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Opinions of Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Columnist: Kyei-Mensah-Osei, Kofi

Of Cheriponi, Akwatia and Atiwa; A Prelude of Things to Come?

Every political observer in the country who has followed events in our Fourth Republican democracy since 1992 would have known by now that our electoral system has a lot of flaws and that it is not yet the finished article. Granted that established and even more developed democracies like that of the United States Of America and other countries in Europe still have their electoral ups and downs, nonetheless we still have a long way to go and need even more fine-tuning to bring our electoral system to the level where we can say with confidence that our democracy has indeed arrived. The issue I seek to address here should not in anyway be misconstrued as an indictment on our democracy; rather my goal is to draw the attention of the authorities and the entire citizenry to seek appropriate remedies to the canker of injury, death and loss of property, harassment, threats and the use of “macho-men” during elections. It’s about time someone dealt with this cyclical problem before it drags the country down the road of destruction. The above notwithstanding, Dr Kwadwo Afari-Djan and his National Electoral Commission deserves tons of congratulations for holding relatively successful elections in the country since 1992. Ghanaians in general deserve a pat on the back for being part of our success story so far.

In the foregoing paragraph, I used the phrase ‘relatively successful elections…’ because, since 1992, every single election we have held in the country has always brought the country to the brink of war. I do not understand why every election so far held should generate so much tension and fear in the country. Every presidential and parliamentary election has always brought in its wake deaths, injuries and loss of property to a section of the electorates. As a country, we tend to forget about the pain and misery some of our people went through during the elections the moment the results are declared. Whoever won the elections would consciously or unconsciously not do anything to address the problems which occurred during the voting process until he is out of office. In the same way the security agencies fail or refuse to prosecute perpetrators of such crimes especially if the culprits align themselves with the party in power. It is sad and shocking to see the country’s security apparatus behaving both individually and collectively as arms of the ruling party; bowing to their every command; be it legal or illegal. Likewise, victims and aggrieved individuals who happen to belong to the losing party feel intimidated to follow up their grievances to their conclusive end. They bear their pain silently without any effort by those in authority to address them and so their pain will fester for 4 years until the next elections are due where they will seek to take revenge on their political opponents who inflicted the pain on them in the first place. So the cycle will continue.

Unfortunately for our country and our democracy, successive governments have failed or refused to address these inherent flaws in our electoral system. The reason is that; we compare the relative success of our elections and democracy to what pertains in countries like Nigeria, Togo, Cote and D’Ivoire and for as long as we seem to have a better electoral system to the other countries in the sub-region then there is no way anybody will do anything about the victims of our elections. The plight of the masses who often happen to be the victims of electoral flaws get pushed to the background the moment our sycophantic chiefs and self-seeking opinion leaders troop to the castle to congratulate the newly elected president for their own parochial reasons with no mention of the atrocities which occurred during the elections. The ineptitude of the security apparatus and successive governments in addressing these perennial problems is appalling. The culture of silence in addressing these problems has given some form of legitimacy to these heinous crimes and as a result, such dangerous occurrences have become endemic in our body politic. We go to the polls to either retain a party in office for a good job done or change it for a new government to better the lot of our country folks but not to kill and maim them!! So why do some of our political parties use guns, macho-men, machetes etc to intimidate, threaten, harass, maim and even kill the electorates on the election day? This problem needs urgent attention before some nation saboteurs lead the country down the road to Armageddon. I do not wish to sound the prophet of doom but the alarming silence of successive governments and the security apparatus to address the matter is deafening. Anytime one cautions that these electoral concerns if not addressed may lead the country down the road other sister African countries have travelled, some of our people will ignorantly counter that what happened in other west African countries cannot happen in Ghana. They are yet to give any scientific proof or valid reason for being this headstrong but that is a topic for another day. We have been ostriches for far too long! It is about time our leaders put measures in place to deal with those who perpetrate these horrendous acts against our village folks during elections.

From Cheriponi, Akwatia to Atiwa, we had some of our village folks suffering serious injuries. I have said it elsewhere that, elections in this country have always led to deaths and life threatening injuries to our village folks but these never get addressed. There were many reported injuries during the Cheriponi by-elections but nothing came out of the investigations. Readers need no reminding about the utterances of some of the leaders of NDC who conveyed their fanatics in buses to invade the offices of the National Electoral Commission with machetes, pestles, clubs and truncheons to force the electoral commission to declare the results after the 2008 general elections. To date, none of the bus loads of drunken hoodlums and drug-addled hooligans who went to the electoral commission on that fateful day was arrested. Then in Akwatia where the by-election was held in only 6 polling stations, Baba Jamal the current Deputy Eastern Regional Minister who contested the seat instructed his followers to wage a “jihad” in those areas to help him win in those 6 stations. Jamal’s followers carried out his instructions to the letter. They wielded guns and other weapons on the day of the elections. They threatened and beat some people and inflicted various degrees of injuries on them. Other acts of terror and harassment were reported even against some NPP MPs who went there to observe the elections. In the end the perpetrators went scot-free and what happened next; Baba Jamal was appointed the region’s deputy minister; the same Baba Jamal who had been rejected by his constituency on the 3 different occasions he attempted to represent them in parliament. Now we can also add the Atiwa by-elections held only a few days ago where among other barbaric acts, Anita De-Souza is alleged to have driven her car through a crowd of people seriously injuring 4 of them in the process to the list. Then again as in other parts of the country where by-elections have been held in the past, there have been numerous acts of violence, threats and brutalities perpetrated against the local electorates to coerce them to vote for the NDC. Sadly, the police officers refused to go to the aid of those who were brutalised with the excuse that they were there only to protect the ballot boxes. Are the police implying that electorates should arm themselves in future before they go out to vote since the police cannot help them if they are being attacked by their political opponents? The NDCs penchant for intimidation, harassment and use of brute force does not bode well for the future stability of the country. The institutionalisation of violence, threats and appointing individuals with the history of preaching violence in our body politic to positions of authority and power is really dangerous. When will some of these criminal be prosecuted? If Cheriponi, Akwatia and Atiwa are a prelude of things to come then God help Ghana. And when you have people like Madam Ladi Ayamba, the NDCs Deputy National Propaganda Secretary proudly announcing on “Peace fm” on Saturday, 04.09.10 that the NDC “will win the 2012 elections by hook or crook” then Ghanaians have genuine reasons to be worried. One may ask; does the NDCs “win by hook or crook” declaration by Madam Ayamba denote the use of force and violence? What would the NDC do if it becomes obvious they are losing the elections? Would they go ahead and win “by hook or crook” without giving a thought to the repercussion such action could have on the country?

I do not want to use Cheriponi, Akwatia and Atiwa to predict what lies ahead of our dear country in our future elections, but if there is any meaning in the saying that “coming events cast their shadows” then patriotic sons and daughters of the country have cause to be seriously concerned. Let those now in authority take the bull by the horn and put measures in place to eliminate these occurrences in our elections and punish the perpetrators of such brutalities with the maximum force of the law. Whilst we are at it, we should all remember that violence and lawlessness is not the exclusive right of any particular group of people in the country. People in authority should not pay lip service to how much they “love peace” and yet turn a blind to those in their party wreaking havoc on the poor and defenceless. The time for those who claim to love peace to act is now and if they fail to do so, whatever happens to Ghana will be on their heads. We have one Ghana and we live or die in it together.

Kofi Kyei-Mensah-Osei