Most Ghanaians see inequities in how laws are applied in the Country

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Most Ghanaians believe their President must be made to explain government’s spending to Parliament and that he (the President) must always obey the laws of the country even if he thinks they are wrong. This is according to the latest Afrobarometer Survey conducted by the Center for Democratic Governance (CDD Ghana).

It said a large majority of the people believe that citizens must obey the government at all times irrespective of whether they voted for the President and political party in power or not.

They also believe that the police have the right to demand obedience to laws, the tax authorities have the right to make people pay taxes, just as they believe the courts have the rights to make decisions that people always have to abide by.

Details of the Survey is below:


Until January 7, 1993, Ghana’s post-independence history was checkered at best. The country’s first three democratic regimes never completed their first terms in office, ending in military coups d’états and the suspension of the constitutions underpinning their existence. The military regimes that ruled the country were largely autocratic and characterized by human-rights breaches and disregard for the rule of law.

After the 11-year military rule of the Provisional National Defense Council, Ghana again became a multiparty democracy on January 7, 1993, giving life to the 1992 Fourth Republican Constitution. Since then, the country has managed seven multiparty elections, with peaceful transfers of power in 2000, 2008, and 2016.

To promote democratic ideals and the rule of law, the 1992 Constitution provides for the separation of judiciary, legislative, and executive powers and the establishment of independent constitutional bodies, such as the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, to check abuses of citizens’ rights. Ghana’s progress in ensuring the rule of law is reflected in its World Justice Project Rule of Law Index ranking as the second-best performer (after South Africa) in sub-Saharan Africa, at No. 44 out of 113 countries worldwide (World Justice Project, 2016).

The 2017 Afrobarometer survey in Ghana suggests that citizens value and insist on the rule of law in the country but see important inequities in how the law is applied.

Afrobarometer survey

Afrobarometer is a pan-African, non-partisan research network that conducts public attitude surveys on democracy, governance, economic conditions, and related issues across more than 35 countries in Africa. Six rounds of surveys were conducted between 1999 and 2015, and Round 7 surveys (2016/2018) are currently underway. Afrobarometer conducts face-to-face interviews in the language of the respondent’s choice with nationally representative samples.

The Afrobarometer team in Ghana, led by the Ghana Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana), interviewed 2,400 adult Ghanaians between September 9 and 25, 2017. A sample of this size yields results with a margin of error of +/-2% at a 95% confidence level. Previous surveys have been conducted in Ghana in 1999, 2002, 2005, 2008, 2012, and 2014.

Key findings

  • Large majorities of Ghanaians endorse the rule of law and the legitimacy of key state enforcement bodies, affirming that:
  • Parliament should ensure that the president explains government spending (75%);
  • The president must obey the laws and courts, even if he thinks they are wrong (75%);
  • Citizens should obey the government, regardless of whether they voted for it (90%); and
  • The police have the right to demand obedience to laws (88%), the tax authorities have the right to make people pay taxes (87%), and the courts have the right to make decisions that people always have to abide by (78%).
  • Three-fourths of Ghanaians also believe that in practice, the president “rarely” or “never” ignores Parliament (76%) or the courts and laws of the country (75%) to act the way he wants.
  • Notwithstanding these endorsements, there is a widespread – and growing – belief that inequities exist in how laws are applied:
  • A majority say that people are “often” or “always” treated unequally under the law (62%) and that officials who commit crimes are “somewhat” or “very” likely to go unpunished (67%).
  • More than eight in 10 citizens believe the rich are likely to be able to pay bribes or use personal connections to avoid going to court (83%), avoid paying taxes (84%), or register land that does not belong to them (88%).

Ghanaians believe in the rule of law

In general, Ghanaians believe that the rule of law should anchor democratic practices (Figure 1), and in fact does so in their country (Figure 2).

Three-fourths (75%) of citizens “agree” or “agree very strongly” that Parliament should ensure that the president explains to it on a regular basis how his government spends taxpayers’ money. One-fifth (20%), however, think the president should devote his full attention to developing the country rather than wasting time justifying his actions.

The same proportion (75%) “agree” or “agree very strongly” that the president must always obey the laws and the courts, even if he thinks they are wrong. About one-fifth (18%) say instead that since the president was elected to lead the country, he should not be bound by laws or court decisions that he thinks are wrong.

Nine in 10 Ghanaians (90%) say it is important for citizens to obey the government in power regardless of whom they voted for.

Furthermore, Ghanaians overwhelmingly endorse the legitimacy of key state enforcement agencies. Large majorities “agree” or “strongly agree” that the police always have the right to demand that people obey the law (88%), that tax authorities have the right to make people pay taxes (87%), and that the courts have the right to make decisions that people must always obey (78%).

In addition to strongly endorsing the rule of law, most Ghanaians say the president in fact adheres to the law in his dealings with Parliament and the judiciary. Three-quarters of Ghanaians say the president “rarely” or “never” ignores the courts and laws of the land (75%) or ignores the Parliament and just does what he wants (76%) (Figure 2). Only about one in eight respondents disagree.

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