Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Kofi Annan urges EC: Assert your independence

Busumuru Kofi Annan, the immediate past Secretary-General of the United Nations, has called on the Electoral Commission (EC) to assert its independence and enforce the electoral rules without fear or favour during this year's general election.

He said the independence of the EC was particularly important this year following some events in Africa, especially Kenya and Zimbabwe.

Mr Annan gave the advice at the 60th anniversary special congregation held at the University of Ghana, Legon yesterday, which also coincided with his investiture as Chancellor of the University.

The occasion also witnessed the conferment of honorary degrees on 16 personalities who have distinguished themselves in various categories.

The oath of office was administered by President John Agyekum Kufuor at the ceremony, which had in attendance, academic and administrative staff of the university, alumni, members of the diplomatic corps, flag bearers of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and Prof. John Evans Atta-Mills respectively, ministers of state, Members of Parliament and chiefs, among other dignitaries.

Mr Annan also reminded the country's political leaders of their responsibility to ensure that the December elections were conducted in a free and fair manner.

He said he had no doubt that the elections would be conducted smoothly and in an atmosphere of peace, but asked the political leaders to accept the code of conduct for the elections and play by the rules.

He, however, advised them to be mindful of what they say, saying that while the use of words could lead, console and inspire, they could also hurt, incite and provoke.

The former United Nations Secretary-General was hopeful that the people of Ghana would be observing the conduct of the politicians and when the elections were held in a peaceful manner, the people would have demonstrated that democracy in the country had been consolidated.

He said it was important for the media to exercise their freedom to operate with responsibility and good judgement.

Mr Annan, however, stressed the importance of education and said no country would progress without recognising the role of universities, whose roles among others are to equip and enrich people with knowledge and skills to help with the socio-economic development of the country

President Kufuor said the university had conferred the honour on a truly deserving son of the land and that a chancellor of a university should notably be a trustworthy and highly respected individual of proven ability, whose association with the institution was intended to raise its prestige and heighten its profile.

He said the chancellor had served the world with distinction and had returned home laden with many honours and brought honour to Ghana.

"The accolade conferred on you today can therefore be considered as a justifiable acknowledgement of your services to mankind," the President stated, adding that he was confident that under Mr Annan's guidance, the university would achieve greater heights and shine even more.

Mr Kufuor announced a 60th birthday present of GH¢60 million to the university which is to be disbursed in instalments of GH¢6 million for the next 10 years.

He suggested that a quarter of the grant should be used to endow a chair for the study of Responsible Democratic Governance, as a necessary basis for sound economic and social development.

The balance of the grant, he noted, should be shared with a further quarter to support the general budget of the university and the remaining half for the establishment of an institute for the study of Environment and Sanitation Sciences.

Mr Tony Oteng Gyasi, Chairman of the University Council, said the congregation marked the high point in the calendar of activities celebrating the 60th anniversary of the existence of the university.

He recalled that on August 11, 1961, the then President of the first Republic, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, gave presidential assent to an Act of Parliament, which established the free, autonomous and sovereign University of Ghana.

"This is the reason for our choice of today, August 11, as the high point of our celebration," he explained.

Prof. Clifford Nii Boi Tagoe, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana, said as a university where young and idealistic minds engaged with older minds in the battle of ideas, things did get out of hand and also occasionally, in the pursuit of their legitimate demand for improved conditions of service, the staff unions flexed their muscles and in both instances, the university became the subject of banner headlines.

He pleaded with Mr Annan that when these things occurred, he should take them with the tolerance, forbearance and equanimity that he was well known for.

Those who were honoured with the degrees included Lawrence A. Boadi, an illustrious international linguist; Dr G. R. Woodman, a lawyer and researcher in Law, and Selena Axelrod Winsnes, a famous historian on slavery along the west coast of Africa, for distinguished scholarship.

Raymond Bagulo Bening was honoured for his contribution to tertiary education, while Kwabena Adjei was honoured for his contribution to industry.

Justice Georgina Theodora Wood, Dr Mohammed Ibn Chambas and Dr Paul Acquah were honoured as alumni of whom the university was especially proud.

Mr J.H. Mensah, Robert Lee, Sheik Nuhu Sharubutu and Docia Naki Kisseih were honoured for their distinguished contribution to public service.

The nominees for the Aggrey-Fraser-Guggisberg Memorial lectures were Mary Robinson, Paul Boateng and James D. Wolfensohn, none of whom was present but would have their conferment at the appropriate time.

Because the university does not confer degrees posthumously, a minute of silence was observed for the late Peter Ala Adjetey, who was also nominated for distinguished contribution to public service.

Source: Daily Graphic

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