|Ghana’s former President, Flt Lt Jerry John Rawlings says some countries in Africa and parts of the developing world have adopted democracy from the textbook without recourse to the intrinsic values of democracy in their local cultures.
He added that we have used the English language as a symbol of authority and power but not as a symbol of respect and integrity.
The former President highlighted the weakness in Western democracy, which is being manifested today, when he addressed a durbar last Saturday at Tadzewu in the Volta Region, to mark the mini-Hogbetsotso festival of the people of Anlo.
“The West is today tasting getting a taste of the weaknesses of multi-party democracy that we have to put up with in our part of the world. While our old traditional culture of democracy was able to contain such weaknesses, the Western multi-party democratic practice appears almost incapable of containing corruption in its various forms. We have adopted the worst out of the West and used it to pin down and suppress the good qualities in our culture,” the former President said.
Flt Lt Rawlings was at a colourful ceremony also installed a chief of the Anlo State for his lead role in fostering peace and stability in Ghana, with the stool name Togbui Nutifafa Fiaga I.
Togbui Fiaga in his inaugural address expressed concern about the poor environmental and sanitation habits of Ghanaians and stated that our responsibility and discipline as a people can be well judged by the way we handle our environment.
“By contrast,” the former President noted, “the degradation of the environment is the quickest way to degrade our human self-worth, and a government or local authority that would butcher trees or watch the degrading of its environment, cannot expect people to behave responsibly in other facets of their life, or respect their government.
President Rawlings described as a “gross indictment” the situation where formal education has rather led to the proliferation of poor hygienic habits and environmental degradation when the opposite was the case during the era of non-formal education.
The former President called on chiefs to recognize their roles as critical and in ensuring peace and enriching national discourse, and said that “can only be achieved if we demonstrate integrity and truth even at the risk of sounding politically incorrect.”
Flt Lt Rawlings also informed the gathering that the Rawlings Foundation was being established to cater for a broad array of areas including the environment, provision of humanitarian relief, quality education for the under-privileged and brilliant students, civic responsibility and social justice.
The Foundation, the former President, added, will also seek to conserve and protect the biodiversity of the livelihoods of the fishing communities as well as the ecological integrity of the Volta Lake.
President Rawlings thanked the chiefs and people of Anlo for the honour done him and dedicated the award to all peace-loving people in Ghana and across the world.
President at the ceremony was the Awoamefia of the Anlo State, Torgbui Sri III.
Please find below the full text of the former President’s address.
ADDRESS BY H.E. JERRY JOHN RAWLINGS, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC AT THE MINI HOGBETSOTSO FESTIVAL OF THE AFIFE TRADITIONAL AREA
TADZEWU R.C. SCHOOL PARK, SATURDAY OCTOBER 29, 2016
The Awoamefia of the Anlo State, Togbui Sri III,
The Awadada of the Anlo Traditional Area, Togbui Agbesi Awusu II,
Togbui Adrapanya, Fiaga of the Afife Traditional Area,
Ministers of State,
Members of Parliament,
The District Chief Executive,
Ladies and Gentlemen;
It is a pleasure to join the chiefs and people of the 12 divisions of the Anlo state today as they celebrate the Mini – Hogbetsotso festival which seeks to highlight the various divisions of the Anlo state and harness the tourist potential that comes with it. Let me most sincerely thank Togbiwoo, Mamawoo and the people of Anlo for conferring on me the honorary title of peace. I dedicate the honour to all peace-loving people in Ghana and across the world. Protecting national and global peace should be the priority of all individuals and communities.
The chieftaincy institution together with its traditional councils as established by law and usage is guaranteed as per the 1992 constitution. If we are to project and promote our culture and heritage, then we should at all times uphold the honour and dignity bestowed on us by our people. The critical roles of chiefs and queenmothers, which include ensuring peace and enriching national discourse, can only be achieved if we demonstrate integrity and truth even at the risk of sounding politically incorrect.
The Anlo state just like many other places in the country can boast of numerous tourist and historic sites, which are yet to achieve their full economic potential for the people. I will like to use this opportunity to appeal to all stakeholders to invest in these historical and tourist sites as a means of improving the livelihoods of our folks.
Local and indeed national authorities have watched on as people thoughtlessly dump non-degradable waste like plastics, metals, chemicals and other poisonous material. Our responsibility and discipline as a people can be very well judged by the way we handle our environment. The protection of the environment is the quickest way for a government or local authority to demonstrate its sense of discipline. By contrast, the degradation of the environment is the quickest way to degrade our human self-worth, and a government or local authority that would butcher trees or watch the degrading of its environment, cannot expect people to behave responsibly in other facets of their life, or respect their government.
Togbiwoo, Mamawoo, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, there was an era when we had no formal education but enjoyed strict discipline as far as the protection of our environment was concerned. Today with the advent of formal education and the understanding of the effects of poor hygiene and environmental degradation, we are rather steeped in poor hygienic habits and witnessing a serious decline in our social and environmental sense of responsibility. This is a gross indictment on us as a people.
I have stated on several platforms that we adopted the language of the West without its integrity. We have used the English language as a symbol of authority and power but not as a symbol of respect and integrity. In the same vein we have adopted democracy from the textbook without recognizing and appreciating the intrinsic values of democracy in our own culture.
The West is today getting a taste of the weaknesses of multi-party democracy that we have to put up with in our part of the world. While our old traditional culture of democracy was able to contain such weaknesses the western multiparty democratic practice appears almost incapable of containing corruption in its various forms. Be it social, judicial, environmental or moral and the abuse and impunity of office, we have not succeeded in marrying the best from the two sides. We have adopted the worst out of the West and used it to pin down and suppress the good qualities in our culture.
We have adopted Western democracy in such a manner that it has suffocated the respect and values inherent in our culture, which allowed for people-centered participatory democracy and communication. The window to breath sense into our everyday lives has been forcefully shut.
In response to some of these challenges that our nation faces I am working with a team of like-minded people to set up the Rawlings Foundation. The thematic areas of the Foundation include but are not limited to environmental sustainability, provision of humanitarian relief, quality education for the under-privileged and brilliant students, civic responsibility and social justice. My office is inundated on a daily basis with a lot of pressing personal and communal needs from people from all walks of life. It is impossible to turn your back at some of these requests due to their pathetic nature. The office continues to pay school fees for hundreds of needy students from the meagre resources we mobilize. The Foundation will therefore be a welcome relief to many more individuals, families and communities with similar needs.
One of the key projects the Foundation will be embarking on as soon as it is resourced is to help salvage the Volta Lake. There is the need to educate people living along the Lake to let them understand the negative impact of some of their practices and its far-reaching effect on the survival of our children. All who are willing and able should therefore support this just course to redeem our humanity.
Togbiwoo, Mamawoo, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen; Ghana needs us. We cannot continue to be spectators of the decline of our very social and cultural fabric. We should take full responsibility as a people for the state of our country.
As we approach the elections in a few weeks I once again call on all institutions – political parties, the Electoral Commission, the security agencies, the judiciary and you the people, to work together to achieve a peaceful, free and fair election. We can guarantee the peace only if the electoral process is free and fair. Let us police each other in our quest to sustain the peace we have managed to maintain since the advent of the Fourth Republic.
I congratulate you all on the celebration of the mini-Hogbetsotso and wish you the best of celebrations at the grand Hogbetsotso at Anloga next Saturday.