The Coalition on the Right to Information, Ghana (RTI Coalition), has presented Citations of Honour to former Steering Committee members, some key supporters and institutions who have played significant roles over the years in getting Ghana’s RTI bill passed into law.
The awardees included former Steering Committee members of the Coalition Professor Kwame Karikari, Mr Akoto Ampaw, Mr Vitus Azeem, Nana Oye Lithur, Mrs Jeanette Quarcoopome and Alhaji Abdulai Alhassan.
The rest were Mrs Bernice Sam, who was the first person to head the Africa Office of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI); Hon. Alban S.K. Bagbin, the 2nd Deputy Speaker of Parliament; Mr Maxwell Kadiri of the Open Society for Justice Initiative, Nigeria; and the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) Ghana for drafting the first CSOs paper on the RTI bill for the country.
The awards were presented to them at a well-attended Civil Society Stakeholder’s Forum on the Right to Information Act, 2019 (Act 989) at the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences, Accra on Tuesday, 23rd July 2019 organised by the Coalition’s Secretariat with support from the Open Society Foundation for West Africa (OSIWA).
The stakeholder forum was meant to increase understanding of the RTI Law and its implication on governance in general amongst members of the Coalition and other stakeholders’, highlight some implementation challenges encountered on the African continent and the way forward, and to express appreciation to all for the continued support throughout the process.
It brought together representatives from the Coalition based in Accra including both the former and current steering committee members of the Coalition, the Media Coalition and other organisations that supported the advocacy for the passage of the RTI law.
Presenting the Citations of Honour to the recipients, Madam Mina Mensah, the Head of the CHRI’s Africa Office, highly commended the Coalition members including the current Steering Committee chaired by Seth Abloso, the Media Coalition on RTI, the Trades Union Congress (TUC), the Christian Council, the Muslim Council and all the other organisations for the sterling job they have done over the years to make it possible for the law to be passed.
The forum was divided into different sessions and it included expert presentations, a panel discussion on the Implication of the Act to Good Governance and Transparency, and a Question and Answer session.
Presenting an overview of the RTI Act, Mr Akoto Ampaw, a private legal practitioner, said that the law is a good one and is a victory for democracy. He called for the Ghanaian citizenry to be educated on the law since sovereignty resides in the people of Ghana.
Mr Ampaw encouraged the Coalition to pay diligent attention to the crafting of the Legislative Instrument that will help elaborate on the provisions of Act 989.
Additionally, he recommended that appointments to the yet to be established RTI Commission should be transparent and based on competence and the Commission must be supported with the requisite infrastructure to work.
The panel discussion was made up of Professor Kwame Karikari, Nana Oye Lithur, Akoto Ampaw and Dr Kojo Asante.
The panellists were happy with the passage of the RTI law and agreed that it needs to be translated into local languages for the ordinary Ghanaian in the village to understand so that the law will be meaningful in the lives of the ordinary people.
The point was also made that the Coalition’s work is just starting and so the Coalition members must not rest on their oars.
Mr Maxwell Kadiri shared experiences from other African countries such as Nigeria, Liberia, Uganda, Angola on how they implemented their RTI law.
He said although Ghana was passing its RTI law late, it affords a good opportunity for the country to learn from the experiences and mistakes of fellow African countries that already have the law.
He said the Coalition must take charge of the process and not leave it in the hands of the political elite.
Citing various examples from the continent to back his point, he advised the Coalition to build strong partnerships with the Judiciary, Parliament and other professional bodies to make the law successful.
The RTI Law was assented to by the President of Ghana in May this year. The law seeks to give effect to Article 21 (1) (f) of the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana which states that “All persons shall have the right to information subject to such qualifications and laws as are necessary for a democratic society.”