By Jeffrey Haynes
Corruption is one of Ghana’s biggest problems. Corruption undermines democracy by encouraging citizens to be distrustful about the motives and effectiveness of elected governments. Some in Ghana compare the country with Rwanda and contend that the latter is a developmental model for Ghana to emulate
Pastor Kwasi Asante Annor, General Manager of the Church of Pentecost’s television station, PENT TV, who recently visited Rwanda, expresses enthusiasm for the country’s development, claiming Rwanda is a model for Ghana’s ‘transformation’. Rwanda’s development approach is expressed in what is known as the ‘C-5 model’: Courageous Leadership, Compliance, Courtesy, Comportment, and Compassion. Paul Kagame, president of Rwanda for three decades, is said to be loved by all Rwandansfor his ‘courageous leadership’. Pastor Annor draws comparisons with Ghana where, he claims, ‘even secondary school students have the effrontery to use bad language against the president and video record it because they had gone to write an examination and struggled’
Ghana has been a democracy for 30 years and, according to the authoritative American non-governmental organisation, Freedom House, it is a ‘free’ country. Freedom House categories Rwanda as ‘not free’: an autocracy with very few democratic characteristics or pretensions. The Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) government, led by Kagame, has ruled the country since 1994, when it ousted forces responsible for that year’s genocide and ended thecountry’s civil war. Kagame’s regime introducedboth stability and economic growth and reduced public corruption. The RPF government also ruthlessly suppresses political dissent with pervasive surveillance, intimidation, torture, and renditions or suspected assassinations of exiled dissidents (https://freedomhouse.org/country/rwanda).
Rwanda is both an autocracy and a ‘champion in fighting corruption’. According to a 2018 report by Claudia BaezCamargoand TharcisseGatwafor the Basel Institute on Governance, ‘petty corruption as a normalised practice has been effectively eliminated in Rwanda’. This has been achieved by enforcing ‘behaviours associated [with] Rwandan national identity’: respect for ‘the rule of law … reinforced with harsh punishments for those found guilty of corruption’. As a result, ‘Rwandan citizens can generally obtain the services they seekwithout having to resort to bribery, gift giving or favouritism’. In addition, ‘public officials are tightly monitored by participatingin ‘Imihigo’, that is,an ‘annual contract with the public authorities’ which ‘set personal and institutional performance goals… If commitments are not fulfilled’ it is a ‘serious dishonour’. ‘Digitisation of all government processes’, including paying taxes and the transfer of money to and from public officials, closes ‘typical avenues of soliciting bribes or stealing public funds are very difficult to pursue’. Finally, ‘the need for public officials to co-opt and demand bribes is diminished by proper pay and processes’ (https://baselgovernance.org/sites/default/files/2019-04/rwanda.informalgovernance.country_report.pdf).
Transparency International, a global movement working in over 100 countries to end the injustice of corruption, ranks Rwanda 54/180 and Ghana 72/180 in a global ‘league table’ of least and most corrupt countries (https://www.transparency.org/en/cpi/2022). This indicates that Rwanda is regarded by Transparency International as ‘less corrupt’ than Ghana. Is this achieved by a denial of human rights, including democracy? And would Ghanaians want to live under a regime which reduces corruption at the cost of human rights denials?
In its periodic surveys, Afrobarometer assesses Ghanaians’ attitudes to corruption. Afrobarometer is not allowed to survey public opinion in Rwanda on any topic, including corruption. Freedom of speech in Rwanda is so constrained that Afrobarometer cannot run a valid survey, leaving the organisation ‘without data to counter the government’s claim that national consultations revealed a mere 10(!) very brave souls who opposed the extension of President Kagame’s term in office’ (https://www.afrobarometer.org/articles/africas-largest-public-opinion-survey-under-threat-heres-what-you-can-do-about-it/).
Recent Afrobarometer data indicate that democracy is not working well for many Ghanaians for several reasons, including widespread perceptions of serious petty and state level corruption, pessimism about the direction of national development, and disbelief that successive governments have the capacity or will to deal with these problems. In 2023, Afrobarometer found that ‘77% of Ghanaians say the level of corruption in the country increased during the previous year’ and ‘87% of citizens think Ghana is heading in the wrong direction’’. Afrobarometer asked respondents the following question: ‘How well or badly would you say the current government is ‘fighting corruption in government?’ The response was: Very badly: 33.5% Fairly badly: 21.0%.
Afrobarometer data identify two pressing issues for Ghanaians – increasing corruption and the belief that the nation is going in the ‘wrong direction’. Nevertheless, a large majority of Ghanaians (75.9%) expressed the view that ‘democracy is preferable to any other kind of government’. This implies that the concept of democracy is greatly valued while at the same time many Ghanaians believe that democracy is not working well for them (https://www.afrobarometer.org/countries/ghana/).
Afrobarometer also asked Ghanaians the following question: ‘In your opinion, what are the most important problems facing this country that government should address?’: Management of the economy 22.3% Unemployment 18.9% Infrastructure/roads 11.7% Water supply 8.8% Corruption 5.8%. These responses indicate that Ghanaians see the four most important problems facing the country – economic management, unemployment, infrastructure/roads, and water supply – as development shortfalls, issues for the government to resolve. Corruption is the fifth most important problem. Like other development shortfalls, fighting corruption is seen as primarily an issue for government to address, highlighted by sustained public pressure on whoever is in power to ensure political commitment to combating corruption (https://theconversation.com/does-democracy-fuel-corruption-most-ghanaians-dont-think-so-201789).
What can we conclude about the viability and desirability of the Rwandan C-5 model for Ghana? Is it the way forward for the country, to enhance development and to diminish corruption? The answer depends on the value that one attaches to democracy and attendant freedoms. Rwandans live in an environment that is less corrupt, less free and more policed than Ghanaians. The latter highly value democracy and it seems unlikely that many would trade less freedom for more development. The crucial point is that democracy must work better, so that public institutions have the capacity and desire to diminish corruption so that Ghanaians value more highly their elected governments.