Feature Article of Tuesday, 4 December 2012
Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.
By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
Sunday, December 2, 2012
Although I have already commented on the signing of the Kumasi Peace Pact by the leaders of the parties contesting next Friday’s Presidential and Parliamentary elections, there are still some loose ends to tie up.
The real meaning to be given the Kumasi Peace Pact has not yet emerged; hence, my return to pick up this issue for further analysis.
Is it not surprising that the very venue at which that Peace Pact was signed has turned out to be the hotbed from where political violence has erupted not long after the Pact came into effect? The Kumasi Ash Town incident is just one of the many that indicate that the Peace Pact can’t solve any problem. I have read it in full and seen it as nothing but a ceremonial document. It lacks bite, which is why the signatories haven’t even deemed it necessary to do anything to control their followers. In effect, we can’t expect anything but a worsening of the situation as we inch toward Election Day and muscles continue to be flexed at will.
I have already said that the letter of the Pact alone can’t help us make peace. Even as tension heightens because of the intransigence of the political rivals and the kind of harmful politicking being done, no concrete effort is being made by the Presidential Candidates who signed that Peace Pact to ensure that their followers don’t do anything to disturb the peace.
Probably, the Peace Pact itself might have been rushed through without the appropriate homework being done to plant it on a solid foundation. What is more, the personalities behind the Pact themselves have questions to answer. They are not “innocent” or disinterested.
The main issue being missed is that much emphasis has been placed on only the hardcore political aspects of the problems threatening the peace of the country. Indeed, the countless cases of chieftaincy and land disputes all over the country, socio-economic vices such as bribery and corruption, and plain criminal activities like armed robbery, murder, and rape have already created favourable conditions for the peace of the country to be disturbed.
Added to the political rivalry tearing apart segments of the society, these problems are formidable enough to warrant a more critical approach to the matter. On the whole, the hardcore political issues are the immediate cause for any election-related national crisis.
I have a good cause to raise some fundamental concerns about the philosophical underpinnings of that Pact so that we can understand why I am skeptical at this point that the signatories are not really committed to the spirit of the Pact. First, let’s take the main individuals who gathered at the event to ensure that the Pact was signed by the various party leaders. The Asantehene The posture of the Asantehene prior to the 2008 elections betrayed him as a supporter of the NPP, especially when in an interaction with the party’s Presidential Candidate (Akufo-Addo), the Otumfuo openly declared himself the head of the Oyoko clan to which he claimed Akufo-Addo also belonged. That was not what betrayed the political leanings of the Asantehene. Most of us were disgusted by his additional comments that as the head of the Oyoko clan, he knew how to tread and that wherever he went, his subjects would go too. Indeed, many commentators took him on and condemned this veiled political grandstanding. Some did say that the Asantehene would wake up by the end of the polls in 2008 to realize his mistake. And he did so because Akufo-Addo lost the elections. The manner in which Kufuor had elevated the Asantehene and the preferential treatment given him left no one in doubt that he was in bed with the NPP. We haven’t seen him displaying any membership card of the NPP nor have we found his name in the NPP’s membership register to establish him categorically as an NPP member. But enough gossip exists to suggest that he harbours better feelings for the NPP than any other party.
So, for him to spearhead this Peace Pact efforts in itself provides enough grounds for skepticism. Is anything really being done with a clean conscience? Or, are there ulterior motives?
Former Presidents Rawlings and Kufuor
At another level, the two former Presidents come up for scrutiny. There is so much acrimony between both that seeing them together on the occasion of the signing of the Peace Pact provoked prolonged hiccups.
Have they patched up their differences to merit the frontline role given them to establish a Peace Pact?
Both Rawlings and Kufuor have made uncomplimentary and scathing comments about each other to the point as to portray themselves as a disgrace. Rawlings’ comparison of Kufuor to the notorious armed robber, Nii Ayi, and Kufuor’s labeling of Rawlings as “patapaa” and “Obonsam” can’t be forgotten all too soon. Beyond that mutual wordy warfare, both former Presidents have been at each other’s throat over the spoils of politics—Kufuor withdrawing the protocol services granted Rawlings only to be paid back in an almost humiliating coin by the Mills government that succeeded him. Some might claim it was all at the instigation of Rawlings, especially when viewed against Rawlings’ insistence that Kufuor and members of his government be prosecuted for corruption. Many instances proved beyond all reasonable doubts that the bad-blood relationship between Rawlings and Kufuor couldn’t just be tackled with a mere handshake or rubbing of shoulders at public gatherings. We recall how both met and shook hands during the visit of US President Barack Obama in 2009 only for Rawlings to turn round to say that he only warmed up to Kufuor on the occasion for purposes of diplomacy.
Since then, both haven’t been close nor given any indication that they had behaved as mature public figures would be expected to behave. Although the Asantehene had indicated his readiness to resolve the impasse between them, we haven’t heard of anything concrete being done to that effect.
So, seeing both standing on either side of the Otumfuo on the occasion of the KNUST ceremony for the signing of the Peace Pact, we knew that the stony hearts in them belied the public display of camaraderie that characterized the day’s events.
If Rawlings and Kufuor aren’t warm toward each other to date, what moral justification do they have to superintend over a ceremony seeking to lay the foundation for peace?
No doubt, the (mis)conduct of these two former Presidents has had a ripple effect on large segments of the Ghanaian citizenry: those supporting Rawlings share his sentiments and treat Kufuor with contempt while Kufuor’s own admirers see Rawlings through his eyes—a “patapaa” and “obonsam.” On either side of the political equation, these followers are infected with the mutual hatred. Yet, these were the people behind the Peace Pact. Are Ghanaians really serious at all? Any faith in the Peace Pact, then? To assume that the mere signing of that Pact will neutralize the tension in the country or establish a cordial relationship between the political rivals will be the height of foolishness. I repeat that the real issues on which peace is contingent at this time are either missing or distorted. By deceiving ourselves that signing that piece of paper is a guarantee for peace, we are only positioning ourselves for self-destruction as the time-bomb ticks toward December 7. Peace is not ensured or sustained through such cosmetic measures. Elsewhere, concrete action is taken by the main actors to demonstrate the genuine desire for peace. They work for peace and publicly demonstrate that spirit. Here is one clear example, reported today by the BBC: “US President Barack Obama has met defeated Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney for a private lunch at the White House. Thursday's face-to-face will be their first meeting since Mr. Obama overcame Mr. Romney in the 6 November election. The pair had sparred in a bitter campaign and are said to have little rapport.
The two men discussed “America's leadership in the world” and how to preserve it, the White House said.
The former Massachusetts governor left after just over an hour and the two said they would stay in touch.”
Do you see any useful lesson here that our political leaders need to learn? We don’t need any divine touch to do what we have to do as human beings seeking safety and security on earth. Just like redemption, peace is a rare commodity to be worked for with fear and trembling.
Let those who want to spearhead the peace-making efforts demonstrate enough goodwill and commitment so that the vast majority of Ghanaians will emulate their example. Anything else will add cinder to the fire. We are pushing ourselves too far; and need to take caution.
Why should anybody cause mayhem in an election that will put in office politicians more interested in serving their own interests than those of the country and its citizens?
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