Was a time when Local Government was all we had – in the form of Village Councils. That lasted from Emancipation to when Burnham decided he had a better idea to “mould the nation” – as he installed himself as dictator. In his 1980 constitution, he ordered there be ten regions for “administrative purposes” – supposedly forming a second-tier government. Then below that “Local government” formed a third tier with three types of council: municipal, neighbourhood and Amerindian village.
He grandly announced that “local government is a vital aspect of democracy, and shall be organised so as to involve as many people as possible in the task of managing and developing the communities in which they live.” Yet he abolished Village Councils on the Coast and cobbled together dozens of villages strung along our public road as “NDCs”, that would be closer to the “people”!! Can you imagine a councillor in, say, Parika grappling with garbage problems at Greenwich Park?? The “people” were involved all right – involved in struggling for survival under the jackboots of his tenfold-increased army!!
The first real LGE elections weren’t held until 1994 – after the PPP had been returned to power via the first free and fair elections since 1964!! THIRTY YEARS!! And that’s when Hamilton Green pulled a fast one on the PPP. He’d been thrown out of the PNC by Hoyte, and he formed his Good and Green Guyana (GGG) for the Georgetown Municipal Elections. There was a 3-way split, with GGG coming out on top, and they decided that each party would have one year as Mayor. Ranwell Jordan of the PNC went first (1995-1996); Green went second – and refused to hand over to the PPP after his year!! He continued for another two decades!! Well, this time, the way the cookie’s crumbling, the PNC might be in for a surprise!! With the PPP getting daily endorsements from erstwhile PNC leaders in the Big Mango, the PNC might just be left holding the stick this time around!! Payback’s a bitch!
But apart from the usual gamesmanship, your Eyewitness hopes this LGE – in the midst of our oil-fuelled development trajectory – will at long last spur movement towards the promised raison d’etre of local government: empowering the people!! For one, he feels that with the exponential growth of the size of villages in each of the regions, village councils will once again become the fulcrum of democratic expression. Meaning that these NDCs should be tailored so that local issues be confronted by locals!!
Another focus ought to be the provision of more services by the local bodies – even if the residents have to pay for them. Like, for instance, garbage collection. Power in the hands of the people!!
…or dead end??
While the rest of the world’s opening up their minds to the reality of human differences that MUST be accommodated – there’s been a massive step backwards in Uganda. There, President Musuveni just signed into law an even more draconian anti-LGBTQ bill than the one of 2014, which outraged the world. Since sanctions had been slapped on the country then, it means they’re prepared for a stand-off!!
While the new law does not forbid “identifying” as gay, it introduces a 20-year sentence for “promoting” homosexuality; that is, participating in same-sex activity. It also contains a provision that would punish “aggravated homosexuality” – same-sex sexual acts with children or disabled individuals – with the death penalty and life for “serial” homosexual acts!! Sending a strong message to the outside world, Parliament Speaker Anita Among said, “With a lot of humility, I thank my colleagues, the Members of Parliament, for withstanding all the pressure from bullies and doomsday conspiracy theorists in the interest of our country”!!
Your Eyewitness sees Ghana as our twin for so many reasons. They struck oil in 2010, but spent so lavishly, they had to go twice to the IMF for debt relief since then. In the latest, they just received US$600 million of US$3 billion!