“THE TRUE REPUBLIC: Men, their rights and nothing more; women, their rights and nothing less”, is one of the famous line of words ever uttered on governance. Today, GYE NYAME CONCORD takes inspiration from these words first said by Susan Brownell Anthony in 1872. But we interpret it to mean that a true republic is one that guarantees government its right to take governance decisions, and the governed, their right to dissent.
That is why we are not worried by the announcement that Ghana's main opposition party and only minority in Parliament, together with other reported stakeholders, including some of the opposition parties that have pledged their support to the majority in Parliament, intend to embark on a march tomorrow, Tuesday, March 1.
The aim, it says, is to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with the recent increase in the price of petroleum products by 50 percent.
In the NDC's own words, the essence of the demonstration is to show the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP), which took over the reins of government from the NDC a little over four years ago, its rejection of “the vampire, economic policies of President Kufuor's government”.
The catalogue of problems the NDC has cited as the reason for its call to a peaceful riot, include its disapproval of government's claim that it hiked the prices of petroleum products to halt its continuous subsidisation of the product.
“You cannot in one sense collect tax from a place and at the same time say you are subsidising that thing; it is not possible. All I am saying is that if the government wants to use petrol as a revenue generating measure it should come out clearly and say so. It should not throw dust into our eyes and say that they are removing subsidies. There are no subsidies to remove…” noted one NDC official on the issue (see website tomorrow).
Again the opposition thinks the policies of the Kufuor administration have been suffocating the economic atmosphere.
Whilst GYE NYAME CONCORD does not want to express an opinion on whether the NDC's position is right or wrong, we intend to however call on the security agencies as well as the organisers of the march, to do all that they can to ensure that the demonstration is peaceful.
As far as we are concerned, demonstrations and other forms of protests are constitutionally guaranteed means of expressing dissent. Democracy itself entails the protection of dissent.
It is important, therefore, for Ghanaians to acknowledge this: The fact that demonstrations are not only allowed to exist but are guaranteed as well under our constitution, is evidence of the remarkable desire of the framers of our constitution to ensure that the right to dissent is not taken away from the citizenry.
This is why we say a successful demo to the NDC if it indeed wants to go on a demo, for though we may not necessarily agree with their reasons for the demo, GYE NYAME CONCORD believes the real test of our democracy is for us to realise that as much as we may disagree with and despise the actions of others, they have a right as Ghanaians to say what they think and to march over it if they deem fit.
We ought to develop the consciousness that demonstrations are expressions of dissent and nothing more; certainly not a rally to coups d'etats or disruptions of the democratic process. This should be the core principle that must shape the attitude of every Ghanaian, as well as those in the security agencies, towards demonstrations.
Let it be said that the greatness of our democratic process is the difference of opinions and the ability to voice those opinions freely.
We hope that by the end of tomorrow, the security agencies and other Ghanaians would remember that we take more pluses from people having held successful and peaceful protests, than bloody ones. Let us learn from our own “Kumepreko” history that trying to prevent or disrupt demonstrations in themselves sometimes lead to unwanted results.