Ghana president urges unity after scuffle in parliament

FILE PHOTO: Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo, new chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), speaks to journalists after a consultative meeting in Accra, Ghana September 15, 2020. REUTERS/Francis Kokoroko


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ACCRA (Reuters) — Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo called for unity at his swearing-in ceremony on Thursday after an acrimonious election that culminated in a fight on the floor of parliament.

Soldiers entered Ghana's parliament overnight to break up a scuffle between rival lawmakers at odds over the Dec. 7 election that marred the major cocoa and gold producer's reputation for peaceful polls.

"I pledge before this august House and the good people of Ghana that all I do will be for the common good," Akufo-Addo said at the ceremony attended by heads of state from across West and Central Africa.

He promised to boost growth in one of the region's largest economies, bring electricity to all, build more roads and achieve universal free healthcare.

Akufo-Addo was declared the winner of last month's election with 51.59%, ahead of former President John Mahama. His victory followed a vote tarnished by violence in which five people were killed, a rarity for a country that has a reputation as one of West Africa's most stable democracies.

Mahama's party has said it will contest the results in court, alleging fraud though it has not published evidence.

The fight in parliament started when one MP from the president's New Patriotic Party snatched some paper ballots during an overnight vote to determine the house speaker, according to a source who was present.

It was not immediately clear why the lawmaker was angry. Last month's elections left a hung parliament, without a dominant party to push through the appointment of speaker and other key posts.

Footage on local television showed politicians, many of them unmasked, pushing and shoving before about 20 soldiers entered the chamber. Ranks of MPs then faced each other and chanted over a dividing line of masked soldiers and police.

Eventually, Alban Bagbin, the candidate from Ghana's other main party, the National Democratic Congress, was voted in as speaker.

(Reporting By Christian Akorlie; writing by Edward McAllister; editing by Aaron Ross, Andrew Heavens and Philippa Fletcher)

© Copyright Thomson Reuters 2021


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