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Is John Mahama doing enough?

Anne-Sophie Brändlin
October 6, 2015

Ghana's President John Dramani Mahama is one of Africa's most influential leaders. He's lauded by the West for maintaining a stable democracy in an otherwise volatile region, but is that reputation justified?

John Dramani Mahama bei Conflict Zone
Image: DW

John Dramani Mahama on Conflict Zone

This week's guest on Conflict Zone is Ghana's President, John Dramani Mahama. He became Ghana's head in July 2012 following the death of his predecessor John Atta Mills. Mahama was officially elected to serve his first term as president six months later and has been in office ever since.

Mahama is no stranger to politics: The 56-year-old was born into a political family dating back to Ghana's First Republic, in which his father served as Member of Parliament. Mahama himself served as the Minister of Communications from 1998 to 2011, after studying history and communications in Ghana as well as psychology in Moscow.

Championing democracy and the underprivileged

Mahama was long regarded as a defender of the underprivileged. He made political history by becoming the first Ghanaian leader to have been born after Ghana's independence from British colonial rule, which many saw as a symbol of Ghana's politics moving into a new era, with a forward-thinking and innovative government ready to tackle 21st century issues like modernizing the economy and fighting corruption.

But in recent years, Mahama has repeatedly come under fire for his handling of the economy, his failure to battle corruption, and his role in trans-African politics. In the last four years, Ghana's growth rate has been dropping, leading Ghana to accept a 918 million US dollar rescue package from the International Monetary Fund.

John Dramani Mahama bei Conflict Zone
John Dramani Mahama is this week's guest on Conflict Zone with Tim SebastianImage: DW

A backward step in the fight against impunity and corruption

Last year, Mahama supported an amendment to the Statue of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights that exempts senior government officials from prosecution for crimes against humanity. By passing the amendment, the African Union has put itself at odds with the International Criminal Court.

On Conflict Zone, Mahama defends voting for the impunity of African leaders, saying: 'There is a disagreement there between the African Union and the ICC. These are two recognized international organizations. You cannot take the ICC's opinion over the African Union.'

Mahama also supported South Africa’s failure to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the ICC, saying it requires "a setting of immunity" to allow leaders to participate in a summit. "You don't go arresting (leaders) when they have come under the auspices of the African Union.

However, Mahama still finds the ICC important. "I think the ICC has relevance. But we must take on board the concerns of Africa. Africa feels targeted, rightly or wrongly. It’s like only African leader are being arraigned before the ICC, so Africa feels targeted."

To find out more about Mahama's stance on prosecuting human rights violations, Ghana’s economic crisis, and his efforts against corruption, tune in to #dwZone now.