THE FOURTH REPUBLIC
The 1992 Constitution
Figure 12. Structure of Government of the Fourth
Source: Based on information from Ghana, The Constitution of
the Republic of Ghana, Accra, 1992.
The 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana that came into
effect on January 7, 1993, provides the basic charter for the
country's fourth attempt at republican democratic government since
independence in 1957. It declares Ghana to be a unitary republic
with sovereignty residing in the Ghanaian people. Drawn up with the
intent of preventing future coups, dictatorial government, and oneparty states, it is designed to foster tolerance and the concept of
power-sharing. The document reflects the lessons drawn from the
abrogated constitutions of 1957, 1960, 1969, and 1979, and it
incorporates provisions and institutions drawn from British and
United States constitutional models.
The 1992 constitution, as the supreme law of the land, provides
for the sharing of powers among a president, a parliament, a
cabinet, a Council of State, and an independent judiciary
fig. 12). Through its system of checks and balances, it avoids bestowing
preponderant power on any specific branch of government. Executive
authority is shared by the president, the twenty-five member
Council of State, and numerous advisory bodies, including the
National Security Council. The president is head of state, head of
government, and commander in chief of the armed forces of Ghana. He
also appoints the vice president.
Legislative functions are vested in the National Parliament,
which consists of a unicameral 200-member body plus the president.
To become law, legislation must have the assent of the president,
who has a qualified veto over all bills except those to which a
vote of urgency is attached. Members of parliament are popularly
elected by universal adult suffrage for terms of four years, except
in war time, when terms may be extended for not more than twelve
months at a time beyond the four years.
The structure and the power of the judiciary are independent of
all other branches of government. The Supreme Court has broad
powers of judicial review; it rules on the constitutionality of any
legislative or executive action at the request of any aggrieved
citizen. The hierarchy of courts derives largely from British
juridical forms. The hierarchy, called the Superior Court of
Judicature, is composed of the Supreme Court of Ghana, the Court of
Appeal (Appellate Court), the High Court of Justice, regional
tribunals, and such lower courts or tribunals as parliament may
establish. The courts have jurisdiction over all civil and criminal
The legal system is based on the constitution, Ghanaian common
law, statutory enactments of parliament, and assimilated rules of
customary (traditional) law. The 1992 constitution, like previous
constitutions, guarantees the institution of chieftaincy together
with its traditional councils as established by customary law and
usage. The National House of Chiefs, without executive or
legislative power, advises on all matters affecting the country's
chieftaincy and customary law.
The 1992 constitution contains the most explicit and
comprehensive provisions in Ghana's postcolonial constitutional
history regarding the system of local government as a decentralized
form of national administration. These provisions were inspired to
a large extent by current law and by the practice of local
government under the PNDC. Another constitutional innovation is the
enshrinement of fundamental human rights and freedoms enforceable
by the courts. These rights include cultural rights, women's
rights, children's rights, the rights of disabled persons, and the
rights of the ill. The constitution also guarantees the freedom and
independence of the media and makes any form of censorship
unconstitutional. In addition, the constitution protects each
Ghanaian's right to be represented by legitimately elected public
officials by providing for partisan national elections and nonpartisan district elections.
Every citizen of Ghana eighteen years of age or above and of
sound mind has the right to vote. The right to form political
parties is guaranteed, an especially important provision in light
of the checkered history of political parties in postcolonial
Ghana. Political parties must have a national character and
membership and are not to be based on ethnic, religious, regional
or other sectional divisions.
Finally, highly controversial provisions of the constitution
indemnify members and appointees of the PNDC from liability for any
official act or omission during the eleven years of PNDC rule.
These provisions seem designed to prevent the real possibility of
retribution, should a new government hostile to the PNDC replace
it, and to foster a climate of peace and reconciliation.
Data as of November 1994