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John Mahama, Haruna & Sam George stand up Akufo-Addo’s daggers On Ghana’s democracy

president’s executive secretary, Nana Asante Bediatuo

The President, Nana Akufo-Addo, is being bashed left and right for drawing daggers on the country’s fledgling democracy, with many expressing grave concerns over a letter from the Presidency, warning Parliament not to transmit the Bill on Human Sexual Rights and Family Values to the Jubilee House for assent.

Former Minority Leader and Member of Parliament (MP) for Tamale South, Haruna Iddrisu, described the warning which was contained in a letter dated March 18, 2024, the Office of the President wrote to Parliament, urging it to desist from sending the anti-LGBTQ+ bill to President Akufo-Addo for assent, as a significant threat to Ghana’s democracy.

This decision, as stated by Nana Bediatuo Asante, the Secretary to the President, is based on the acknowledgement of two pending applications for an order of interlocutory injunction before the Supreme Court.

Aside Haruna Iddrisu, the flagbearer of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) John Dramani Mahama and MP for Ningo-Prampram, one of the sponsors of the anti-LGBT+ Bill, Sam Nartey George, have separately, raised concerns regarding the President’s directive to halt the transmission of the anti-gay bill to him for assent.

Speaking to journalists, Haruna Iddrisu, said the directive is a reflection of President Akufo-Addo’s quest to dominate other organs of government and called on the public and all other stakeholders to rally to prevent the president from overstepping his mandate.

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“I am unable to sleep because this is a monumental threat to Ghana’s democracy and a monumental threat to Parliament as an institution. By Article 93, we are clothed with legislative authority and legislative mandate.

This letter only reflects President Akufo-Addo’s quest for predominance over other organs of state and that is unacceptable and must be fought by all persons who love democracy and who cherish the principles and values of the 1992 Constitution.

“The framers of our Constitution endowed Ghana with a separation of powers, the executive, the legislature, the judiciary, and a division of powers. It endowed us that Parliament shall be responsible for making laws and what powers does the president’s secretary have in writing to the Clerk of Parliament and not the president himself in writing directly to the Speaker of Parliament as is required by our standing order so that officially this can be read as communication from the president? So ideally, this paper means nothing and must be ignored by the clerk.”

The presidency had cited two pending applications for an order of interlocutory injunction against the Bill before the Supreme Court.

He disclosed that the Attorney-General had informed President Akufo-Addo via a letter dated March 18, 2024, regarding the pending legal actions.

“It has come to the attention of this Office that while the President and other senior officials of the Presidency were at Peduase for a Cabinet Retreat on Thursday, March 14, 2024, you attempted to submit the Human Sexual Rights and Family Values Bill, 2024 (the “Bill”) to Jubilee House for the President to signify his assent or otherwise to the Bill.

“This Office is aware of two pending applications for an order of interlocutory injunction, both filed on March 7, 2024, in the Supreme Court in Dr. Amanda Odoi v. The Speaker of Parliament and The Attorney-General (J1/13/2023) and Richard Sky v. The Parliament of Ghana and The Attorney-General (31/9/2024), respectively, to restrain you and Parliament from transmitting the Bill to the President and, also, to restrain the President from signifying his assent to the Bill, pending the final determination of the matter,” part of the statement said.

“It is the understanding of this Office that both applications have also been duly served on Parliament. Therefore, it would be improper for you to transmit the Bill to the President and equally improper for this Office to receive the Bill until the Supreme Court determines the matters raised in the suits,” it added.

The Office, further stated that it is established law that during the pendency of an interlocutory injunction application, the status quo ante should be maintained, and no action should be taken that could prejudice the injunctive relief sought and undermine the authority of the court.

“In the circumstances, you are kindly requested to cease and desist from transmitting the Bill to the President until the matters before the Supreme Court are resolved,” it added.

But the Ningo-Prampram MP, who had been a key advocate of the anti-LGBT+ Bill, in a Facebook post, described the statement as not just “shameful and disgraceful” but speaks to the fact that when it comes to his words and promises, they are mere fluff and flowery English.

“Dear Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, this is not just shameful and disgraceful but speaks to the fact that when it comes to your words and promises, they are mere fluff and flowery English. Once again, you prove to the Ghanaian people that you are not to be trusted,” Sam George, shared.

Mr Mahama, on his ‘Building Ghana Tour’, criticised the Presidency, arguing that the President’s Secretary lacks the authority to issue such directives, as Parliament operates independently.

He emphasised that, the action showed disrespect towards Parliament and its Clerk, undermining the principles of good governance.

Mahama affirmed the NDC’s commitment to adhering to laws and proper constitutional processes if elected.

“I woke up to see a letter from the president’s secretary to parliament warning them not to transmit the anti-gay bill to the presidency for signing. The president’s secretary doesn’t have that authority to write such letter because parliament is constitutionally independent.

“You can say that you are waiting for the Supreme Court’s ruling, but you cannot tell the clerk not to submit the bill to the presidency. The letter smacks of disrespect, he’s acting as if he has power more than Parliament. It doesn’t augur well for good governance. As for us NDC, we abide by laws.”

The Herald last week broke the news that the seat of government; The Jubilee House, President Akufo-Addo, has directed that nobody from his office, should receive the Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Values Bill, also known as the anti-LGBTQI+ bill passed by Parliament on February 27, 2024.

On three occasions, Parliament tried to submit the Bill to the Presidency for Mr Akufo-Addo’s assent, but the officials from the legislative arm of government were sent away with the document.

Interestingly, the President had accepted the Witchcraft Accusations Bill and legislation against the death penalty which, like the anti-LGBTQI+ bill, were passed by Parliament through a private member’s sponsorship, but had not received a presidential assent on the claim that they impose a financial burden on the public purse.

The bill imposes a prison sentence of up to three years for anyone convicted of identifying as LGBTQI+. It also imposes a maximum five-year jail term for forming or funding LGBTQ+ groups.

This paper’s sources had indicated that Cyril Kwabena Oteng Nsiah, the Clerk of Parliament, has made several attempts to deliver the bill to the President to append his signature to come into effect as a law, but nobody was available at the Presidency to receive the bill from him.

The Herald’s checks showed that the last attempt made by the Clerk of Parliament was March 11, 2024, but was told that the President through the Secretary to the President, Nana Asante Bediatuo, has directed that nobody from his office should receive the bill prohibiting LGBTQ+ activities.

The bill, if assented by the president, would punish those who take part in LGBTQ sexual acts, as well as those who promote the rights of gay, lesbian or other non-conventional sexual or gender identities with time in prison.

The bill also proposes a jail term of up to 10 years for anyone involved in LGBTQ+ advocacy campaigns aimed at children.

It also encourages the public to report members of the LGBTQ+ community to authorities for “necessary action”.

Interestingly, Amnesty International (AI) and its partner, Civil Society Organisations (CSO’s) Centre, led by its country director, Genevieve Partington, have paid a courtesy call on the office of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General to discuss some human rights issues in Ghana.

On the Witchcraft Accusations Bill, she expressed concern with the continued prevalence of witchcraft accusations in Ghana, saying “such accusations often lead to violence, discrimination and human rights abuses against innocent individuals, particularly elderly women.”

She called on President Akufo-Addo to protect people from being physically and mentally abused because of witchcraft accusations.

She urged the government to take decisive action to address this issue, “including implementing comprehensive awareness campaigns, providing support services for victims, and enforcing laws to hold perpetrators accountable.”

On Death Penalty, Francis Nyantakyi, board chair of AI Ghana, expressed concern on the President’s refusal to sign the Armed Forces bill Amendment to abolish the death penalty.

He said the death penalty was violating fundamental human rights and the President’s refusal to sign the bill into law threatened to undermine Ghana’s progress in upholding human rights standards.

He further inquired on the necessary steps to take to reintroduce the bill to parliament and how Non-Governmental Organisations could support it to ensure its final abolishment.

He expressed the need to commute the sentences of those on death row to life sentences and inquired about the steps to be taken and how CSOs could support them.

Other human rights issues such as prison conditions and overcrowding were highlighted by the partner CSOs in attendance.

They inquired on the progress made so far on the Community Sentencing Bill to reduce overcrowding in prisons and improve methods of reform for offenders.

Madam Partington, urged the office of the AG to take immediate action to address those human rights concerns, adding that upholding human rights was not only a legal obligation but also a moral imperative that defined our commitment to justice and equality for all.

She expressed AI’s readiness to collaborate with the government and other stakeholders to advance human rights in Ghana and ensure that every individual lived with dignity and respect.

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