His 100% British education perhaps gives us some insight into his preference for arbitration, mediation, and negotiation to resolve disputes, and this is certain: the extraordinary growth of ADR in Ghana happened under his Presidency, and continues to grow now that he is gone.
On this occasion, Mr. Kufuor’s admirable preference for and inclination towards ADR might have gotten the better of him, as he made a grandiloquent proposal likely to fall on deaf ears: he proposed to employ ADR to help resolve electoral disputes in Africa. He formulated this astounding proposal during the 5th Summit of the Negotiation and Conflict Management Group, held earlier this month in Lagos (Nigeria), on the theme “Effective Management of Political Differences and its impact on Economic Development.”
The former Ghanaian President said:
In African societies, the resolution of disputes by what has now come to be formally known as ADR mechanism, had existed since time out of mind. African societies have well developed ADR mechanisms including mediation, conciliation, negotiation and arbitration for the settlement of disputes. The relationship between a peaceful and stable society and sustainable development cannot be over-emphasized. It is against this background that election disputes and the threat of violence arising out of election disputes are perhaps some of the greatest threats to Africa's development in the 21st century.
It is therefore not out place for modern African states to adopt these time-tested mechanisms to resolve election disputes. The possibility also exists for an integration of ADR mechanisms with the judicial process by a mechanism known as court-connected ADR. This process involves the courts as the promoters of the use of ADR mechanisms to resolve specific disputes that have been brought before them.
It is against this background that election disputes and the threat of violence arising out of election disputes are perhaps one of the greatest threats to Africa's development in the twenty-first century. Instead of being resigned to the inevitability of elections disputes, we should take steps to guarantee the integrity of the process and thereby reduce to the barest minimum the possibility of election related disputes.
Mr. Kufuor also called for the adoption of biometric registration and electronic voting systems to help stem the rising tide of election disputes. The day Mr. Mugabe –to give but an example—deploys retina reading devices to identify voters (provided, naturally, that he lets them vote to begin with), and brings state-of-the-art machines to count votes programmed, supervised and manned by people other than “his people”, will be a day when most of us will have to pinch ourselves hard to see if we are dreaming.
Neither machines, nor ADR help much if someone is set on committing civil fraud in the form of rigging elections, nor is ADR an antidote that cures systemic corruption, or cures sick strongmen.