Ghana president caught in squabble over anti-LGBTQ billThu, 21 Mar 2024 14:15:07 GMT

Ghana’s parliament speaker has halted the approval of new ministers in an apparent standoff over President Nana Akufo-Addo’s delay in signing off on a highly contested anti-LGBTQ+ bill passed last month.Widely criticised outside Ghana for undermining rights, “The Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values bill” seeks to criminalise gay relationships and advocacy, with wide support from religious leaders. The presidency has urged parliament to withhold the bill until legal challenges against it are resolved.But in what appears to be a retaliatory move, the speaker on Wednesday blocked approval of the new ministers, citing an injunction served on him by an opposition lawmaker.”In the light of this process, the House is unable to continue to consider the nominations of His Excellency the President in the ‘spirit of upholding the rule of law’,” Speaker Alban Bagbin announced and adjourned the house indefinitely. The Speaker’s action affects the approval of at least 20 ministers who were recently appointed by Akufo-Addo following a cabinet reshuffle. The House also failed to approve key bills and loans to support the 2024 budget.The squabble over the politically sensitive bill comes as Ghana prepares for a tight election race in December to replace Akufo-Addo, who steps down after two terms in office.Majority Leader Alexander Afenyo Markin on Thursday criticised the speaker’s stance, alleging it aims to “sabotage the government”. “The Speaker has torpedoed the government’s work,” Markin said “The consequences are clear that the economy will suffer and government business will be undermined.” – ‘Neither is wrong’ -Constitutional lawyer Martin Kpebu told AFP both the president and the Speaker were right in “taking their respective positions”. “As soon as there is an injunction application against a process the best thing to do is to wait for the court to decide, so neither of them is wrong,” Kpebu said on Thursday. The bill if passed into law imposes a jail term of up to three years for anyone identifying as LGBTQ+ and five years for promoting and sponsoring their activities.It had the backing of a majority of MPs and influential Christian and Muslim leaders. But Ghana’s development partners have warned of the consequences if Akufo-Addo signs the bill, with the finance ministry pointing to the risk of a potential loss of World Bank funding amounting to $3.8bn over the next five to six years. The major exporter of gold and cocoa is currently under a $3bn International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme having faced its worst economic downturn in 2022 resulting in inflation hitting a record 50%.