Ghana

Free
80
100
PR Political Rights 35 40
CL Civil Liberties 45 60
Last Year's Score & Status
80 100 Free
Global freedom statuses are calculated on a weighted scale. See the methodology.

header1 Overview

Since 1992, Ghana has held competitive multiparty elections and undergone peaceful transfers of power between the two main political parties, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP). Although the country has a relatively strong record of upholding political rights and civil liberties, discrimination against women and LGBT+ people persists. There are some weaknesses in judicial independence and the rule of law, corruption and public service delivery present challenges to government performance, political violence as well as illegal mining causing destruction to water bodies is a growing concern.

header2 Key Developments in 2022

  • Throughout the year, youth groups and trade unions continued to stage series of peaceful demonstrations to protest the rising cost of living and the government’s poor economic management. The police responded to violence that occurred during the protests with fatal force: in May the police shot a 19-year-old student bystander to protests in the Bono East Region. In June, police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse crowds at a protest and arrested 29 participants.
  • In October, a group of governing NPP lawmakers openly demanded that the minister of finance and the minister of state be dismissed in order to restore public faith in the economy after several months of poor economic performance. The opposition NDC brought forward a vote to remove the finance minister from office, which ultimately failed.
  • Throughout the year, there was a surge off physical attacks and death threats made against journalists, and the government was increasingly intolerant of dissent from reporters. A radio show host commonly known as “Captain Smart” was arrested and detained by security forces for alleging that the president was involved in an illegal mining operation. In May, three individuals assaulted Eric Blessing Eshun and Emmanuel Egyirfah during their live radio broadcast, allegedly in retaliation for their coverage of the government’s management of issues related to the country’s fishing industry. Eshun was knocked unconscious during the attack, and the radio station was unable to broadcast for four days.
  • The government continued to pursue its repression of LGBT+ rights advocates and people. In June, a billboard that promoted tolerance of the LGBT+ people was pulled down by Ghanian security after members of Parliament, who sponsored a 2021 bill that would further criminalize queer identities and the support of equal rights for LGBT+, demanded they do so.

PR Political Rights

A Electoral Process

A1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections? 4.004 4.004

The president, who serves as head of state and head of government, is directly elected for up to two four-year terms. President Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) won a second term in the December 2020 presidential election with 51.3 percent of the vote, while his predecessor, John Mahama of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), took 47.3 percent. African Union (AU) and European Union (EU) observers called the contest well-organized and generally peaceful, though EU monitors criticized a lack of campaign finance regulation and a misuse of state resources. Mahama rejected the results, alleging fraud, and issued a legal challenge. In March 2021, the Supreme Court dismissed Mahama’s petition, stating that it lacked merit.

The immediate postelection period was marred by violence, with the national police reporting at least five deaths in the days following the vote. NDC supporters protested in parts of Ghana after the vote, notably marching on the Electoral Commission (EC) headquarters in Accra.

A2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections? 4.004 4.004

Members of the unicameral, 275-seat Parliament are elected directly in single-member constituencies to serve four-year terms.

The NPP, which held a majority in the previous parliament, and the NDC each won 137 seats in elections held concurrently with the 2020 presidential contest. One seat was won by an independent who agreed to support the NPP, giving that party a bare de facto majority. Monitors lauded the elections’ overall conduct. Despite the NPP’s majority, an NDC member was selected as speaker in January 2021.

A3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies? 4.004 4.004

Domestic and international observers consider the EC a capable manager of the electoral process. However, its composition has been the subject of political disagreement in the past; the NDC criticized what they claimed was the partisan appointment of Jean Mensa as its chairwoman in 2018, though civil society largely lauded the selection.

In general, electoral laws are enacted through broad consultations with parties and the legislature and are implemented fairly by the EC. While AU electoral observers lauded the registration process and the EC’s overall performance during the 2020 elections, the EC agreed to enact reforms, including the introduction of continuous voter registration. In August 2022, the EC announced that voters will be required to present a National Identification Card (GhanaCard) to register to vote in the upcoming 2024 elections, in order to prevent ineligible people from being able to vote. The change drew criticism from the NDC for potentially discouraging eligible voters.

B Political Pluralism and Participation

B1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings? 3.003 4.004

The constitution guarantees the right to form political parties, and this right is generally respected. However, in November 2022, the EC cancelled the registration certificates of 17 political parties for noncompliance with the Political Parties Act of 2000—the parties did not have national or regional offices, as required by law. Despite the guaranteed formation of political groupings, civil society groups have expressed concern about the rising involvement of partisan vigilante groups in inter- and intraparty disputes. In addition, candidates from smaller parties have expressed frustration with how difficult it is to compete with bigger parties due to increasing registration and filing fees.

In 2020, Mensa announced that presidential candidates’ filing fees would double. Further, an NPP lawmaker introduced a bill that would allow Ghanaians with dual citizenship to hold public offices.

B2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections? 4.004 4.004

There have been multiple peaceful transfers of power between the NPP and NDC, and parties in opposition have meaningful opportunities to increase their public support and win office. Mahama’s defeat in the 2016 presidential race marked the first time since the 1992 reintroduction of multiparty politics that an incumbent stood for reelection and lost. Mahama’s NDC maintains strong support as an opposition party.

B3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the people’s political choices free from domination by forces that are external to the political sphere, or by political forces that employ extrapolitical means? 3.003 4.004

Ghanaians are generally free from undue interference with their political choices by powerful groups that are not democratically accountable. However, voters and candidates are threatened by vigilantism and politically motivated violence, despite the 2019 promulgation of the Vigilantism and Related Offences Act, which banned all political and other vigilante groups.

NPP and NDC supporters clashed at several voter registration sites in 2020—despite an agreement between the two parties to refrain from such activity—resulting in one death. Of the 12 violent incidents recorded during the December 2020 elections, including those that resulted in five deaths, in only 2 cases had perpetrators been held accountable by the end of 2022.

B4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, racial, religious, gender, LGBT+, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities? 3.003 4.004

Ghanaian laws provide for equal participation in political life by the country’s various cultural, religious, and ethnic groups. Women formally enjoy political equality but hold comparatively few leadership positions in practice. Women won 40 parliamentary seats in the December 2020 elections, a slight increase over the 2016 results and the largest share since the reintroduction of multiparty politics.

C Functioning of Government

C1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government? 4.004 4.004

Elected officials are generally free to set and implement government policy without improper influence from unelected entities. However, the Imposition of Restrictions Act (IRA), which was passed by Parliament and signed by Akufo-Addo in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic became a global crisis, limited Parliament’s ability to revoke presidentially declared states of emergency. In March 2022, the president lifted many of the COVID-19 pandemic measures, easing border restrictions, face-mask regulations, and limits to public gatherings; requirements for coronavirus testing were also reduced.

In October 2022, a group of governing NPP lawmakers openly demanded that the minister of finance and the minister of state be dismissed to restore public faith in the economy after several months of poor economic performance. The opposition NDC brought forward a vote to remove the finance minister from office, which ultimately failed.

C2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective? 3.003 4.004

Political corruption remains a problem despite active media coverage, fairly robust laws and institutions, and both government and nongovernmental antigraft initiatives. Legislation adopted in 2017 established the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) as an additional institution to investigate political corruption.

Former attorney general Martin Amidu was appointed the first special prosecutor in 2018 but resigned in 2020, citing in part a lack of resources. In August 2021, Kissi Agyebeng, a lawyer and academic, was appointed as Amidu’s successor, and nearly nine months later a governing board of the OSP was inaugurated. The OSP published information on the status of 75 cases (five of them high-profile) that it was investigating for potential corruption, including Eunice Jacqueline Buah Asomah-Hinneh, a member of the presidential advisory body, the Council of State. However, the office of the OSP has expressed doubts as to the integrity of the government’s commitments to fighting corruption.

In October 2022, the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) indicated that it was investigating 428 cases of public officials’ failure to declare their assets as required by law between 2020 and 2022.

C3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does the government operate with openness and transparency? 3.003 4.004

The government operates with relative transparency, though there are weaknesses in the legal framework. The Right to Information Act, which grants citizens the right to seek, access, and receive information from public as well as some private institutions, came into effect in 2020. In 2022, several media actors and stakeholders complained about barriers and impediments to accessing information in practice, including arbitrary fees that public bodies charged groups that had requested information.

CL Civil Liberties

D Freedom of Expression and Belief

D1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are there free and independent media? 3.003 4.004

Freedom of the press is constitutionally guaranteed and generally respected in practice. Ghana has a diverse and vibrant media landscape that includes state-owned and privately owned television and radio stations as well as a number of independent newspapers and magazines. Online news media operate without government restrictions. Government agencies occasionally limit press freedom by harassing and arresting journalists, especially those reporting on politically sensitive issues.

However, in 2022 there was a surge of physical attacks and death threats against journalists, and the government was increasingly intolerant of dissent from reporters. A radio journalist, Oheneba Boamah Bennie, was sentenced by an Accra High Court for contempt of court and sentenced to 14 days in prison and a fine of approximately $400; another radio host, Kwabena Bobie Ansah, was arrested for publishing allegedly false news and for offensive conduct toward the first and second ladies of Ghana; another journalist, Sacut Amenga-Etego, was arrested and detained for illegally filming the premises of a High Court. A radio show host commonly known as “Captain Smart” was arrested and detained by the NIB for alleging that President Akufo-Addo was involved in an illegal mining operation.

Violence against journalists included several reported cases of reporters being attacked by supporters of the NPP. In May 2022, three individuals assaulted Eric Blessing Eshun and Emmanuel Egyirfah during their live radio broadcast allegedly in retaliation for their coverage of the government’s management of issues related to the country’s fishing industry. Eshun was knocked unconscious during the attack, and the radio station was unable to broadcast for four days.

D2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private? 3.003 4.004

Religious freedom is constitutionally and legally protected, and the government largely upholds these protections in practice. However, public schools feature mandatory religious education courses drawing on Christianity and Islam, and Muslim students have allegedly been required to participate in Christian prayer sessions and church services in some publicly funded Christian schools.

D3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination? 4.004 4.004

Academic freedom is legally guaranteed and generally upheld in practice.

D4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution? 4.004 4.004

Private discussion is both free and vibrant. The government does not restrict individual expression on social media.

E Associational and Organizational Rights

E1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom of assembly? 3.003 4.004

The right to peaceful assembly is constitutionally guaranteed and generally respected. Permits are not required for meetings or demonstrations. Assemblies were temporarily restricted under the COVID-19 state of emergency and related regulations, which were eased in 2022.

Ghanaians sought to organize protests over economic and social concerns under the #FixTheCountry banner during 2021 but were impeded by the authorities. In May 2021, the Accra High Court granted an injunction against a proposed #FixTheCountry rally, though the Supreme Court overturned that decision in June. Later in June, 11 organizers protesting in front of the Accra High Court were arrested. Supporters of the #FixTheCountry movement faced violence throughout the year; in late June unidentified assailants killed protester Ibrahim Muhammed in the town of Ejura. Demonstrations the day after his death saw police and military personnel use live ammunition when people clashed with security forces, killing 2 people and injuring at least four others.

Throughout 2022, youth groups and trade unions continued to stage series of peaceful demonstrations to protest the rising cost of living and the government’s poor economic management. The police responded to violence that occurred during the protests with fatal force: in May the police shot a 19-year-old student bystander to protests in the Bono East Region. In June, police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse crowds at a protest and arrested 29 protesters.

E2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work? 4.004 4.004

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are generally able to operate freely and play an important role in ensuring government accountability and transparency.

E3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations? 3.003 4.004

Under the constitution and 2003 labor laws, workers have the right to form and join trade unions. However, the government forbids or restricts organized labor action in several sectors, including fuel distribution and utilities, public transportation, and ports and harbor services.

F Rule of Law

F1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there an independent judiciary? 2.002 4.004

Judicial independence is constitutionally and legally enshrined. While the judiciary has demonstrated greater levels of impartiality in recent years, perception of corruption and bribery as well as delays in dispensing justice continue to pose challenges.

F2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters? 3.003 4.004

Constitutional protections for due process and defendants’ rights are mostly upheld. However, police have been known to accept bribes, make arbitrary arrests, and hold people without charge for longer than the legally permitted limit of 48 hours. The government is not obliged to provide the accused with legal counsel, and many people unable to afford lawyers are forced to represent themselves in court. In July 2022, President Akufo-Addo signed a bill to formally introduce plea bargaining for most criminal offences.

F3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies? 3.003 4.004

Prisons are overcrowded and conditions can be life threatening, though the prison service has attempted to reduce congestion and improve the treatment of inmates in recent years. While death penalty remains in the statutes, it has rarely been applied and no one has been executed or sentenced to death since 1993.

Communal and ethnic violence is known to occur in parts of Ghana. A protracted chieftaincy dispute in Bawku’s upper east region was reignited in September 2022, which resulted in the death of at least three people.

F4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population? 2.002 4.004

Despite equal rights under the law, women face societal discrimination, especially in rural areas, where their opportunities for education and employment are limited. However, women’s enrollment in universities has been increasing in recent years. People with disabilities face societal discrimination.

LGBT+ people face significant discrimination. Same-sex sexual activity remains criminalized, encouraging impunity for violence against and harassment of LGBT+ people. The NGO LGBT+ Rights Ghana, which opened the country’s first LGBT+ community center in January 2021, faced significant opposition from political and religious figures as well as violent threats. The center was raided by security officers in February 2021 and was closed by police later that month.

A bill that would limit the rights of LGBT+ people was also considered by Parliament in 2021. In early August, Parliament held its first reading of the Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill, which would criminalize displays of affection and cross-dressing; also as a result of the law, those engaging in certain forms of LGBT+ advocacy could face prison sentences as long as 10 years. In June 2022, a billboard that promoted tolerance of the LGBT+ people was pulled down by Ghanian security forces who were ordered to do so by members of Parliament that sponsored the 2021 bill. The speaker of Parliament stated at a media briefing in November 2022 that a bill criminalizing open expressions of queer identity, as well as for supporting equal rights for LGBT+ people, would pass before the next general elections in 2024.

G Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights

G1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education? 3.003 4.004

Freedom of movement is guaranteed by the constitution and is generally respected by the government. However, poorly developed road networks and banditry can make travel outside the capital and tourist areas difficult. Police have been known to set up illegal checkpoints to demand bribes from travelers. Bribery is also rife in the education sector. Authorities instituted movement restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, which were eased in 2022.

G2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors? 3.003 4.004

Although the legal framework generally supports property ownership and private business activity, weaknesses in the rule of law, corruption, and an underregulated property rights system remain impediments. Bribery is a common practice when starting a business and registering property. More and more frequently in recent years, political elites and government officials have appropriated public land for themselves while in office. Reports from May 2022 found that a former general secretary of the ruling NPP and head of Ghana’s Forestry Commission had appropriated forest reserve lands in his will to his family after his death.

G3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance? 3.003 4.004

While personal social freedoms are upheld in many respects and among large segments of the population, domestic violence and rape are serious problems, and harmful traditional practices including female genital mutilation (FGM) and early or forced marriage persist in certain regions.

The government has worked to combat gender-based violence (GBV), including by expanding the police’s domestic violence and victim support units and creating special GBV courts, though such services are reportedly under resourced.

G4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation? 2.002 4.004

Most workers are employed in the informal sector, limiting the effectiveness of legal and regulatory safeguards for working conditions. The exploitation of children in the agricultural and mining sectors remains a problem. Similar abuses in the fishing industry have also been reported, especially in the region surrounding Lake Volta.

In its Trafficking in Persons Report 2022, the US State Department noted that the Ghanaian government increased the number of trafficking victims that had been identified and referred between 2021 (727) and 2020 (391). However, law enforcement efforts remained under resourced.

On Ghana

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  • Global Freedom Score

    80 100 free
  • Internet Freedom Score

    65 100 partly free