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Opinions of Saturday, 19 September 2015

Columnist: Kennedy, Arthur Kobina

Stop the violence in our politics

Irmo, South Carolina
17th September, 2015
Yesterday, in Accra, peaceful Ghanaians, marching to petition their government agency, the Electoral Commission, were brutally attacked by the very Police Force sworn to protect them, resulting in serious injuries to several demonstrators.
Yesterday’s incident is a sad and sobering reminder of how fragile our democracy is and how far we have to go to make it secure. It is the latest in the long line of irresponsible and reckless attacks by government on defenseless citizens, dating back to the 1948 riots that led to the deaths of Sergeant Adjetey and others, through the PMFJ in Kumasi, Kume Preko and many others. Aside from the big ones, there have been violence and intimidation targeted at individuals and organizations, including imprisonment, torture, “ shit-bombing” etc.
Responding to the national outrage, COP John Kudalor, stated on behalf of the Police “ I don’t feel sorry, the boys did well”. He continued, “That’s what they were supposed to do—once there is life and property, we must maintain law and order.” Whose property and whose life? Not one picture has shown one demonstrator with a gun or a cutlass in yesterday’s march. Not one person was violent. Even if they were doing something illegal, what happened to arresting and charging them?
Violence, either from security forces or from vigilantes, must have no place in our politics.
If this is a democracy with the rule of law and our motto is “FREEDOM AND JUSTICE”, the police should never have the last word. Parliament and/or some other body must have an inquiry into what happened and hold to account those who erred. Was the Police authorized to hit people who were NOT resisting arrest? Did individual policemen use excessive force? From the murder of Sergeant Adjetey et al to the “ Kume Preko” victims, security agencies have operated outside the law and with no accountability. That must change. We cannot claim to be a democracy when peaceful citizens can be attacked brutally as we saw yesterday. Those who acted outside the law must be investigated and where appropriate, charged and or sacked.
Those who sit in government now were marching to the EC and other places a few years ago and God willing, when out of government, they may march again. Let the NDC marchers now in power secure the right of marchers so that if they have to march in future, they will be protected.
While we join together to condemn the police violence and to hold the erring officers to account though, we must be clear that NO VIOLENCE is acceptable in our politics. It weakens our crusade against rogue law enforcement officials when we justify or make excuses for vigilante violence in our politics.
We cannot miss the irony that Kwabena Agyei Agyapong, who was so eloquent in denouncing the police violence, has been the subject of violent threats from vigilantes in his own party and needed police protection recently. When we practice violence amongst ourselves, we make it easier for the police to think, unfortunately that it is okay for them to practice violence against us.
Let us say, together, regardless of party, regardless of who is in government that violence is wrong—Period.
Let us, together, make Ghana safe for democracy.
Arthur Kobina Kennedy