THE PARISH Priest of the Damongo Diocese in the Northern Region, Father Lazarus Annyereh, has blamed African leaders for the woes of the African continent, in areas of conflict, economic instability and the manipulation of the vulnerable.
He said many of the conflicts in Africa were resources or power-oriented, but with political undertones, saying "many of our people are unemployed and marginalised, and as such become vulnerable to manipulation, including recruitment into private armies, militias, terror gangs and mercenary groups."
According to him, "some are responsible for economic instability of their countries," and "one would not be exaggerating, when one states that majority of African leaders are self-centered and greedy."
He lamented that many Africans do not participate in the governance process because of exclusion, disaffection and apathy, stressing, "Our country is no exception, as far as manipulation of the vulnerable is concerned." Many Ghanaians were also engaged in electioneering activities just to promote chaos, he added.
The Catholic Priest not pleased by the situation, said currently, Ghana was grappling and battling with the issue of minors registering, in view of voting on December 7, and snapped, “who is promoting this civic, this nonsense?”
He was speaking at a workshop for leaders on “Conflict Prevention and Management in the 2008 Elections: The Role of Responsible Leaders,” organised by the Tamale Ecclesiastical Province Pastoral Conference (TEPPCON), in collaboration with the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) in Savlugu, in the Northern Region last week.
The workshop was aimed at, among other things, to discuss mechanisms that could be applied to actively support peacefully conducted elections.
He expressed regret that many members of the national and local leaderships, continued to view diversity and identity as a basis for often win-lose competition over political or government office and resources, rather than providing a basis for greater national strength and cohesion, and win-win competition.
Following from this, especially now that the country was approaching its national elections, “the fraying of social and political cohesion leads to spikes in violence, as certain members of the leadership pursue competition through all means, including further inciting conflicts over resources, as well as control of networks trafficking in illicit goods.”
These conflicts, he pointed out often helped in mobilising supporters along partisan lines, asking, “As leaders, are we innocent?” As far as democracy is concerned, “we all have a significant impact on how national and local conflicts unfold.”
He lamented that not only were people victimised by direct abuses, but some are often directly participants in conflict as soldiers, ideologists, and are caught in other cycles of violence that infiltrates their lives.
Father Annyereh said conflict was not only perceived incompatibilities between two or more persons over resources, power, beliefs and values, but real situations of confrontation and hurt, and “no matter what we do, we cannot avoid conflicts as long as we are humans.”
Ghana's major challenges in the upcoming elections include how to transform individual attitudes, especially that of leaders of state and society, towards win-win competition, according to him, “A related challenge is to build greater social cohesion at the local level, so that the population becomes less susceptible towards incitement to violence,” he added.
To overcome these challenges, he noted, there was the need for the country to examine the causes of conflict at the pre-election, during election, and post-election periods. The role of leaders in reducing or eliminating violence during elections must also be given attention.
He continued that manipulation of the youth, by leaders, must be seen as a threat to sustainability, thus, “we should be looking up to a proactive approach to conflicts, to ensure the future of the youth.” There is therefore the need to “preach to each other as to how to behave during the elections,” he stressed.
In addition, leaders must organise educative fora in public places for, especially, the vulnerable, unemployed youth, and party members, also educate the latter group on how to jubilate without provocations, and educate the youth not to take the law into their own hands.
The Man of God encouraged all to give chance to the other to produce results for the common good of all Ghanaians, saying, “if party politics will destroy the peace that good governance is said to promote, then we would be but many miles away from development.”
Also, he reminded all that “a free and fair election rid of violence will place our country, Ghana, on an economic, social and political equilibrium.”
The Programme Manager of KAS, Mr. Isaac Owusu-Mensah, noted that the workshop would open up the eyes and hearts of the participants to the importance of peace and conflict resolution ahead of December 7, because “there is the need to highlight the importance of the conduct of conflict-free elections for development of sustainable democracy and good governance in Ghana.”
He observed that all Ghanaians had leadership responsibilities to accomplish, in that “we have the capacity to influence more than one person for good or bad electoral outcome, and to prevent conflicts irrespective of your social or political status.”
According to him, achieving peaceful election means overcoming many challenges such as Ghanaians holding fast their faith as one people, burying all political differences, and seeking the development of their respective communities and the people.
He pointed out that election was not an end in itself, but a means to an end, so “we must recognise that elections will come and go, but we will continue to tolerate each other as one family, with a united destiny.”
Mr. Owusu-Mensah, therefore, appealed to party leaders, traditional authorities and opinion leaders, to be very sensitive to growing tensions within the population, and show commitment to overcome them, before they turn into uncontrollable violence.