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23.04.2012 Press Statement

STATEMENT BY FORUM FOR GOVERNANCE AND JUSTICE ON EVENTS PLANNED

By Forum for Governance and Justice
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STATEMENT BY FORUM FOR GOVERNANCE AND JUSTICE ON EVENTS PLANNED TO MOBILISE GHANAIANS AGAINST HATE-SPEECH AND INCITEMENT TO GENOCIDE AT PRESS CONFERENCE HELD ON MONDAY, 23RD APRIL 2012

Good morning Ladies and gentlemen of the media. We wish first to thank you for responding to our invitation to cover this press conference. We have called you here this morning to share with you and the good people of Ghana, our planned events and activities aimed at mobilising Ghanaians against hate-speech and incitement to genocide.

Clearly, millions of peace-loving Ghanaians from all backgrounds: ethnic, cultural, regional, political, educational and religious, have reason to worry about our national peace, stability and cohesion in this election year. The use of intemperate, inciting and hate-speech has become almost acceptable on our airwaves and other platforms of public communication.

Peace-loving Ghanaians have cause to worry because there seem to be a pattern of incitement to violence from persons of influence, particularly some from the political class. The indefensible genocidal and ethnically explosive statements made by Kennedy Agyapong in which he called on Ashantis and Akans in general to attack Gas and Voltarians in the Ashanti Region exemplify the most recent of this disturbing attitude.

We wish to state that those trying to justify the comments made by Kennedy Agyapong do not understand or are pretending not to understand the gravity of his hate comments. We wish to note for the avoidance of doubt that, hate-speech is any communication that disparages a person or a group on the basis of some characteristic such as ideology, ethnicity, gender, nationality, religion, or other characteristic. Hate-speech usually is intended to incite violence or prejudicial action against or intimidates an individual or group.

As a nation, we must not overlook the divisive and destructive potential by those who have made it their mission to incite people to violence for political and selfish reasons. Perhaps, an understanding of incitement will be useful. Incitement means encouraging or persuading another to commit an offense by way of communication, for example, by employing broadcasts, publications, drawings, images, or speeches. Incitement can lead to genocide, where both the speaker and the listener understand the speech to be a call to action.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the dangerous nature of the comments made by Kennedy Agyapong can be better appreciated if we cite an example, incitement to Genocide in Rwanda. Between April and July 1994, members of the Hutu majority, wielding machetes, firearms, and other weapons, killed close to one million people in just about 100 days. The vast majority of the victims were members of the Tutsi minority. This disgraceful crime against humanity was initiated and promoted by politicians and businessmen using various media platforms. Radio stations were central in the process as they were used to dehumanise potential victims and to mobilise killings.

Hopefully, the Rwandan example will guide us against any persons or entities wishing to curtail our national peace, stability and cohesion.

We do also recall how hate speech from Adolf Hitler and the pursuit of his anti-semitic, fascist and pan-German saw the extermination of 11 million people between 1938 and 1945.

The consequences of hate speech and ethnic incitement are unimaginably horrendous and never should any of us sit back and allow reckless politicians to bring us to that point.

As we condemn Kennedy Agyapong, we also condemn other politicians who have made similar statements in the recent past such as Nana Akuffo Addo's infamous “yen Akanfuo die” statement which sought to brand the NPP as an Akan party which is wrongly perceived to be full of cowards. We also condemn the Minority Leader Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu's statement that there are no high profile Gas and Northerners in the NPP who qualify to be Flagbearer and NPP Chairman Jake Obetsebi Lamptey's strange statement that just as Akans in Ivory Coast rose up and fought for their birthright so will Akans in Ghana be forced to rise up and fight for their birthright which is the leadership of this country ahead of the 2012 general elections.

In that same light, we condemn the statement by retired Supreme Court judge, Justice Kpegah, who responded to the comments made by Kennedy Agyapong by indicating that Ewes are not cowards and would retaliate attacks by any ethnic group. Such a statement only aggravates tensions and must not be encouraged.

The FGJ also condemns the attempt by the NPP to give official sanction to the statements made by Kennedy Agyapong by putting him up as a hero and organizing an elaborate welcome for him at the NPP Headquarters when indeed the only decent thing the NPP could have done was to distance themselves from such a dangerous and cancerous politician. It is equally disgusting that even at the celebrations at the NPP Headquarters, Kennedy Agyapong failed to show remorse even as he was flanked by top NPP National Executives. It is also shameful that the NPP has failed to apologise to Ghanaians and the State for the assault on innocent civilians and the destruction of public property including the windscreen of the State Prosecutor by NPP supporters.

The FGJ is also concerned that in all of these there appears to be the lack of cooperation from the Judiciary and the seeming unwillingness to make an example of reckless politicians. We must all bear in mind that if by our actions and inactions we make Kennedy Agyapong a hero like he is being portrayed then we must not forget that when what such politicians wish for befalls on Ghana, no one will be spared.

Ladies and Gentlemen, given the gravity of the statements made by Kennedy Agyapong, we believe that there is the need for national action to forestall the potential hate-speech holds for the commission of crimes against humanity such as genocide, ethnic cleansing and civil strife. We believe that condemnation alone would not be enough to drum home the need to eschew such conduct.

Based on the above, and as part of our contribution towards mobilising Ghanaians to reject hate-speech and incitement to violence, the FGJ will hold a series of activities. These will include a public forum in Accra on Tuesday 24th April 2012 at the International Conference Centre at 4pm. The topic is Hate-Speech and Incitement to Genocide. Speakers will include Major General Henry Kwami Anyidoho who was Head of Ghana's UN Peace Keeping Mission in Rwanda, Comrade Kwesi Pratt Junior of the CJA and Editor of the Insight Newspaper and Godwin Adagwene, A Private Legal Practitioner and Lecturer.

The talk will be followed by the showing of the movie Hotel Rwanda to warn Ghanaians about the destructive nature of war, genocide and ethnic cleansing.

The FGJ will also lead a Peace March in Accra on Thursday, 26th April 2012. The march will start from the Obra Spot at Kwame Nkrumah Circle at 7am. FGJ is busy building a coalition and will keep you updated on partners for the Peace March.

We conclude by extending an open invitation to all youth groups, religious bodies and groupings, workers groups, civil society organisations and all Ghanaians who are determined to keep our country united and peaceful to join us in these activities so that we can all send a clear signal to those within our society who are hankering after war, genocide and civil strife that they will not be allowed to succeed with their diabolical schemes.

Signed
Dr. Clement A. Apaak
Convener, Forum for Governance and Justice - Ghana
020 011 7620
Dr. Samuel C. K. Buame
Co-Convener, Forum for Governance and Justice - Ghana

024 469 3353

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