Violence in the 2012 Elections
By: Arthur Kobina Kennedy, MD, University of Cape Coast
If this is April, there will be violence during the December elections. To state this is not an incitement to violence—it is a call to pre-empt it.
The MP for Assin-North, Hon. Kennedy Agyapong, is facing charges of treason for statements he made on 'Oman fm' last Friday. Actually, this case is more about the state of our democracy than about treason by Hon. Kennedy Agyapong. While his language was regrettable, Ken's arrest is about the abuse of incumbency, not the enforcement of our laws. Regardless of how this case is ultimately handled, it has exposed the hypocrisy and false pretensions of our country. When Kennedy Agyapong talked about war, he was acknowledging the state of things, not creating a new condition. Before the MP's pronouncements, there had been violence all across this country. If, indeed, Mr. Agyapong's words are landing him in court for treason, quite a few of our fellow citizens should have preceded him to jail and then into court. Amongst these would be President Mills for his 2008 threat to turn Ghana into Kenya if the elections did not go well, as well as Hon. Baba Jamal who declared a 'Jihad' during the Akwatia bye-elections.
Mr. Agyapong's arrest while the matchet-wielding men who terrorized Accra and are captured on the front-page of the 'Daily Guide' of Friday, the 13th of April are walking free underlies our difficulties.
In the course of this registration exercise, there has been violence, in Greater-Accra, Brong-Ahafo and Ashanti, to name just a few regions.
In response, the President has declared that he cannot be responsible for preventing violence. Said the President, 'There are some who also think that the President should be directly in charge of enforcement of the law. Unfortunately, the President is not a law enforcement officer.' In short, like Pontius Pilate, the 'Asomdwehene' has washed his hands off the unfolding violence. If left alone, he will let our reputation as a peaceful democracy earned over twenty years of hard, painstaking work go up in smoke. Despite the President's claims to the contrary, the constitution and our laws are very clear about his responsibilities. In article 58(1), it asserts that 'The executive authority of Ghana shall vest in the President and shall be exercised in accordance with the provisions of this constitution.' Continuing, 58(2) states 'The executive authority of Ghana shall extend to the execution and maintenance of this constitution and all laws made under or continued in force under this constitution.' Regarding the President's police responsibilities, he appoints eight of the ten-member Police Council, including his vice and the IGP. Furthermore, all leadership appointments in the Police Force are made by the President or in his name.
So, Mr. President, if you are not responsible for what the Police does, who is?
Was the then President a Policeman when the Ya-Na was murdered? Was your Excellency a Policeman when you pledged to the world that you would ensure peaceful elections?
In the face of the violence that is unfolding before our eyes on a daily basis, the Police have declared neutrality. Now, I am not very versed in language so I need some clarification. Is the Police neutral between the brutalized Mohammed Mumuni and those who brutalized him? (See the front-page of the Daily Guide of Friday, 13th April for picture). Is the Police neutral between those who marched through the streets of Accra last Thursday brandishing weapons and the defenseless citizens they terrorized? Is the Police neutral between Ursula Owusu and those who beat her up as she ran in fear from them? Are these citizens who were attacked or bullied not law-abiding citizens of Ghana entitled to the protection of the state? Even accepting the Police's pledges at face value, what kind of neutrality can send Kennedy Agyapong to jail for treason while those who go about preventing some from registering ( like Nii Lante Vanderpuye), attacking others and brandishing weapons walk around free? This is the equivalent of a mother being neutral as an older child with a whip sets upon his younger sibling and starts beating him to pulp or a man watching his neighbor beat his defenseless wife while claiming to be neutral between the neighbor and his wife.
A few days ago, the National Peace Council weighed in— to counsel restraint on all sides and urge the party leaders to condemn violence. With all due respect to the Peace Council and other such bodies, such entreaties only add insult to injury. Those welding weapons and rampaging through the streets and their victims are not equally at fault. Those welding the weapons are clearly at fault and can be identified. They must be identified and prosecuted, not urged to exercise restraint. Once again leaders have been asked to condemn the violence and urge their supporters to be peaceful. Really? The fact of the matter is that our leaders have and will always mouth platitudes against violence. And yet nothing will happen because the same leaders who deplore the violence do not act to punish the violent ones who follow them. In other words, while they are against violence in theory, they are for it in practice. When was the last time a party operative was disciplined for preaching or acting violently?
Predictably, Nana Akufo-Addo, the NPP Presidential Candidate has weighed in. He has stated, referring to President Mills that 'Either he doesn't have any authority over his own aides or he is deceiving the Ghanaian people when he says he wants a peaceful process. You see no effort being made to bring to book those responsible for the violence, especially in the light of the regrettable statements made by the head of the Police Service that the police, are allegedly, in his words, neutral.'
From all this, it is clear that the NDC either intends to use violence itself or to look the other way while third parties, acting in its interest, deploy violence.
How can we pre-empt this violence?
Our options are diminishing daily but there are still a few.
The best option is for the Police to abandon its ludicrous neutrality and be biased—in favour of protecting people and the democratic process through a vigourous, nationalistic enforcement of the law. If the Police cannot ensure peace when we are registering over forty days, how can they ensure safety when we are all voting on December 7th?
Second, to encourage the first, our Peace Council and NGO's must be prepared to condemn those involved in violence. Calling for restraint by all when unarmed people are being chased by others with weapons only adds insult to the pain of the victims. To this end, I commend the Chairman of the Christian Council, Most Rev. Professor Emmanuel Asante who has openly called for the police to arrest the 'hoodlums'. He stated forthrightly and refreshingly that those causing trouble in the registration process were 'vagabonds who are simply going round with weapons maiming people.' He charged the Police, according to 'Daily Guide' to 'act with dispatch to let people know the law bites' and that 'nobody can take the law into his own hands and cause mayhem.' Amenoooo!!! Reverend, Amen. God bless you and lengthen your life.
Why could the President not say that?
The next option open to us is for those who are being attacked now and will be attacked in December to take steps to do what the Police clearly do not want to do — protect ourselves. While our constitution requires us to be law-abiding, it also recognizes our right to protect ourselves. Indeed, Ronald Reagan had it right when he said, referring to America that 'When we are weak, we are a threat to peace. The only way to ensure peace is by being prepared for war.' Interestingly, perhaps, the most peaceful day in Odododiodoo during the registration was the day the NPP showed up with enough macho-men to confront the NDC's macho-men. That day, the Police got there quickly and stepped between the potential combatants and with the assistance of the mutual respect that each side had for the other, there was peace. Maybe that was the kind of neutrality the police was referring to.
Furthermore, we must insist that our state not discriminate against any of us on partisan grounds while condemning the attempts from all sides to identify parties with particular ethnic groups. As NPP Chairman Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey said so eloquently a few days ago, 'Once the law is applied evenly, this country will be a peaceful country.'
Finally, the NPP Presidential candidate had it right when he questioned the President's willingness to tackle violence. Using his standard, we must hold all Presidential candidates, including the President, to account for the conduct of their followers.
Let us work for peace together while preparing to protect one another—together.
'If, indeed, Mr. Agyapong's words are landing him in court for treason, quite a few of our fellow citizens should have preceded him to jail and then into court. Amongst these would be President Mills for his 2008 threat to turn Ghana into Kenya if the elections did not go well, as well as Hon. Baba Jamal who declared a 'Jihad' during the Akwatia bye-elections.
Mr. Agyapong's arrest while the matchet-wielding men who terrorized Accra and are captured on the front-page of the 'Daily Guide' of Friday, the 13th of April are walking free underlies our difficulties.'