THE NORTHERN Regional Director of the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), Mr. H.S Haruna has appealed to the security services, particularly the police not to create panic in the society before, during and after the December elections.
He said though there would be the need for the security services to fast track the arrest of criminals who would try to cause trouble or confusion, this must be done with caution in order to prevent petty arrests that may create unnecessary panic among the populace.
According to him, the security services must respond to challenges of peaceful elections such as how to ensure fairness and freeness of the electoral processes and how to make the electorate understand and appreciate their roles and conduct expected of them ahead of the elections.
He added that citizen's knowledge and acceptance of the electoral process as well as mechanisms put in place by the Electoral Commission (EC) was necessary to avert some of the challenges that could arise. In addition, the security services have to make the public know what security arrangements being put in place to avert the many other challenges so as to gain public confidence and reliance on them. He stressed that “timely responses to conflict situations is very necessary to sustain public confidence in the security system.”
Mr. Haruna was speaking at a one-day workshop for security personnel organized by the Ministry of Interior in collaboration with the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS) on the theme “The Role of Security Services before, during and after Elections 2008” in Tamale last week.
He pointed out that the security services must be involved in educating the general public on the dangers of wielding weapons at rallies, and through civic engagements with various sections of the public.
Additionally, they must also monitor closely, individuals or groups of individuals who are of potential threat to peace in order to act appropriately when the need arises and “police communities through networks of local structures engaged in peace building.”
He said during elections, the security services should provide adequate security to the general public to ensure law and order by patrolling the streets to deal troublesome people who want to derail the peace of the country. They must further ensure that people observe the electoral laws and regulations necessary for peaceful elections, “to ensure that the polling stations are safe for voting”, the NCCE official emphasised.
He mentioned that after the elections, they must continue to study and map out all the opinion centres in towns and villages to enable them keep track of events for strategic planning and monitoring of possible post election violence.
He urged the security services not to lose sight of key elements of peaceful elections such as knowing the background of major conflicts in the region, ensuring transparent electoral processes, exhibiting fair play and exercising justice at all levels, and “ensuring that all key players understanding that in every competition, tolerance is essential.”
The Programme Manager of KAS, Mr. Isaac Owusu-Mensah urged the security personnel to let their personal political preferences succumb to the national interest, saying “the demonstration of such maturity is needed in crucial times like now, when stakeholders preaching peaceful elections are multiplying by day.” He said in an election year like this, it was important to have better public confidence in all facets of security in the country, thus, his organization has embarked on a project to improve the prevention and protection of the general public from all manner of trouble during the election period.
He entreated individual Ghanaians to play their respective roles to ensure the safety of all in the run up to the December polls, stressing that “the state has a role but it is a limited one. As it happens in all jurisdictions across the world, the citizenry play a crucial role by supporting security services with the requisite information and the needed comportment.”
He called on political parties to conduct their activities with great decorum in relation to the electorate and political opponents, to avoid election related violence.
Furthermore, he asked the media to also sacrifice their business interest for the national interest by exhibiting great sense of patriotism before, during and after elections. He recalled that “in Rwanda and Yugoslavia, the records prove that the media were very instrumental in fuelling national upheavals.”
According to him, Ghana must not allow the forthcoming elections to wipe the gains the country has chalked in the past years by organizing four successful elections in the Fourth Republic. “During all these years, the process leading to the elections, security agencies have been the linchpin in its success and we are optimistic that this year they will equally live up to the task.”