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31.10.2008 Politics

Presidential candidates pledge commitment to peace

By GNA

Presidential candidates and running mates of political parties contesting the December polls on Friday declared their commitment to keep the peace before, during and after the elections.

At a symposium jointly organised by the Editors Forum Ghana (EFG) and the West Africa Media Foundation (WAMF), each of the seven candidates and running mates who participated, promised not to sanction nor participate in any acts that would undermine the elections and mar the peace the country enjoyed at the moment.

They each said they would neither support nor shield any of their party members who got caught for any act of misconduct before, during and after the elections.

The symposium was under the theme: "Towards a Peaceful Election 2008: My Party's Contribution; The way forward" and was intended for the candidates to tell the public how they intended to keep the peace before, during and after the elections.

Those who participated included Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, candidate for the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Dr Paa Kwesi Ndoum of the Convention People's Party (CPP), Mr Emmanuel Ansah_Antwi of the Democratic Freedom Party (DFP), Mr Thomas N. Ward-Brew of the Democratic People's Party (DPP) and Mr Kwabena Adjei of the Reform Patriotic Democrats (RPD), a break-away from the NPP.

The others were Mr John Dramani Mahama, running mate of Professor John Evans Atta Mills of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and Ms Petra Amegashie, running mate of Dr Edward Nasigre Mahama of the People's National Convention (PNC).

They each had 10 minutes to make a presentation.

Nana Akufo-Addo recalled that when the NPP disputed the 1992 elections, the party wrote a book "The Stolen Verdict" but did not use violence to address its concerns, saying that the NPP now, like the NPP then, was committed to peace as always.

He also recalled that since the occurrence of violent clashes in some parts of the country the NPP had called on the NDC to dialogue on how to keep the peace, but had had no response.

"We acknowledge that the call for peace is underlined by events in Kenya and Zimbabwe and we are committed to ensuring that Ghana becomes an example for Kenya and Zimbabwe instead of repeating what happened in those countries.

"Kenya and Zimbabwe should be a lesson and not a model for Ghana."

Nana Akufo-Addo proposed that to ensure peace before, during and after the elections, all stakeholders, including the Electoral Commission (EC), the media, security services, political parties, civil society and Ghanaians in general should play their roles more seriously.

He said the EC should respond quickly to political parties' concerns, the security services should start deploying patrol teams from now to ensure that people, who were preparing to undermine the process were brought to book, the media should be fair to all and be circumspect in their reports and Ghanaians should reject those who preached violence.

Mr Mahama said he was confident that Ghana would successfully go through the fifth elections under the Fourth Republic and emerge as an example for democratic consolidation in Africa.

He insisted that it was primarily the responsibility of the EC to ensure free and fair elections and that it was not proper for the EC to push that responsibility onto the political parties, adding that it was also the responsibility of the government, through the security agencies to ensure law and order during the elections.

"It is wrong for the EC to, for instance, blame the political parties for the registration of minors in the recent limited registration exercise, especially when political party agents were kept 50 metres away for the actual registration table manned by EC officials," he said.

He said the government and security agencies should be committed to punishing infractions during the elections to forestall subsequent acts of misconduct, citing incidences or violence in the last elections, which went unpunished.

Mr Mahama also complained about the refusal of GTV to play four adverts from the NDC because, according to GTV, those adverts did not meet their house style, while other stations played those adverts. Nana Akufo-Addo also said GTV had refused to play three of NPP's adverts.

Dr Ndoum noted that the CPP had been disciplined and conducted a positive campaign in order not to out-step its boundaries into other parties' boundaries.

He said in spite of his extreme carefulness, he became the victim of media propaganda when the Statesman, a pro-NPP daily, erroneously reported him as making reference to the ill health of other candidates and calling them weak candidates.

"This is unacceptable because that is not what I said - the videos are there for those who want to watch. The media owe it to the people to publish what we say as politicians but not to misinterpret us just to incite political parties against each other," he said.

Dr Ndoum said it was important not to undermine the EC during the electoral process, saying that the CPP believed that any matter meant for the EC should be told the EC directly and not through the media.

Mr Ward-Brew said peace was the child of justice and fairness and that if the process was not fair and just, peace could elude us.

He complained about the discrimination from the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) for excluding some political parties from the recent presidential debate and called on other parties to boycott the debate in the name of fairness and justice to all.

"I also think the Editors Forum of Ghana has not been fair to the independent candidate, Mr Kwesi Amoafo-Yeboah for not inviting him to participate in the symposium," he said.

Cardinal Peter Appiah Turkson, Chairman of the National Peace Council (NPC), who presided said peace was not possible without truth and justice, saying that it behoved all stakeholders to uphold the principles of justice for all and truth in order to keep the peace.

Ms Adjoa Yeboah-Afari, Chair of the EFG, reminded the electorate that the candidates they followed were not enemies but very cordial to each other, adding that they should, therefore, eschew violence and bloodshed in seeking to ensure victory for their candidates.

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