'The UN Must Change': After Surviving Arguably the Most Captivating Election Court Case in 56 Years of His Country's Independence, Ghana's President John Dramani Mahama (Right) Now Has the Time and Comfort to Run the Country as Best He Can. in This Interview, Mahama Talks about Everything from the Election Dispute to the Economy, Energy, Paying Taxes, the Oil and Gas Industry, and World Affairs
Mahama, John, New African
Q | Times have changed in Africa, wars and conflicts have declined, and more countries are practising democracy. Do you think Africa's time has come?
Absolutely, I believe the world is seeing a new Africa. And [given] the right place at the table, Africa will prove itself. We are not looking for sympathy from the rest of the world. We are looking to be given the opportunity to also stand on our own feet and be able to compete as equals on the world stage.
Africa is the richest continent with the most natural resources. We must take advantage of these natural resource blessings. We must move from primary to secondary and tertiary processing of these resources. We must move from being primary producers. Our natural resources are important to the world, but let's have the opportunity to add value to those resources. We must move from being just primary producers.
Q| Some say the current dynamics of international politics call for an expansion of the UN Security Council to include more members--and maybe permanent seats for Africa. What's your take on this?
The current structure of the United Nations is outmoded. The United Nations took over from the League of Nations after the Second World War, and the conquering powers that won the war put in the arrangements that currently exist in the UN. I believe that many years after the world wars, the world has changed considerably. Small or big, weak or powerful, we all have a stake in the survival of the world. I believe the structure of the organisation must change.
Q| What do you hope to achieve for Ghana and Africa during your term?
I believe that as African leaders, we have two main issues to work on. First, we must engage the world in a manner that shows a new Africa that is able to manage its affairs in a way that makes us worthy partners on the international stage. We must do away with the embarrassing conflicts that have displaced hundreds of thousands. We must encourage transparency in governance, uphold democracy and rule of law, and make sure our people are able to express themselves and participate in governance.
The second [priority] is to integrate our economies more, create free trade areas that promote trade among ourselves. We should also create a situation where we integrate infrastructure in Africa. That is why I am one of the main backers of the Lagos-Abidjan Highway, which will be a highway that crosses five countries, and create joint border crossing points where you have officials of both countries doing one check and allowing people to drive on. That for me will be a dream come true.
Q| You came to office last year under difficult circumstances, following the sudden death of President John Atta Mills. It's now been a little over a year since he died. How well do you think the country has healed from that terrible tragedy?
We recently held the first anniversary marking the death of the late president and it brought back all the memories of the difficult period we went through following his death. Since then we have had to handle issues of gravity regarding our democracy and governance. But I believe that Ghana has healed sufficiently since then, and we now have to confront new issues together as a country, including the recent opposition election petition.
Professor Atta Mills was a good mentor. He was a comrade and a friend, and I learned a lot from him. And those lessons have strengthened me to face the challenges that lie ahead of us.
Q| What about yourself personally? How well have you dealt with the loss of your dear friend?
I believe that when God places responsibilities on your shoulders, he gives you the strength to carry those responsibilities. At first, I felt a sense of trepidation because I had gotten used to working with a leader to whom I reported. 1 reported to him and contributed my best in terms of advice and effort, but ultimately the decisions were his to take and the buck stopped with him. …