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Opinions of Thursday, 22 January 2009

Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame

Death Threats are a Characteristic P/NDC Trait

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

In a recent interview that he gave a local Ghanaian radio station, Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, chairman of Ghana’s Electoral Commission (EC), disclosed that he had been receiving death threats since he began conducting nationwide polls in 1996. So, obviously, such threats are nothing new in the Electoral Commissioner’s line of duty and life (Ghanaweb.com 1/5/09).

Still, death threats, however frivolous they may seem, ought not to be countenanced in any way, shape or form by society. This means that it is imperative for law-enforcement agencies to use threatening information promptly provided by targets of such abuse – for death threats constitute the most flagrant form of psychological abuse – to track down the culprits. In other words, while it is morally edifying for Dr. Afari-Gyan to claim the especial protective powers of Divine Providence in the diurnal affairs of his family and himself, it still incontrovertibly stands that as a prominent public official in an occupationally sensitive capacity, his protection, as well as that of his family, must be accorded a top priority on our national security agenda, in much the same manner that our national security agencies are charged with the minute-by-minute protection of the top members of our government and the nation at large.

We are also told that Mr. Kofi Arhin, the Electoral Commission’s director in charge of the conduct of elections, has also received similar threats. This is to be expected in a nation gripped with the high-wire tension that competitive democratic politics brings in its trail. Hitherto, Ghanaian political culture was ranked among the least democratically competitive around the world. That, of course, was the grim era of strongmen and civilian dictators that most of us would rather not remember or even wish had never occurred in the rather short postcolonial life of our beloved nation.

A report of the radio interview, which appeared in an article published by the Daily Dispatch, was captioned “Death Threats Don’t Scare Me – Afari-Gyan.” And, needless to say, it is all well and good for the EC Chairman to be unfazed by cowardly and largely empty threats by those who appear not to be emotionally mature enough to accept electoral defeat, or the psychological balance and emotional poise that ought to attend a democratic political regime, culture or dispensation.

In our time, the issuing of death threats has been traditionally and almost invariably and uniquely associated with the now-ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC). As the pseudo-civilian Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC), the Rawlings Corporation, or its unofficial lieutenants and/or recruits, was widely reported to have issued life-threatening warnings to almost each and every one of the prominent Ghanaian citizens and legal lights who investigated the brutal assassination of the three Supreme Court judges and the retired Ghana Army major, and ultimately produced what came to be known as the “SIB Report.”

Indeed, during the 1990s, while a graduate student at Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, this writer had the privilege to hold forth with a former member of the Special Investigation Board that inquired into the murder of the judges and the Army officer. He was about to retire from the Temple University Law School. This quite distinguished SIB member, a Yale Law School graduate, had also been dean of the University of Ghana Law School. And on this score, it bears reminding our readers that the SIB Report had directly implicated the Rawlings-led government of the Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC) in the abduction, rape (in the case of Justice Cecilia Koranteng-Addow), torture and summary execution of the judges and the retired Army major. A key member of the PNDC cabinet, Mr. Joachim Amartey-Kwei, would shortly be named the proverbial “fall guy” and hurriedly executed by firing squad at the Teshie Military Range, following a court hearing that some prominent Ghanaian citizens then described as a kangaroo judicial process.

The foregoing is primarily intended to highlight, in retrospect, the fact that in Ghana death threats have been known to be issued by ruling governments and must, therefore, not be taken lightly, the religious presumption of providential protection notwithstanding.

This is not, in any way, to facilely suggest that any particular government in power whose electoral fortunes went to the proverbial dogs has or has not been involved in the dastardly issuance of death threats to/against key electoral players whose professionalism – or impartiality – has been deemed to be inimical to the interests of one major political party or another.

*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is the author of “Sounds of Sirens: Essays in African Politics and Culture” (iUniverse.com, 2004). E-mail: okoampaahoofe@aol.com. ###

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