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Africa

High hopes in Ghana after new anti-corruption tsar named

media Ghana's President Nana Akufo-Addo during his swearing-in ceremony, Accra, January 7 2017. REUTERS/Luc Gnago

Ghana's appointment of a new anti-corruption tsar has been welcomed in many quarters. Martin Amidu was named by President Nana Akufo-Addo to lead the fight against high-level corruption amid widespread criticism of impunity.

Commentators are calling it a turning point in Ghana's fight against corruption.

This is the first time that an office has been created solely to investigate and prosecute graft, particularly at state level, and with a commitment that there will be no interference from government.

"We've had experiences in the past where people believe that many acts or cases of alleged corruption weren't being pursued because of political interference," explains Emmanuel Akwete, the executive director of the Institute for Democratic Governance in Accra.

"So there is a belief now that we should separate the office of the minister of justice and the attorney-general and have a fully empowered attorney-general who is not a politician, who's independent," he told RFI Friday.

Martin Amidu, who has been given the new post of special prosecutor, is certainly seen that way.

Opposition MP

He is a former attorney-general who served under president John Mills and an opposition MP, who is renowned for his no-nonsense approach and his ability to speak out against different governments, including those led by his own party.

"What strikes me is that he's from the opposition," Arnold Sarfo-Kantanka, founder of the UK-based charity Future of Ghana told RFI.

"He's actually a member of NDC [the National Democratic Congress] and it's a NPP [New Patriotic Party] government. So this goes to show how our president, irrespective of your background, if he feels you can do the job he'll put you forward."

Bribery accusations

The authorities are under fire over reports that the trade ministry asked foreign investors for 25,000-100,000 dollars to have dinner with the president, and there is also a probe into a mysterious 52-million-dollar credit card payment that the government can't account for.

"This appointment gives the president a little breathing space," suggest Akwete. "Because he's been in office for one year and there's been no prosecution of corrupt officials."

Akufo-Addo came to power in January 2017 on a campaign promise to stamp out corruption.

He has allocated funds to a 10-year anti-corruption plan and has even "gone as far as allowing a parliamentary bipartisan inquiry into allegations concerning his own trade ministry", says Linda Ofori-Kwafo of Ghana Integrity Initiative.

"It's a sign Ghana is moving forward," she told RFI.

Fears of standards slipping

In recent years civil society groups have been concrened that Accra, long Africa's darling of good governance, was moving backwards.

It is hoped that Amidu's appointment will change that.

"His DNA is to stamp out corruption," says Arnold Sarfo-Kantanka, in reference to Amidu's firing as justice minister in 2012.

"He was relieved for misconduct after making allegations against another cabinet minister about the legitimacy of the payments he believed they were using."

In 2014 the Supreme Court ruled in Amidu's favour.

It is this "stoic attitude towards law and ensuring the state is managing its finances properly" that Ghanians like Sarfo-Kantanka appreciate.

"He's got the right attitude, the right history to fulfil his appointment."

Ghana's parliament must confirm the nomination when it gets back from recess in two weeks.

"The nation is so impatient that if he does not act within three to six months, there will be issues, there will be criticisms," warns Emmanuel Akwete.

"If honourable Martin Amidu is able to prosecute corruption without fear" adds Ofori-Kwafo Ghana will remain a "beacon of democracy for our other sisters and brothers in the sub-region."

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