Debate On Government White Paper On The Republican Constitution
National Assembly, Accra
I beg to move — That the Constituent Assembly recommends to the people of Ghana, the Government proposals for a Republican Constitution set out in the White Paper issued on the 7th of March, 1960. It is with joy and pride that I appear this morning before the representatives of the people of the nation of Ghana here gathered in a Constituent Assembly, to move this motion. I do so with thankfulness to the sacrifice have made possible the victory of the Ghana we pronounce today.
It is a great day for Ghana and the Ghanaian people, for today marks the opening of our Constituent Assembly by which the people of Ghana, for the first time in our long history, are exercising their undoubted and inalienable right to enact for themselves the constitution by which they shall be governed.
Our proposals for a republican constitution set out in a White Paper, are before the Constituent Assembly for the decision of the people. This will not be the first time that we are asking our countrymen to express their views on the destiny of Ghana.
Ten years ago, by the sweeping victory of the Convention People’s Party, the representatives of the people of Ghana entered the National Assembly and decided to give a trial to a constitution not of our own making constitution which I described as bogus and fraudulent.
In the operation of that constitution, many contradictions and weaknesses emerged and I was proved right in that, it was really dishonest constitution. The people therefore, in a constitutional exercise in 1954, gave mandate for a change of that constitution and as a result, I introduced a motion on behalf of the Government which was described by the whole country as "the Motion of Destiny."
This motion called upon Britain to abdicate her position in our country in order that we as a people might be able to exercise our rights as a sovereign and independent State and manage our own affairs.
What has happened since then is history, but I think it is only right and proper to state here that from then on the struggle became more intensified. Evil forces sought in vain to undermine the national effort and at long last the people were again called upon to decide the fate of their country in an election which will go down in the annals of Ghana as marking the beginning of the end to colonial rule in this country.
The Convention People’s Party in that election repeated its remarkable successes by another resounding victory. That last victory should have hit the conscience of colonialism to leave us alone to provide our own constitution by which we should be governed.
Imperialism dies hard, however, and again another Constitution was imposed upon the people of Ghana by an Imperial power. We had no choice then but to accept it. Three years after independence, we cannot still continue to be governed by a constitution imposed upon us by a foreign power and which we have found t0 be unsuitable. It behoves the people of Ghana, therefore, that they should now draw up a constitution for themselves.
Accordingly, I ask you in this Constituent Assembly to declare by the support you give to this nation, that Ghanaians have an indisputable right to think for themselves, to decide for themselves and to act for themselves. It is unnecessary here to go into the details of the proposals of the draft constitution since all of us have doubtless made ourselves conversant with its provisions. All I will do, therefore, is to refer to one or two of its salient points.
Under the draft constitution, the people’s supreme right of amendment is acknowledged in respect of twelve fundamental provisions including the principle of one man-one vote, the realisation of African unity, exercise of powers reserved to the people, the status of Ghana as a unitary republic, and the existence of the legislative powers of Parliament. In all these twelve provisions, no one at any time, can amend or repeal any section of their substance except by a decision of the people in a referendum.
Under the proposed constitution, the offices of Head of State and Head of Government are combined to give practical interpretation to our conditions and traditional experience in the matter of Government, and to give our state authority the necessary and true Ghanaian character. The President, however, can only be a President and assume the reigns of government if and I repeat if-he can form a Cabinet of Ministers chosen from among Members of Parliament. In effect, Ghana gives the world a unique and outstanding precedent in the drawing up of a modern constitution, based on the actual democratic demands of Party politics with the background of African circumstances.
You will realise that the key-note of the constitution is one man-one vote, and African unity. In Ghana, we must refuse merely to pay lip-service to the principle of universal adult suffrage. It is a sad weakness of the colonial powers that, even though they shout so much about democracy and universal adult suffrage, when it comes to its practical application to Africa, they falter and find excuses, making qualifications and exceptions. Ghana’s voice in this regard is unequivocal: one man-one vote for the whole of Africa and we begin our charity at home.
Mr. Speaker: I would like to turn now to the question of the law and the Courts.
It is the aim of the constitution to make it clear that we accept only one system of law, and that is Ghanaian law, which is a mixture of our own indigenous African law and customs, the Common Law which we have inherited and the laws which we have made for ourselves. Under the draft constitution, the courts of Ghana will be bound to follow in principle, the decision of the Court of Appeal, but they will not be bound to follow the previous decisions of any other court anywhere in the world.
Consequently, appeals to the Privy Council will be abolished. That is to say, if this draft constitution is adopted by the people, as I have no doubt it will be, I no cases from the Appeal Court of Ghana will be transmitted to the Privy Council after the 30th of June, 1960.
The tenure of office of judges is safeguarded by the provision that they cannot be removed, unless, the National Assembly asks for their removal by a two-thirds majority of a total membership, and only on the ground of stated misbehaviour or infirmity of body or of mind. This will be an entrenched provision.
In view of the importance which the Convention People’s Party and the Government place on the continued existence of chieftaincy, the constitution specifically deals with Houses of Chiefs and provides that there shall be House of Chiefs for each Region of Ghana.
Article 14, which sets out the solemn declaration which must be made by the President and which is an entrenched provision, contains the following declaration:
"That Chieftaincy in Ghana should be guaranteed and preserved." This sentence from the President’s declaration can only be removed, if the people so vote in a referendum.
In regard to the Civil Service and Armed Forces, it is intended to expand this draft constitution in the light of proposed new legislation, and the Constituent Assembly will have an opportunity of dealing with the matter in the course of its work.
In enacting a constitution of this kind, it is important that we should remember clearly our obligations not only to Ghana, but also to Africa as a whole. No nation can afford to live in isolation and hope to preserve its sovereignty and independence in the present circumstances of the world. To ensure peace and security for themselves, the most powerful nations are feverishly forming themselves into power blocs. If this is necessary for their survival, how much more so is it for us in Africa?
This is the time for Africans to realise that we must swim or sink together, that our salvation lies in our own hands and that it is only unity — and I mean real unity in the sense of union of our states and territories as they become independent which will provide the security and progress which Africa so much needs.
The union of African States and territories is the only one weapon in our hands for defeating the new Colonial tactics aimed at balkanizing our continent and for safeguarding peace and security in Africa. That is why we are prepared to surrender the sovereignty of Ghana, in the supreme interest of such a union. Accordingly, you will find in Article 2 of the draft constitution that Parliament is entrusted with the right, at any time that a union of African states becomes possible, to surrender the sovereignty of Ghana in whole or in part so that Ghana can merge in the Union of African States.
This Union of African States is an objective in which I am sure all Members of this Constituent Assembly share. It is an aspiration which we share also with nearly all, if not all, states and territories in Africa. Immediately after the Republic of Guinea was inaugurated, Ghana and Guinea entered into a solemn undertaking to form a Union of the two states. The aim is to achieve a complete union — real political union — between the two countries which will form the nucleus of the greater union of all African States which we hope to attain.
As you are aware, there was agreement between the Presidents of Liberia and Guinea and myself at our Conference in Saniquelle last year to plan for a community of African States. It is my hope and expectation that this year concrete and practical positive steps will be taken to achieve progress towards the Union of African States.
I believe that another major step in attaining this objective of greater African unity could be taken by working towards the establishment of an African Free Trade area. I realise that such an area might initially be an agreement between as many independent African states as possible to permit free trade in certain products and commodities. Within such a framework, I believe that the states concerned would quickly find other areas of common economic interest and that a large and effective area of free trade could be built up to the advantage of each of the member states, and to the continent of Africa as a whole. This is an objective which we must pursue in consultation with the other independent African states, particularly those in West Africa.
A danger to African unity is entanglement in the military politics of foreign powers. Any defence agreement between an African state and any state outside Africa compromises, by its very nature, the freedom of action of the African state, and undermines its independence and sovereignty. It is inimical to the progress of African unity and prejudices the attainment of the objective we are all striving for, namely, the Union of African States. Worse still, it brings the cold war to Africa, for what military advantage one power gains, we can be certain the opposing power will attempt to neutralise it. Our hope of achieving economic, social, cultural and political strength through unity of action lies in our keeping ourselves free from all defence and political commitments which are not entirely African in complexion.
One aspect of unity which we have immediately begun to realise is unity in the field of Trade Unionism — by the creation of the All African Trade Union Federation.
In the past, African Trade Unions have been subjected to much uncertainty by the constant efforts of foreign trade union organisations to rope them into their respective spheres of influence and ideology. This cannot be in the best interests of African workers. For our continent to achieve the union that must make the African great and respected, the working class must be in the vanguard of the assault on poverty, ignorance and disease. In our solemn resolve to help further the development of a Union of African States, the Ghana Republic must express her attachment to the cause of the working class and peasant of our continent. The All African Trade Union Federation has a very important part to play in the struggle for African emancipation.
At this stage, it is pertinent to refer to an important matter in connection with this great idea of African unity which bears immediately on Ghana’s relations with Togoland.
One characteristic of the imperialist revenge on Africa is the heartless manner in which the imperialists and colonialists drew artificial and arbitrary boundaries through African lands, forcibly breaking up families and tribes and bring in; much misery and suffering to the indigenous people. One such unedifying example is the case of the Ewe people, split between Ghana and Togoland. The Convention People’s Party and the Government, ever since the struggle for independence started, have viewed with deep sympathy, and identified themselves actively with, the legitimate fight of the Ewes to re-unite. Ewe unification formed the clarion call of the present leaders of Togoland.
I do not and cannot see that any set of leaders would be capable of such gross betrayal of a whole people by the volteface tactics of Mr. Sylvanus Olympio, when unification of the suffering Ewes is now within reach. The Convention People’s Party and the Government will keep faith with the Ewe people a separates brother from brother, nephew from uncle, grandfather from grandchild.
We intend to pursue this objective by all legitimate means available to us, including negotiations. We must make it clear that African problems can only be satisfactorily solved by Africans and that it is preposterous for anyone to think that such inhuman artificial barriers can be guaranteed as unalterable. We shall alter them by the will of the people.
Posterity shall bear witness to our sincerity and integrity in this matter and we, in humble duty to our people, will remember our responsibility in this regard. Finally, l need hardly stress that in this new venture of our young nation, success depends upon the maximum effort on the part of each and everyone of us in the discharge of our duties. No nation in the world can afford to rely solely on governmental or government sponsored organisations. In the era which we are about to enter, we must determine to build voluntary organisations, in their numbers, organisations imbued with a sense of civic responsibility and inspired by a consciousness of civil diligence.
With our Five-Year Development Plan in progress, Ghana stands at the cross- roads to bid good-bye to the forces of degradation, economic instability and social insecurity. The future holds for us great promise of success and glory. Our industrialisation plans, when translated into practical achievements, will confer on us the right to live and enjoy life as men, needing nothing, asking for nothing, giving of our bounty in aid of our brothers and having great faith in our ability to survive.
No African State can stand on her own. We have to stand together or make Africa the pawn of the imperialist and Colonial powers. The stubborn nature of the new Colonialism was evidenced by the explosion of the French Atomic bomb in the Sahara against the conscience of mankind and the resolutions of the General Assembly of the United Nations. The flout of world opinion by France must convince us in Africa that we must stand together to resist imperialism and colonialism in its naked or hidden form. The African peoples will never forgive France for a repetition of the atomic test in the Sahara.
To prevent this, we have decided to call a Conference of Positive Action for Peace and Security in Africa to mobilise world opinion against the horrors of French atomic tests in Africa. Ghana has a duty to speak for Africa and we take this course in the full conviction that we, in co-operation with other African States, are making our contribution to the future of mankind.
Now, Mr. Speaker and Members of the Constituent Assembly: in exercise of our undoubted right to appoint for ourselves the means whereby we shall be governed, and in sympathy with, and loyalty to our fellow countrymen of Africa, and in the hope that we may by our actions this day help to further the development of a Union of African States and territories and in a spirit of friendship and peace with all other peoples of the world, the Convention People’s Party, the Government and I commend to the, representatives gathered in this our Constituent Assembly, the acceptance of the draft Constitution for the consideration of the nation.
Mr. Speaker, I beg to move.