Ghana has distinguished itself as mature democracy in Africa and beyond. It has set the example for Africa’s developing democracies to follow. It has proved transitions don’t have to be bloodletting or bloody.
With the death of President Attah Mills, Ghana has shown the best way to manage political transition in Africa especially when the king dies in office. In Africa, the script is very common: When a president dies in office, nations teeter on the brink of calamity and self-destruction.
In most cases, the transition of power is shrouded in secrecy and utter darkness. In such cases, forces are quick to seize power out of the vacuum that results. Our constitutions are not expressly clear on who and how to inherit office in case of death of the incumbent leader.
Examples from this continent will suffice. Recently, when Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika died in office, some sections wanted to block the vice-president from assuming office though the Constitution dictated otherwise. Malawi stood apprehensive as the haggling went behind the scenes.
There are many examples in this continent that help illustrate the fact that managing power when presidents die in office is sure recipe for wars and instability.
To make it worse, in Africa, it is almost a treasonable offence to discuss the death of a president even when health fails the leader. We are not allowed to imagine the sickness or even death of African presidents. We are yet to be clear in our constitutions on the way to manage power in case of the black cloud robbing us of kings in office.
In Zimbabwe, for instance, though President Robert Mugabe travels for regular check-ups, discussing the subject is like talking in the market place about your mother-in-law’s private affairs.
In Ethiopia, Prime Minister Zenawi is in hospital but the media has been denied coverage of such a story. In Africa, kings or presidents do not die! We are yet to learn the basics: The coherence of a constitution as a symbol of stability and prosperity. As a continent, we need to be clear on how to manage political power to propel this land out of the current murky waters.
This is the best way to avoid the military from taking power in the name of beating sense into the leadership discourse.
Fortunately, Ghana has set the first foot forward. The best lesson is that our constitutional writs must be clear, coherent and devoid of any grey areas. In Ghana, the death of President Mills was duly announced to the nation. What followed was the assumption of the VP into office. There were no hitches as we could have expected in a typical African nation.
This was possible in Ghana because of the clarity of the Constitution that binds the people irrespective of the political, economic and social stand-points. The essence of constitutions is to breathe life into structures and institutions and not personalities.
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