Many were surprised to see a Minister of Regional Re-organisation & Development' included amongst the second batch of ministerial appointees announced by Ghana's new President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo. Visibly, for the New Patriotic Party (NPP)-led administration, the creation of such a ministry has been necessitated by the plan to create four new regions in the country beginning in 2018.
- The four proposed new regions are: the Western-North Region which will be created out of the Western Region; Ahafo Region to be taken out of the Brong Ahafo Region; Oti Region taken from the Volta Region; and the Eastern Corridor Region out of the Northern Region. The minister designate who will be charged with the task of leading this drive is Dan Kweku Botwe1.
- President Akufo-Addo has given the reason for the proposed creation of the four new regions as a wish to further the decentralisation of power in the country. In presenting the new minister, he said "the process of devolution of power will require that we look again at the regional structures of our country, all with the aim of trying to promote rapid development of Ghana." The new ministry will also work on the process of ensuring that Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs) are elected and not appointed, as is currently the case2.
- The creation of the four new regions will be a major political and electoral undertaking. The process as defined in chapter two of the constitution requires first of all for a commission of inquiry to be set up which will need to find that there is "the need and substantial demand for the creation." When this has been done, the Electoral Commission must organise a referendum in the affected region(s) at which "at least fifty percent of the persons entitled to vote cast their votes at the referendum, and of the votes cast at least eighty per cent were cast in favour3."
This announcement is a very bold move by Akufo-Addo; it will be the first change in the makeup of the regions of Ghana since the Upper West region was officially created in 1987. The mobilisation of personnel and infrastructure to educate the people on the need for the creation of these new regions will be massive and the price of failure could also be huge. However, the potential gains could also be plentiful. If accepted, the creation of new regions could change the historical political allegiance of large sections of the typically National Democratic Congress (NDC)-leaning Northern and Volta regions. If residents of the new Eastern Corridor and Oti regions feel that this move is successful, it could be a long-term blow for the main opposition party.
Not only will the creation of the new regions be a huge test for the political leadership of the country but also for the nation's institutions, especially the Electoral Commission and the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE). The NCCE is the body that is responsible for educating citizens about the importance of voting and, with such stringent requirements on participation and success of any eventual referendum, they will have their work cut out for them – turnout at the district level elections rarely exceeds 40%.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.