Violence in our Elections

By | July 17, 2015

Feature Article of Friday, 17 July 2015

Columnist: Aboagye Addo Frank


Opinions ImageOpinion

“A man should remove not only unnecessary acts, but also unnecessary thoughts, for then superfluous activity will not follow” (Marcus Aurelius).

Ghana has enjoyed a steady democracy since the inception of the Fourth Republic (1992), successfully conducting six national elections and many by-elections in spite of the teaming and heated partisan exchanges that have always engulfed the political turf.

The coming into force of the 1992 constitution with the inauguration of the Fourth Republic breathed a new air of hope into our democratic dispensation.

The citizenry of Ghana embraced the Fourth Republic with zeal, confidence and hope because of the beauty of modern day democracy.

This is non-negotiable and so we expect all the various political parties and other key stakeholders to continuously apply the principles of democracy in all their dealings.

One key tenet of democracy is the ability of the people to choose their own leaders to rule them. They do so through free and fair elections devoid of machinations, violence and discrimination.

In Ghana, the people particularly adult citizens of sound mind elect the President and Members of Parliament (MPs) in every four years as clearly spelt out in Chapter Seven Clause 47 of the 1992 constitution. Assembly Members and Members of the Unit Committees are also selected through election.

Ghana today boasts of a lively civil society, active media, a good human rights record, independent Electoral Commission and reasonably independent judiciary. There is generally respect for rule of law, a high degree of social tolerance, and relatively no threat to national cohesion.

It is based on the usefulness and tonic consequences of elections on the political environment that Huntington wrote in the Third Wave of Democratization that “With the conduct of elections, it marks the collapse of the authoritarian and undemocratic regime” (Huntington, 1999).

Over the years, Ghana has grown to be a beacon of hope as far as democracy on the African continent is concerned. Ghana has engaged in competitive elections that have produced some interesting results and outcomes.

Interestingly, even though electoral competitiveness forms an essential element of the democratic politics, violence has sometimes characterised and marred most of the elections thereby painting a gloomy picture of their competitiveness and fairness. Ghanaians are relatively disciplined, apolitical and appear committed to supporting civilian rule and multi-party democracy.

This participation has increased the citizeny’s commitment towards the protection of the constitution coupled with the deleterious effects of electoral violence in neighbouring countries.

While in many ways Ghana is relatively safe, especially compared to some other countries, the upsurge in electoral violence should be a wary to all.

Copious evidence of electoral violence in Atiwa, Chereponi, Talensi and many flashpoints according to the Ghana Police Service (election 2012: Police identifies over 1000 flashpoints) should send a clear signal to all meaning Ghanaians that our relative peace is in fragile hands.

Party securities during elections masquerade as blood-thirsty individuals and unleash mayhem on political opponents and destroy personal property in broad daylight in the presence of security officers who look on helpless.

The CDD in a press statement recently opined that: “Reports of incidence of violence with sporadic firing of gunshots and attacks with machetes during the conduct of polls, resulting in the hospitalisation of victims and destruction of vehicles, are unacceptable and raise serious concerns about the ease and impunity with which violence is unleashed during elections in Ghana”.

The 2016 general elections is less than 20 months away and we need a crescendo of voices rising from religious bodies, non-governmental organisations, traditional leaders, academics, workers, students, professionals and all Ghanaians both home and abroad to demand commitment to peace from all political parties that may participate in future elections.

Let us as a nation make them accountable to peaceful and violence-free elections instead of the usual rhetoric because the primary responsibility for ensuring and sustaining peace before, during and after every election is primarily a collective national affair.

A 2005 UNDP study estimates there are 125,000 illicit guns in Ghana which contribute to violent crime and so we should be overly concerned about electoral violence which has become a major feature of the Ghanaian elections in order not to afford ill-thinking individuals the opportunity to destroy the relative peace we are enjoying. Human lives are precious and as such should not be sacrificed for other considerations. We should in all humility come to a realisation that a man’s worth is greater than the worth of his ambitions.

Responsible citizenship is about individuals who realise their obligations to take actions that ensure that their community is healthy and safe. ‘I am well aware, soldiers,’ he said, ‘that mere words cannot put courage into a man: that a frightened army cannot be rendered brave, or a sluggish one transformed into a keen one, by a speech from its commander.

Every man has a certain degree of boldness, either natural or acquired by training; so much, and no more, does he generally show in battle. If a man is stirred neither by the prospect of glory nor by danger, it is a waste of time to exhort him: the fear that is in his heart makes him deaf. However, I have called you together to give you a few words of advice and to tell you the reason for my present purpose”.

I want to live a life beyond 2016, I want to live a life beyond an election and be hopeful that the lives of my children and that of other children will be better than mine in a united, prosperous and peaceful Ghana. God Bless Our Homeland Ghana.

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