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19.11.2008 Elections

Press Conference Addressed By The Chief Spokes Person Of The IPS Students For Peace Coalition, On Their Launching And Position Statement For A Peaceful Election Before, During And After The December 7, 2008 General Election.

By Ben Akyena

The Press, Students of the Peace Coalition, Ladies and Gentlemen, good morning. At such a relatively short notice, we are gratified by your huge numbers, which we confidently understand to be your sincere interest in helping to complement the efforts at ensuring a peaceful Ghana before, during and after the December 7 general elections.

That Ghana is a peaceful country by international standards and that previous elections since the coming into being of the forth republic has ended peacefully is not in doubt. This point is further emphasized by the monumental role Ghana has played in bringing about peace in both Regional and Global affairs. The significant role Ghana played and continues to do, enthusiastically, in attempts at resolving the conflicts in Liberia, Sierra Leon, Guinea, Somalia, etc. and also occupying the chairmanship of ECOWAS AND AU at frequent intervals is hard evidence of Ghana not only being a peaceful country but significantly at the frontiers of helping to extend this peace to others who need it.

With such a rich attitude and history of peace, Ghana faces the irresistible temptation of complacency, a situation, which has already blurred our vision to the fact that we are sitting on a timed bomb. It will take even the untrained eyes to behold that all the factors, which lure a nation to conflict, are already showing red. Poverty has eaten deep into the fabric of the Ghanaian society to the extent that people will do anything for money (drugs, ritual murder, violent crime, prostitution etc). Ghana is today not only polarized along party lines but dangerously along religious, class and ethnic lines (Bawku conflict, Gushiegu conflict etc).We have majority of our population illiterate hence fewer people who understand the issues and the essence of democracy. In fact, the concept of democracy, which is a borrowed tradition, is still at the experimental stages in Africa, the numerous conflicts in Africa and even the violent history of Ghana after independence makes this point undeniable. We have a security service, which does not only suffer credibility problem, but serious logistical inadequacies.

The above notwithstanding, and in an express show of complacency, we continue to demonstrate failure to act swiftly and decisively as the peace is threatened. With less than a month to go, political parties seem to have been given blank cheques and they are engaged in lawlessness big time. Government and public officials are very guilty, as they have set little examples by way of their actions and utterances. The airwaves are saturated with gutter language and calls for adequate security have been ignored. Yes, Ghana may be a peaceful country but failure to learn from the mistakes of others particularly Kenya, who until the 2008 elections were relatively peaceful, is to engage in self-delusion.

As we attempt the upcoming election, we face as a country not only the challenge of defending our integrity as a peaceful country and to justify our international role in facilitating peace but significantly the challenge of sustaining the right environment necessary for the education and growth of our people and the industrialisation of our economy.

The IPS Students Coalition for peace has watched with admiration the growing numbers of peace campaigners this electoral season. We however bemoan the extent to which peace campaigns have been trivialised and reduced to fanfares and popularity concerts. This is indeed signs that we are yet to grasp the issues at stake adequately as our country goes to the polls.

In our call for peace, we are compelled by the circumstances of the average Ghanaian in our supposed state of calm. The people of Ghana are already in distress in terms of getting good health care, food to eat, affordable accommodation, employment, education and a life style of dignity. It is our considered opinion that the additional burden of war or instability of any magnitude makes suicide a preferred option. Such is how high the stakes are hence our sworn determination to be part of the process to avert it. The Ghanaian community must be informed that peace like success cannot be wished, every drop of it must be earned deliberately. That the development and progress of the life we seek is only conceivable within a peaceful environment. That whilst every citizen must make a commitment to ensuring peace, greater responsibility rest with persons in authority who have so far exercised very little in terms of good judgement worthy of emulation.

Learning from best practices elsewhere, government (executive, parliament, and judiciary) despite its political interest in the upcoming elections must place the national interest ahead, by working to win the confidence of everybody to be neutral. That incumbency will not be abused and that it will do nothing to unduly interfere with any agency, department, ministry or institution which has a mandate in the electoral process. We of the peace campaign are not oblivious of the challenges that faces the electoral commission but to who much is given same is expected, whilst we wish them well, we also hope that it is never too late to address most of the identified concerns already in the public domain and work to avoid future lapses which has the tendency of draining public interest and confidence. We call on the media to play its watchdog role and balance its freedom of expression with responsibility to the nation. We must not inflame passion so that we all come out of this process clean. We wish to speak directly to the security agencies. We recognised the fact that consistently they put themselves in harms way to guarantee our safety. We also recognise the trappings associated with their work. We are also aware of the deplorable conditions of their service and yes we have confidence in them. Recent allegations of bias and corruption against the service are very damaging as it is challenging. We call on the service to redeem its integrity by being on top of their job this electoral season.

It is with this solid conviction that we, from the IPS coalition for peace aimed at the following: That the youth from the various localities, schools, churches and youth clubs are our constituency and immediate target. That public awareness of our existence will be sort through the media, paraphernalia and the distribution of tracts. That we will align with the various peace campaign groups who share our vision, motivation, objectives and modus operandi, with the intention of cutting cost, sending a consistent message across and having a mass appeal. That our message of peace will be conveyed through press conferences, rallies, public processions, pay courtesy calls on politicians, show films that demonises conflict and extolled the virtues of peace, organise peace concerts, seminar, move from campus to campus, class to class, etc In conclusion, we wish to declare the IPS PEACE COALITION for peace duly launched. We also wish the political parties and independent candidates the best of luck in their quest for political power. Ghana must not burn because of elections. Our people need hope for a better tomorrow. Tomorrow depends on what we do today.

Thank you.