Can Ghana's new president build on the country's success?by Tim Wigmore / January 9, 2013 / Leave a comment
The latest proof of Ghana’s democratic maturity came on Monday. John Mahama was inaugurated as president after a violence-free election victory that was widely applauded by international observers.
Since democratisation in 1992, Ghana has emerged as a political model for the rest of the continent. Despite a traumatic history that included five military coups between 1966 and 1981 alone, the country has shown itself to be capable of withstanding the toughest political tests. Wider benefits have accompanied Ghana’s stability: life expectancy at birth is now 65; primary school attendance rates have risen from 61 per cent in 1999 to 83 per cent last year; economic growth was 14.4 per cent in 2011.
Ghana’s story reveals much about what other African nations require to be successful. Most fundamental is responsible leadership. Two previous presidents have honoured term limits and stood down after two terms, helping foster respect for democratic norms. When Mahama’s predecessor, John Atta Mills, died suddenly last July, as vice president Mahama ascended to the presidency in the constitutionally enshrined manner, without fuss or protest. The presence of John Kufuor, former president and former candidate of the opposition New Patriotic Party, at Mahama’s inauguration can be seen as an endorsement of last year’s elections—although the NPP boycotted the ceremony and claim that Mahama won through fraudulent means.