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November 18, 2020

Africa

GHANA: Anti-corruption czar’s resignation unlikely to turn the tide

BY Malte Liewerscheidt

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With less than three weeks to go before the 7 December general elections, the resignation of Special Prosecutor Martin Amidu on 16 November is a major blow for President Nana Akufo-Addo and his New Patriotic Party (NPP). The special prosecutor’s office had been created in 2018 as Akufo-Addo’s flagship anti-corruption initiative. However, while Amidu’s exit in the wake of the controversial Agyapa deal raises a lot of embarrassing questions for the government, the opposition National Democratic Party (NDC) will likely struggle to take full advantage of the affair. In fact, its flagbearer John Mahama had himself been implicated in an investigation opened by Amidu earlier this year. As such, rather than hurting or benefiting either party disproportionally, the case may primarily reinforce public disillusionment with the political elites and drive voter apathy.

In his resignation letter, Amidu alleged interference by Akufo-Addo in his efforts to launch an official investigation of the Agyapa deal, culminating in the statement that he would not serve as the president’s “poodle.” The planned IPO of Agyapa, a special purpose vehicle aimed at mortgaging future gold royalties, had been put on hold following the publication of a corruption risk assessment by Amidu’s office; however, Amidu alleges that the president had asked him to delay his planned follow-up investigation. Potentially more embarrassing, Amidu further claims that he and key members of his staff had never received emoluments and benefits since his office was established in February 2018.

Appointing Amidu, a well-respected anti-corruption campaigner and former NDC minister (2010-2012), as the first-ever special prosecutor had been meant to provide Akufo-Addo’s own anti-corruption credentials a major boost. However, over the past two years, Amidu had been criticized for his inaction as the expected flurry of high-level investigations never materialized. The revelations in the context of Amidu’s resignation will further undermine whatever is left of Akufo-Addo’s anti-corruption image.

Nevertheless, it is far from guaranteed that the affair will dramatically boost the opposition’s chances in the upcoming polls. In fact, one of the few investigations launched by Amidu earlier this year concerns the main opposition candidate personally. Mahama’s brother Samuel, alongside other business associates, is accused of having received commissions and kickbacks amounting to USD 5mn from aircraft manufacturer Airbus for the sale of military transport planes to the Ghanaian government. At the time, John Mahama served as vice president (2009-2012) under John Atta Mills, whom he later succeeded as president (2012-2016). However, Mahama remains silent on the matter and, while currently not the main subject of the investigation, allegedly refuses to cooperate with the special prosecutor’s office. Furthermore, the Mahama administration accrued its own fair share of corruption allegations, suggesting that weaponizing Amidu’s resignation may fall flat. As such, the affair is unlikely to turn the tide in either direction but rather serves to reinforce an already widespread perception that the two main parties are deeply corrupted.

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