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As You Come Back Home from Ghana

Dec 8, 2008, 5:18 AM

One of the many benefits of visiting new places is picking up fresh ideas for doing things, so we hope that the Gambian parliamentarians who are in Accra to observe the Ghanaian presidential election are learning fast. We hope that the boss of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), also on the ground to see things for himself, isequally keeping his eyes on development. We would like the Gambian delegation to observe the interplay between the opposition and the ruling party and learn a few lessons from them.

Our delegation together with the IEC strong man should try to introduce the culture of presidential debate in the next presidential election. The debates will enable the presidential candidates to state their manifestos as well as give the electorate an opportunity to ask them questions about how they intend to govern the state. They electorate will then be able to judge for themselves which candidate has better ideas on how to move the country forward. We must have in place a mechanism for vetting our presidential candidates. Since they are going to lead the people, the people should be allowed in a public forum to scrutinise to see whether they are deserving of their confidence. We also hope that candidates in this election and all forthcoming elections accept defeat and not resort to ugly tactics if they fail to win the support of the people. In the interests of democracy it is also vital that the opposition has access to the state media at all times and not just at election time. Thos will allow the people to know more fully who they wish to vote for come election time.

Our delegation should also learn from the Ghanaians the value of term limit. After serving two terms, John Kuffour has bowed out gracefully, giving somebody else a chance to run for the presidency in Ghana. This is healthy for democracy. This has been the trend in the sub region - and we would be wise to carry on with it. When Obasanjo tried to run for a third term, the Nigerians made him bite the dust. The Nigerians taught him that he had no monopoly of statesmanship. Our delegation should think hard and long about this issue of term limit and see what they can do about it.