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Opinions of Monday, 25 July 2016

Columnist: Kofi Nsia-Pepra

Ghana needs peace- 2016 Elections

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Ghana labors under comfortable delusion that it is an “Island of Peace” in a zone of war. Unfortunately, Ghana’s exceptionalism is on the brink of collapse by current political hostilities.

Ghana is on the slippery slope to the final stage of conflict onset. Ghana’s elections, since 1992, are fraught with inter-party and intra-party tensions, organized thuggery evident in electoral violence at Akwatia, Tain, and Yendi Constituencies. The rhetoric of official and unofficial party spokespersons has become more belligerent.

Political discussions degenerate into deranging invectives and shouting matches to intimidate opponents.

The stakes are high and elections have become “Do or Die” affairs because Ghana’s flawed democracy is afflicted with a hyper-aggressive, winner-take-all zero sum game and monetized political system with tolerance for rapacious official corruption. Politics has become a means to riches.

“lootocratic” practices have replaced democratic virtues. Media sensationalism through underserved publicity of intemperate language have heightened tension in the country. More seriously, the current detestable political tension is unfortunately shaping along the much dreaded divisive ethnic fault lines. The ramifications will be devastating and unbearable if immediate collective action is not taken to stem it.

We can stem potential conflict by prioritizing our collective national interests over individualistic parochial interests in consonance with our cherished common heritage, aspirations and destiny. Ghana’s peace depends on a transparent, free and fair election void of intimidation and unscrupulous electoral manipulations. Of critical importance is the immediate resolution of the trust issues involving the EC and the voters’ register.

The impartiality of the security apparatus in subjecting all Ghanaians to equal standard of justice and protection is also paramount. The objectivity of the media as a champion of the people is a necessity. I am glad President Mahama and the opposition have assured Ghanaians of a peaceful, free and fair elections and I hope they honor their promise for the sake of Ghana’s peace.

As a reminder, leaders and supporters who mastermind and commit atrocities would be criminally liable for accountability to the international community for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Leaders who also strategically spur and ignore violations by their subordinates for political expediency would also be held accountable in line with the doctrine of command responsibility.

The so called violent ‘Machomen’ stooges who brutalize innocent Ghanaians, are reminded that they are not invincible and would face similar fate as their patrons. Self-proclaimed invincible figures such as Foday Sankoh, Capt. S.A.J. Musah and ‘Gen. Mesquita’ Sam Bockarie who masterminded and committed atrocities in Sierra Leone perished whilst Sam Hinga Norman, a government official, was indicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Liberia’s Charles Taylor was prosecuted by the Court in The Hague for his role in the Sierra Leonean atrocities.

The youth are also cautioned to resist falling prey to elitist political manipulations and instigations to commit despicable atrocities because they are not immune from criminal accountability. The Special Court for Sierra Leone prosecuted child soldiers who committed war crimes some as young as 15 years.

It behooves the leaders of opposing camps to master political courage and will to call their supporters to order to end their provocative vitriolic rhetoric and violence. Media outlets that either fan tension or allow spoilers to use their platform to spew deranging invectives to foment violence must be sanctioned.

It will be naïve to be lured into a false sense of complacency that mere verbal condemnations and prayers would end the current tension and avert potential conflict in the December 2016 elections. It is high time we the ordinary people demanded a peaceful, free and fair elections through vibrant and robust collective actions. We must demonstrate to potential belligerents our unconditional distaste for their violent agenda.

According to President Woodrow Wilson, “Liberty has never come from the government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of it.” A strong and active involvement of civil society and the public is fundamental to Ghana’s peace.

I propose the formation of “PEACE FOR GHANA” movement involving all peace stakeholders including students, market women, and farmers, NGOs, Chiefs and Queen Mothers etc. using nonviolent activism such as peace marches, rallies and mass education to demonstrate our commitment to peace.

President Obama in praising the tenacity and bravery of the Egyptian people stated that “Egyptians have inspired us” ….“For in Egypt, it was the moral force of nonviolence, not mindless killing … that bent the arch of history toward justice once more.” Agonized Ghanaians must demonstrate that Ghana’s peace is non-negotiable.

An historic epoch has been reached where the will and dignity of the ordinary people supersede the parochial desires of some few greedy political elites. Truly, the voice of the people rings louder than the forces of destruction and ours must be heard.

I am confident we cannot afford the luxury of bequeathing to the next generation a violent society. But if we fail to unite and save Ghana, we shall surely be condemned. I believe we shall not fail them and will bequeath to them a united, free, just and stable Ghana. Ghana needs peace. Long live Ghana!!!

Kofi Nsia-Pepra Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Political Science (International Relations/Comparative politics, ) Ohio Northern University, USA.