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21.12.2003 Feature Article

The Hovering Threats to Democracy

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In the West African Sub-region political tranquillity has been disturbed and destroyed. Over the last 15 years, West Africa has not seen peace; a sustained peaceful environment needed to root political vision and the building of democracy. Côte d’Ivoire, which long epitomised a peaceful country in the sub-region is today one of the few countries where peaceful settlement than armoury exchanges characterises the focus of the leaders of ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States).

A look into the history of some of the elite states West Africa, the countries, which together tied their vision to happily throw out the cloak of colonialism, have not been spared of the bond of nationhood. Rather, they are countries, which over the years have struggled woefully to put their nationalism to the test of global ridiculing. Ghana, Nigeria, Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire were the adored and praised for their drive towards independence. The Nkrumah’s, Azikwe’s, Troare’s and Boigney’s were themselves heroes in their own rights. However, such individuals again stand to be blamed may be for their failure to adhere and build sustainable nationalism among their citizens but rather manipulated the system to sustain their presidencies. Considering that such leaders have had strong experiences of democracy should have set the path for the bright future of their countries. What they failed to do (giving that time may not have favoured some) left the indelible struggle of some of these states.

The mayhem, name-calling and the brouhaha in West African states, to the good, have not appeared as religious or ethnic implied struggles. The only exception but not deeply highlighted is that of the political scene of Côte d’Ivoire – the Muslims in the north and the Christians in the South. What has bedevilled and created a platform of power struggle and not democratic development is ‘personal’ and sometimes mundane and myopic aspirations of few whose sole desire is to become president or get access to huge sums of money in the short time. With few dollars in hand, such unpatriotic power hungry individuals gather few hungry citizens, seek foreign assistance and commence their assault on democracy and peace but not state. The noisy and monotonous rhyme of the dire bullets shows no respire for the wailing of mothers and children, mercy on the sick and the elderly. They become victims of greedy ambitions of ignorant brats.

Ghana appears to have been spared at least, from this kind of power hungry souls over a period of time. After some period of military drills, Ghanaians are gradually building but fast, the fringes of what should be good and sustainable democracy in the country. Since 1992, when the country was ushered into another democratic governance, Ghana has had the chance to change presidents through the ballot for the first time. This is no mean achievement considering the fact that this has never happened in the history of the country. Secondly, such a wonderful period of democratic learning is taking place and surrounded by neighbours in the West African Sub-region whose countries are experiencing political struggles and turmoil and a possible spill over. As witnessed in some other parts of Africa, cross boarder fighting have the tendency to spill over neighbouring countries. Thirdly, this democratic feat will certainly become a lesson for countries nearby to reassess their noble books of peace and seek the path of dialogue using Ghana as a measure of capability.

In making the exemplary efforts in seating democracy in Ghana, evidences of minor circumstances; views, different ideological leanings, political language, perceptions, etc are germinating. By democracy, certain ingredients which should have been cooked so well to dress the path of Ghana’s effort are simply becoming the very iota of differences delivered in explosive thoughts, unearthing the atmosphere which are in themselves the hovering threats to the peace in Ghana.

These threats, which may be perceived as minor or insignificant in proportion in causing an abrupt cessation to democratic efforts, need a second thought. For scientific prove an atom is required even if small, to set forward compound.

Political tension which has characterised the debate of issues rather than ‘peaceful dialogue’ among the most competitive political parties give the impression that things are discussed on affiliations and not credibility. In the party bloc, NPP and NDC do not seem to click together. Differences in views pertained to programs are discerned from extreme ends. Scan through the debate on the report of a commission stating that the office of the president has had an increasing number of employees working at the castle or the approval of the Speaker of Parliament’s vacation leave with pay in Europe by the Finance Minister at (www.ghanaweb.com). The despairing arguments are positive and encouragement from NPP members and spokespersons while the NDC frown’s deeply about the kind of analysis and abuses inherent in NPP. At the on-going Reconciliation Commission sitting, the NDC has openly criticised the work of the commission as a ‘window dressing for witch hunting.’ At the acme of this divisiveness in instead of dialogue and tolerance, the sitting president and the former president have openly washed their dirty linens in the public. Concerned citizens and religious bodies have consistently appealed to these two persons to bury their hatchets and let the sleeping dogs lie. However, none of the numerous calls have had meaningful appeals to these two personalities. Thus creating tension for trouble and loving Ghana with another heart.

Can one turn a blind eye knowing that Messrs. Rawlings and Kufour have large followings, admirers and friends? That any exhumed differences left to blossom into national discourse can create the brouhaha, much enough to destroy what has been built over the years? But come to think of it, not NDC or NPP do appreciate what each one party has done. So are some Ghanaians of these same parties who fault all and sundry making comments and suggests as either NPP or NDC stalwart. In his previous articles which the writer has commented for some policy redirection, many a time, some readers fail to appreciate the importance of the comments made but quickly use the analysis made at the periods of NDC and NPP to categorise the political party of the writer. Such faulting do not only deepen the political differences, they prevent the freedom of speech of the minority, some good opinions, reduces dialogue and build fascism rather than unity for democracy and development.

Secondly, with the level of political tolerance at its low, the words, which are authored of late among individuals, are in themselves posing another serious threats to peace. From one party to another, comments entail some high level of despicable choices of words, which are very inviting for responses and accusations. No comment is taken in good faith and allowing the audience to make sound judgement of scenarios. As one party talks, the other responds quickly on even trivial comments which need no further comment. The NDC Brong Ahafo Regional Chairman, Alhaji Dauda (ghanaweb, 02/12/2003) was picked up for questioning after having packed his car near the president’s house. In cautioning, the NDC had this to say about the President,

‘The NDC is disappointed with the state of paranoia the President finds himself and would wish to caution him to avoid panicky security reaction that could jeopardise our fragile peace and lead to another Reconciliation exercise in future’.

To the Ghana Police, the press secretary for NDC, Mr. Bede Ziedeng in the press release further commented,

“over-zealous and enthusiastic security personnel who are bent on taking actions just to please their ‘masters’ for they will be held responsible for their own actions” 03/12/2003, ghanaweb.

Not holding brief for what happened, the statements above have well appreciated purposes. They also carry ahead the possible threat from NDC that such police action meant to pad/serve the ‘paranoia’ of their ‘masters’ – the President and government- may mean to the peace and the democracy of Ghana.

Additionally, the media both electronic and prints have not let this tension played at low. They happily fuel it. In Abuja, the President tried to explain to the media about some allegations of human right abuses levelled against NPP by Mr. Rawlings. However, the headline as appeared at 08/12/2003 (ghanaweb) was “JAK Hits Back at JJ”.

In saying that dialogue, opinions and views are essential measures needed to consolidate Ghana’s democracy, it is also true to say that they are threats to democracy. The threat inherent here is not the excessive use of it but the way; the process or the means by which such divergent views are decoded to the public. It is the inappropriate way of expressing views, which have created some tension among certain individuals, parties and associations in Ghana. At Joy FM’s visitor comments feedback accompanying headline news, visitors often use very disappointing, racial and disheartening words to simply insult rather than put their views across. The end result however, is the persistent war wording rather than a consistent assessment of the path to take and the development needed for the country. History lovers would remember firmly that conversational disagreement erupted the one famous ‘guinea-fowl’ fight that drew two tribes into deadly battle and lost of lives in the Northern portion of Ghana. In 1994/5, the cultural skirmishes between the Abriw-Akwapim and Akropong-Akwapim again painfully resulted in death of lives and destruction to many properties.

Recently, some few writers in Ghana were pampering cultural role and its footing in Ghanaian politics. Some were questioning the number of Ashantes in NPP’s government. ‘The Ashante Factor’ as one writer puts it, the Ga’s contribution and importance in Ghana; the Akyeam’s importance than the rest, etc. Rightfully, the Minister for Communications issued a statement to encourage Ghanaians to desist from unearthing and dressing cultural politics for Ghana’s democracy. During the NDC’s time, the talk of ‘nya bro’ (implying the number of Ewe’s occupying top positions in the bureaucracies) favouring their fellow tribesmen paraded through daily conversations. However, the government at that time did well either to downplay such issues or totally failed to respond thus allowing that ‘comment’ to be a mere comment. That has not been the case today. Nonetheless, one is not sure if such individuals who take delight in such trivial matters with the ultimate calamity to nationhood often weigh the outcome of such comments and issues. Or to say, what appear to be unguided sentiments to express state of affairs even if genuine, should be done so loosely?

Lastly, the growing level of poverty in the Ghana is another great threat to democracy. One may not be expected to go voting in hunger. Neither shall we appreciate the fact that Ghanaians will go toiling all day only to get what is scarcely enough to feed oneself and not the small size families in the country today. Poverty heightens frustration and supplants disappointment, hatred and annoyance in the minds of people who hope to see change. It drives children from school into indulging in criminal activities, developing wickedness and child’s interests in possessing armoury (among boys) to perpetuate criminal activities and terrorise communities. Poverty pushes young females into the hands social decay and childbearing. Poverty develops the test of disapproving democratic governance and rather approving military junta as saviour of the plights of the suffering masses. Poverty blinds achievements and gains of some sort and builds intuitive anger for community desperadoes willing to die in creating chaos. Such people see no hope in life. Not until government draws up an inclusive (emphasis on self-help/assisted and economically viable income generating projects) plan for development efforts on democracy make no meaning to hungry and angry souls.

At the threshold of such an enviable and peaceful democratic dispensation, we all owe much credit to ourselves for the effort made. It does not matter which party is in power and what achievement they made. What matters is Ghana’s democracy. On the other hand, we stand tall to embrace the blame of our failure to move forward and not for one party or government. Ghanaians have gone through tumultuous moments of governance. Yet again, we have the chance to build democracy and set the path the future knowing and proving that in whatever state Ghanaians are, we can demonstrate what Nkrumah said, “…the blackman is capable of managing his own affairs.’ To do this, we need to see ourselves as Ghanaians and not by tribes. We need to put Ghana first but hold firmly to our cultural identities.

We should share and strife to make our democracy work. At the moment, we are only building the fences today; and to think that democracy has taken root is just talk. Even in advanced countries where they boast of democracy, they learn each day. Meaning that, democracy is a living process, a cyclical adventure for the good of nationhood. We cannot afford to let such little threats hovering around us, be what Shakespeare describes in his book ‘Macbeth’, to be the serpent under the innocent flowers.

I welcome criticism and comments Kaytu, Kwame Atta www.incadega.org Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Kwame Atta Kaytu
Kwame Atta Kaytu, © 2003

The author has 21 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: KwameAttaKaytu

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