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18.11.2004 Feature Article

Beating the drums of war

Beating the drums of war
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A GNA feature by Nana Kodjo Jehu-Appiah

Accra, Nov. 18, GNA - Typical of every major election year in Ghana, is the ritual of beating the drums of war by some politicians, who perhaps enjoy the disharmony associated with political violence. The cacophony of war drums tends to affect the symphony that should be the birthright of the country's fledgling democracy. Whipping of ethnic, chieftaincy and other emotive but divisive sentiments during Presidential and Parliamentary elections since the inception of the 1992 Constitution, is becoming a regular and routine feature of Ghanaian politics.

The trend may not be worrying to most Ghanaians since it had not gathered the momentum to incite people to sharpen their machetes and oil their guns to transform the country into a huge abattoir, where the sanctity of life would be seen as a travesty of history.

Timely, however, was a workshop organised for Journalists in Accra to brainstorm on how to halt media reports that could trigger the conflict no Ghanaian might have prepared for.

Ensuring mutual tolerance and amity was the event that motivated Journalists to throw the searchlight on the threat to national integration, through the inciting of ethnic sentiments and xenophobia by a section of the media.

Two Liberian Journalists, Mr Jos Garneo Cephas and Mr Wellington Geevon- Smith, who were part of the two-day workshop, asked the Ghanaian media to be circumspective about reports that promoted social tension. Mr Cephas, who works with the "The Daily Guide", an Accra Daily, and Mr Geevon-Smith of the Media Foundation of West Africa, stressed the need for Ghanaians to cherish the peace and stability that had ensured a safe haven for the over 42,000 Liberians refugees.

"We are coming from a war-torn country and we are careful when we are reporting on ethnic issues."

The workshop was organised by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) and the French Embassy in Ghana. Mr Kwabena Adjepong, Press Secretary to the President, observed that some newspapers were deliberately creating religious and social tensions in the country, saying: "Some of the reports are mischievous and not based on facts."

He tasked Journalists to ensure highly ethical standards in their profession by striving to be objective, factual and balanced in their reportage.

Mr Adjepong said consensus building was a critical part of democratic governance, stressing: "Ghanaians should learn to celebrate the beauty of diversity and live in harmony."

The Government Spokesperson said without a vibrant media, there was the tendency that government could violate the human rights of the citizenry.

"Lack of transparency, free and fair elections and an all encompassing democratic system were the causes of conflicts in Africa." Mr Alfonso Artico, a Belgian Veteran War Correspondent, who was the main Facilitator at the workshop, warned that if Ghanaian Journalists failed to educate the people on the causes of war, the country could be on the verge of conflict.

"Each word of hate, each mistake on radio, builds war and when the war is finished, it is too late."

Mr Kwesi Pratt (Junior), the Managing Editor of the "Daily Insight", charged the media to identify the causes of poverty and deprivation that gave rise to ethnic hatred and xenophobia.

"As more people suffer deprivation and poverty, the madmen arise as warlords to take advantage of the situation."

It is of course true that there are madmen and for the purpose of gender balance, madwomen, who are eager to fly on the whims of populism and parochial interests to light the flames of war in Ghana the Motherland.

To such deviants one would say, please seek counsel from the wise and spare this country a war.

The discerning Liberian Journalists may have summarised their admonishment about war into the dictum: "A word to the wise is enough." The examples of war in neighbouring La Cote d'Ivoire and the dying embers of the protracted conflict in Liberia are just more than enough.

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