John Evans Atta Mills, presidential candidate of the National Democratic Congress, yesterday played down the relevance of President John Kufuor's mediation efforts in Kenya, insisting that the President should have given priority to the conflict in his backyard, Bawku, instead of attending to a foreign conflict.
"President Kufuor must not forget that it is his position as President of Ghana that propelled him to the AU position,” he added.
The NDC flagbearer stated this when he addressed a press conference at the party's headquarters.
But the NDC flagbearer could not have chosen a worse time for his press conference. In an interview with The Statesman's Hamza Lansa Lolly yesterday, Upper East Regional Minister Alhassan Samari said the situation in the Bawku and Garu Tempane areas had returned to normal, following the efficient marshalling of the security apparatus to quell the disturbances that erupted on New Year's eve.
On Tuesday, President Kufuor, who is also the Chairman of the African Union, traveled to Kenya at the invitation of the Kenyan government to mediate in the turmoil that has rocked the country in the wake of controversial election results.
Opposition candidate Raila Odinga has rejected the results, which went in favour of incumbent President Mwai Kibaki, and called for a re-run. Violent clashes between government and opposition supporters has so far claimed about 600 lives, according to reports.
In addition to those killed, some 250,000 are feared displaced by the violence following the 27 December election.
President Kufuor yesterday held separate talks with Mr Odinga and President Kibaki; afterwards, Mr Kibaki's spokesman said he wanted to reach out to his opponents now the violence had subsided, while Mr Odinga called the talks "fruitful".
Stating the NDC's position on that country's election debacle, Prof Mills said it is the party's opinion that the declared results have been vitiated by rigging with the clear intention of cheating and must therefore not be accepted.
"In this regard, the National Democratic Congress firmly supports the emerging consensus among the parties to the conflict that a re-run of the elections, supervised by the international community, should be held as soon as possible."
According to the NDC presidential candidate, there are serious implications and lessons for other African countries especially Ghana to learn out of the Kenyan situation.
He said Kenya's election is of great significance and direct relevance to Ghana, not only because we have an important election scheduled for December 2008, but in his opinion, the ruling NPP government created conditions that could have brought the country close to violent confrontation at the end of the 2004 elections.
"I want to repeat with all force at my command, the warning note that I sounded last year that should there be another attempt by the ruling government or any party contesting in the December elections to steal the verdict, the National Democratic Congress and all fair minded Ghanaians will categorically reject outright the fraudulent results and adopt all legitimate means, to seek redress," Prof Mills warned.
But in a quick response, former NPP general Secretary Dan Botwe has assured the NDC flagbearer that there will be no cause for confusion after the December poll. This is because "the gap between the NPP and the NDC will be so wide that even the most diehard NDC supporter will not have reason to contest the results."
Meanwhile, the NDC flagbearer has appealed to the NPP government to provide adequate security and to ensure the safety of all presidential candidates and aspiring parliamentarians of all parties for 2008 polls.
Prof Mills used the conference to formally announce Alex Segbefia as the NDC campaign coordinator for 2008, Mahama Ayariga, campaign spokesperson and Eric Ametor Quarmyne as his deputy.
Ekow Spio Gabrah, Eddie Annan, both NDC presidential aspirants who lost to Prof Mills at the party's primaries attended the press conference.
By Nana Obeng-Danquah