Ghana: Catholic Bishops' Confab Sensitises Citizenry On Referendum

The Ghana Catholic Bishops' Conference has held a multi-stakeholder workshop to sensitise the citizenry on the upcoming referendum on the election of Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs), slated for December.

It sought to promote effective and efficient representation, accountable local governance, participation of political parties in local government elections and election of MMDCEs instead of appointment by the president.

The workshop, which was organised by the Catholic Bishops' Conference with funding from Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, is expected not only to deepen democracy at local level, but also make MMDCEs more accountable to the people of the district.

However, as Article 55 (3) of the 1992 Constitution prohibits political party sponsorship of candidates for elections to assemblies or local government units, the government proposes a referendum to amend the constitution to allow election of members of assemblies and MMDCEs based on political party representation.

Bishop Philip Naameh, Chairman of the Ghana Catholic Bishops' Conference, in a speech read on his behalf, said when successful at constitutional amendment, the election of MMDCEs would mark a turning point in local governance and development.

"Even though a referendum is expected to take place in December, little is heard of it in public discourse. The Ghana Catholic Bishops' Conference finds it rather worrying such an important national exercise does not receive the level of participation in the discussions leading to this important national exercise, which, if successful, will lead to amendment of the entrenched article of the constitution.

"The Ghana Catholic Bishops' Conference supports efforts of the government and stakeholders that enhance capacity of the citizenry to make decisions that affect their lives and communities. As we have done in the past, we'll offer our support to create awareness and understanding of issues during referendum, so that people can make informed choices and decisions.

"Our network of parishes and outstations across the country will continue to provide platforms, opportunities for awareness creation and discussion on merits and demerits of proposals. Our clergy and lay faithful are encouraged, through our structures to participate actively in debates and discussions leading to the referendum," Bishop Naameh assured.

Professor Ebow Bondzi-Simpson, Rector, Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), indicated that the bill for the referendum on election of MMDCEs was limited in scope, and there were still ancillary clauses in the constitution, such as appointment of MMDCEs and 30 per cent of assembly members by the president needed to be dealt with. -GNA

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