The bulk of this material is hidden behind a subscription wall, at least at the quoted site, but I thought it might be fun to post some material from my period as Deputy High Commissioner in Ghana (1998 to 2002).
This will I hope lay to rest the accusations that my passion for democracy, human rights and honesty in Uzbekistan was a temporary career move of some kind.
Ghanaian Chronicle 9/1/2000
By Joyce Mensah Nsefo
Nobody expected Wednesday’s conference on accountability to produce any fireworks, but then nobody reckoned with the Scotsman His Excellency Mr.Craig John Murray, deputy British High Commissioner, the open minded,respected, free-speaking diplomat. And when he decided to make an intervention it came in the form of a bombshell, lifting his audience off their feet with surprise, followed by moments of embarrassing silence.
Craig, who had been invited to say a few words at the workshop on “Information for Accountability” declared that corruption in Ghana is a problem and specifically pointed accusing fingers at the government in the area of awards of contracts.
The Dispatch 9/5/2000
Government to Deport Diplomat?
There are credible indications within high places that the government is thinking about the possibility of asking the British government to recall the deputy British High Commissioner, Mr. Craig Murray, for what a highly-placed official described as “irresponsible, undiplomatic and unsubstantiated allegations of governmental corruption.”
In a story first carried by JOY FM and later by The Ghanaian Chronicle, Mr.Murray is reported to have said corruption is a problem internationally but it was rather on the high side in Ghana. He alleged that even foreigners who win contracts are required to pay a percentage of the contract value, to be given to certain highly-placed people in government. He also said Ghana has had a record of waivers from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for non-compliance with benchmarks for releasing funds.
Ghana warns against foreign interference in elections
ACCRA, Nov 28 (AFP) – The Ghanaian government on Monday warned foreign governments and institutions against interfering in presidential and general elections to take place on December 7.
Foreign Minister Victor Gbeho issued the warning when he addressed members of the diplomatic corps in Accra on Monday.
“It must be understood that donor assistance confers no licence on any government or institution to directly or indirectly interfere in matters that fall within the domestic jurisdiction of Ghana,” Gbeho said.
The warning came after the deputy British High Commissioner, Craig Murray, had urged the electoral commission to allow only people with new photo identity cards to vote.
Gbeho said that many people have not been issued with the new cards, and that Murray’s remarks “bordered on direct interference in the internal affairs of Ghana and are clearly unacceptable”.
British High Commissioner to Ghana Rod Pullen responded that his deputy’s remarks were without malice but based on a tour of 66 communities and the inspection of 76 electoral registers which indicated that the identity card replacement exercise had been successful.
He pointed out that the British government had committed funds to the exercise after assurances from the various political parties in the country of the need for it.
US Ambassador to Ghana Kathryn Dee Robinson said a fact-finding team from the US embassy in Accra had also testified that the exercise was successful throughout the country.
Ghana’s police chief, Inspector General Peter Nanfuri, last week predicted trouble in the December 7 poll if new identity cards were not distributed in time.
Speaking to the press, he said that voters in some rural areas “had not yet received the new photo ID card from the electoral commission”.
The inspector general said villagers were issuing threats concerning action they would take if prevented from voting for not having the photo ID cards, which replace thumbprint cards.
Two major parties are set to take the lion’s share of the vote, the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the National Patriotic Party (NPP).
The NDC is fielding current vice-president John Atta Mills as its candidate to replace Rawlings, who is stepping down after two terms in office.
The NPP presidential candidate is John Agyekum Kufuor
On buisness and electoral reform in Ghana
Mr. Craig Murray, Deputy British High Commissioner to Ghana, has called on the government to speed up the divestiture of state enterprises to raise more revenue to meet its obligations and reduce interest rates.
Mr. Murray said during a recent tour of the Volta Region that the speedy privatisation of some public utilities will reduce government’s over reliance on taxes.
“For a start, government organisations like the Ghana Commercial Bank and Civil Aviation could be privatised to make substantial gains for the country,” Mr. Murray further suggested. His suggestion that government should privatise Ghana Commercial Bank could generate a lot of debate because government is reluctant to loosen its grip on the bank which has a wide network and plays an important role in the government’s development plans. The government is reported to have told World Bank officials pushing for the bank’s divestiture that it does not favour its wholesale privatisation.
The proposed privatisation of the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority in the past raised security issues with many people arguing that as a first line of security the airport should not be left in the hands of private operators. In a post budget lecture recently, Mr. Amonoo Neizer of Data Bank Brokerage Limited said the government’s position on the future of Ghana Commercial Bank is conflicting and asked the government to make its position clear.
The Deputy High Commissioner described the 100 days of the government in office as “positive” and “remarkable” especially its adoption of the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative and the increases in petroleum prices which, he said, are the right steps in straightening the economy.
Known for his frank comments on national issues Mr. Murray said he agreed with the government’s directives to some public officers to proceed on leave pending the outcome of investigations into their stewardship, adding that it would ensure transparency in the public sector. The government’s decision has attracted condemnation from the opposition NDC which claims most of the managing directors asked to proceed on leave were victims of political witch-hunting. The government has however explained that almost all the officials dabbled in politics and used their positions to siphon money to finance NDC’s election expenses.
“Transparency is always what combats corruption,” he stated. Murray was also reported as saying that despite supporting the NDC government, the Volta Region remained under developed. For this frank comment, he has been attacked by some opinion leaders and NGOs operating in the region. One NGO said Murray had lost his focus as a diplomat and that his comments on local issues were becoming undiplomatic. In the run up to the 2000 general elections Murray was one of few diplomats who challenged the unwise decision of the past government to use thumb printed ID cards despite a successful photo ID card registration sponsored by foreign donors