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Akufo-Addo on CSOs: The President was performing for an audience – Bright Simons


The Honorary Vice President of IMANI Africa, Bright Simons has stated that he doubts the sincerity of President Akufo-Addo’s criticism of the operations of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the country.

His comment is in response to statements made by President Akufo-Addo when he met with the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition at the Jubilee House on the country’s fight against corruption.

The President was reported to have expressed concern about the politicisation of alleged corruption-related issues but said he would continue to pay heed to the disquiets and suggestions on the matter to strengthen the fight against the canker.

“It is unfortunate that the perception is that the commitment of government is waning, especially when two or three facts are taken into account,” President Akufo-Addo stated.

Speaking on Joy News’ Newsfile on Saturday, Bright Simons explained that he formed this opinion because the New Patriotic Party (NPP) has been known for employing CSO-type engagement, hence the President would only make such submission if the activities of CSOs do not support the interest of his government.

“Unless you are not a democrat, you don’t understand democratic participation, it will be very difficult to, with a straight face, hold that CSOs do not contribute remarkably, extraordinarily to the progress of our democracy and to the quality of our democratic institution, which is why I say that the President was performing for an audience.”

“That is surprising giving the President’s own party [NPP] has been a prolific user of CSO-type engagement with the political space in Ghana. [We have] Let My Vote Count, Alliance of Accountable Governance. The President’s party is one of the well-known pioneers for setting up politically aligned think tanks like the Danquah Institute. It dates back even before the transition into multiparty rule with the Young Elephants Club with a whole lot of civil society type engagement.

“So if the President all of a sudden feels uncomfortable about the work of the CSOs, I’d presume that it is because in some instances, those activities are not aligned with his political interest. It is natural to expect that a political actor will not be too happy if there are other actors that are hell-bent on putting his government under strict scrutiny. Some of which might have political cost, so we are not that surprised. We just don’t believe that he is sincere in his concern about CSOs given the history.”

Adding that “we just think that it is understandable that if CSOs are undertaking activities that perhaps will have significant political cost on the President’s party, it is natural we will expect him to fight back.

Mr Bright Simons further explained that the majority of CSOs in the country are not politically active. The majority of them, he said, are community-based organisations focused on voluntary initiatives.

“A bunch of them are involved in cooperative type economic activities. We have CSOs that are primarily hometown associations. There is a wide diversity of CSOs. Within that wide spectrum, maybe one per cent of them are politically active. The one per cent that are politically active, the vast majority of them are still locally focused. So when it comes to nationally-focused, politically-active CSOs, we are talking about a very minute fraction of CSOs in this country. I’m not sure that when the President has concerns about CSOs, he has concerns about the 99 per cent of CSOs that are generally community-focused.”

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