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2012 Elections: WANEP Raises Alarm
 
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30-Nov-2012  
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Emmanuel Bombande of WANEP
 
 
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Ghana experienced about five major incidents over the last two years 2011-2012.

The aircraft disaster on Saturday, 2nd June 2012, killing 10 people, the death of President John Atta Mills on 24th July 2012, a toilet facility that collapsed at Kasoa on Saturday, 22nd September 2012, killing a fifty-four year old man, the Melcom Building collapse on 7th November 2012 which led to about 14 deaths and 67 injured, and the death of the former Vice President, Alhaji Aliu Mahama on 16th November 2012.

The death of President Mills was a test for the democratic culture of Ghana as it led to a dynamic and internationally acknowledged historic transition of political power, wherein the Vice President was flawlessly and smoothly sworn in as President in accordance with the dictates of the Constitution.

At the sub-regional level, Ghana is not immune from emerging security threats especially violent extremism around the Sahel region; maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea; crime and drug trafficking; illegal oil bunkering and criminality in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria; small arms proliferation and the rise of mercenaries, are worrying external signs.

Through WANEP Ghana’s National Early Warning System from 2011 to date, a number of human security threats have been identified.

These are the influx of Ivorian ex-combatants into the country and its tendency to increase the availability of arms in the hands of non-state actors, increasing chieftaincy related tensions, heightening political intolerance, rising immoderate language on the airwaves, politically motivated youth violence, increasing tension between farmers and pastoralists, growing disgruntlement by coastal communities over the oil find and pressure in some mining communities over the issue of ‘Galamsey’ (illegal mining) etc.

This peace and security update highlights Chieftaincy related tensions, Armed Robbery, Politically Motivated Tensions, Agro/Pastoralists Tensions, Drugs/Assaults and Proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons.

Overall, the system recorded eighty (80) violent incidents. Out of the figure, 45 incidents of armed robbery or arrests for armed robbery were made. Sixteen (16) representing 20% were violent attacks leading to twenty nine (29) deaths.

These occurred in the Volta, Buipe-Damongo, Greater Accra, Western, Tema, Accra, Boako-Sankore road (Sefwi-Wiawso), Kasoa and Savelugu section of the Tamale-Bolgatanga road in the Northern Region, Asante-Mampong road, Tuba, Swedru, and Osu in the Greater Accra Region.

In terms of agro-pastoralism, twelve (12) incidents were recorded, only one of which recorded some death in 2012. Nine (9) of the farmer-pastoralists incidents were armed attacks, two (2) were threats of violence and one (1) arrest was made by the police service.

In all the nine (9) violent attacks, eighteen (18) deaths were recorded with Gushiegu recording the highest number of thirteen (13) deaths. Dodowa had two (2) deaths with one of the deceased being a police man. Agogo also recorded six (6) incidents with five (5) armed attacks resulting in three (3) deaths, two (2) injured and one (1) threat of violence.

Nabuli (Gushiegu) similarly recorded one attack by assailants on refugees from Zamanshegu in Gushiegu whiles residents of Atta-Akura in the Brong-Ahafo region threatened to eject Fulani herdsmen from their land.

Again, a total of thirty-eight (38) chieftaincy related incidents – violence, threats or arrests were captured. Twenty-two (22) representing 28% were violent while 16% were threats to current relative peace in the disputing communities.

For politically motivated violence, the system recorded 11 (58%) out of the nineteen (19) reported cases of threats to violence. The figure increased by six (6) cases between July and November 2012 which is of critical importance because it has the potential of increasing as the elections draw nearer.

Though it had the highest incident rate, it however recorded the lowest cases of arrest with only 2 cases out of a total of 47.

A major catalyst of the violence is the proliferation of small arms and light weapons as well as ammunitions. For the two-year period, the total of weapons tracked by the system is distributed as shown in the chart below.

Overall, 51 pump action guns representing fifty-nine percent which is the highest were retrieved by the security persons after violent actions or through tip offs.

The single barrel gun category recorded the second highest with 19% whiles the rifle category was the third highest with 13%. The Double barrel guns retrieved was however the lowest with 2%.

Importantly, a total of 2,708 of ammunitions were found alongside the other arms. Specifically, 304 cartridges, 21 rounds of Mark 4, 78 rounds of G3, 31 rounds of Mark 16, 892 rounds of AK 47 rifles, 6 magazines loaded with 366 rounds and 1000 short gun were retrieved from criminal suspects and arms traffickers.

The specific communities in which the arms and ammunitions were found through arrests and periodic swoops by the security include Sabon-Gare, Fahiakobo, Abrakoso, Asafo Neoplan and Kumasi Railways, Accra, Tema and Kasoa Station, Gushegu, Nakpanduri.

The higher grade of ammunitions such as for Mark 4 and 16, AK 47 rifles and G3 implies those categories of guns which have enhanced features for precision, long range and sustained shooting exist and this poses a danger to the numerous conflict situations in the country.


Implications for the 2012 election

In the face of these threats, there are two likely scenarios that Ghana may encounter before, during and after the elections. If the various stakeholders continually work collaboratively and conscientiously, we hope to see a scenario whereby the country will experience violence-free campaigning before the voting day and the elections will be held on December 7, 2012 with limited reported cases of violence and electoral malpractice.

The election will be characterized by an atmosphere of calm, mutual respect and tranquility, thanks to the role of major stakeholders such as political parties, the security agencies, the Electoral Commission, the media, civil society, international community and the electorate.

At post-election period, voters will conduct themselves in a peaceful manner devoid of provocative and inciting comments and remarks.

The election results will be declared without any contest, accepted and the loser(s) will congratulate the winner.

If this is the case, then all of the other intervening internal and external security threats such as proliferation of small arms and light weapons, the influx of Ivorian ex-combatants into the country, increasing chieftaincy related tensions, increasing differences between farmers and pastoralists, rising disgruntlement by coastal communities over the oil find and increasing tension in some mining communities over the issue of ‘Galamsey’ (illegal gold mining), etc will not present an opportunity for conflict profiteers to utilize as a way of destabilizing the country.

On the order hand, should effort not be intensified in this direction and everything is taken for granted, we may witness a campaign period characterized by a high amount of violence with loss of lives and atmosphere of allegations and counter-accusations, challenges to the independence and impartiality of the Electoral Commission, the security agencies, judiciary etc.

Even though the election still hold as scheduled on December 7, 2012 amidst political violence and confrontations between supporters of the various political parties, especially between the two major parties, we may see a counting process with much anxiety and tension and a result in which the loser(s) will contest the validity of the outcome and possibly call on their supporters to reject the verdict/outcome.

The supporters will then resort to violence as a protest while the security forces are called in to contain the situation.

This will then kick start a process of destabilizing the country, as opportunists will cash into it and destabilize the country.

With allegations and sometimes evidence of ex-combatants and mercenaries in Ghana, the availability of small arms and light weapons in the hands of non-state actors, disgruntled youth and communities, numerous unresolved chieftaincy disputes in addition to violent extremism in the Sahel region; pirates in the Gulf of Guinea and rebels in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, it will then become the fertile ground for opportunists to foment more violence in the name of disputed/contested elections, even though they will be pursuing their own hidden agendas.


RECOMMENDATIONS TO AVERT CHAOS BEFORE, DURING AND AFTER THE ELECTIONS

It is therefore our collective responsibility to ensure a peaceful election that continually put Ghana as the beacon of democracy in the sub region. WANEP Ghana recommends the following:


Politicians and Political Parties

1. Put a stop to belligerent language: Language used to address political rallies and opponents and on radio is sometimes frightening. Political parties should educate their party faithful to be tolerant and civil in their utterances and discourse with their opponents.

2. Respect the Political Parties Code of conduct: Political parties should adhere to the mutually agreed rules of the political game as enshrined in the 2012 code of conduct and party supporters should be educated on the code of conduct.

3. Pledge of non-violence: The Presidential candidates of the political parties should make a commitment to promote peace in their campaigns and during the presidential debates and there should be a conscious public effort by civil society to hold them accountable to their own peace pledges.

4. Respect of Verdict: Political contestants should abide by the verdict of the elections because they are organized to meet international standards of free and fair elections. They should also be ready to send mutual congratulatory messages to the winners and losers.


Electoral Commission

1. Free and fair elections: The electoral Commission should endeavor to conduct a free, fair and impartial election that meets international standards.

2. Inter-Party Consultation: The EC should hold regular inter party consultations to iron out differences and reduce tensions before, during and after the elections.


National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE)

More citizen and voter education: The NCCE should conduct more citizen and voter education to instil in them the ability to analyze, discuss, scrutinize promises by candidates/political parties and vote on issues rather than other considerations. This will reduce ignorance, prejudice and intolerance among citizens.


Judiciary

Fast Track Litigation: The judiciary should ensure that all election related ligations are pursued speedily in specialized election courts.


The Security Agencies

1. Adequate security: The security agencies should ensure that adequate, appropriate and impartial security measures are provided before, during and after then elections to all Ghanaians. This should especially be provided to areas of the country where inflammatory and ethnic sentiments as well as chieftaincy disputes have the potential to re-ignite with elections acting as the trigger.

2. Dawn swops: The Police should conduct periodic dawn swoops to retrieve illegally acquired small arms and light weapons in the possession of civilians which may be used in the event that the election verdict becomes contested.

3. Vigilance at borders: The security agencies should closely watch our porous borders to ensure that ex-combatants, mercenaries and rebels do not make their way into the country to pursue their hidden agenda of destabilising the country.


Houses of Chiefs and National Peace Council

1. Dialogue and Mediation: The National Peace Council to adopt peace building methods and approaches to resolving the numerous conflict situations in the country as well as increase their representation at the grass root levels.

2. Resolution of chieftaincy disputes: The various regional houses of chiefs should expedite action and find lasting solutions to the existing protracted chieftaincy disputes under their jurisdiction.


The Media

1. Monitoring: The National Media Commission and the Ghana Journalists Association should tighten their control mechanisms to sanction media houses that do not adhere to the principles and ethics of professional media practice. This will contribute to ensuring violence-free elections in December 2012.

2. Training: The media houses should endeavour to train their personnel in conflict sensitive reporting and programming in order to reduce violence resulting from provocative pronouncements and utterances on the airwaves.


Civil Society

1. Reduction in tension: Civil Society Organizations should undertake activities that are meant to promote dialogue and relationship building in the Ghanaian society. This will go a long way in reducing the tensions that characterise the elections atmosphere in the country.

2. Collective Vigilance: Individuals, communities and civil society should be vigilant by supporting the security agencies to monitor the country’s borders to deter, arrest and retrieve illegal arms making their way into the country.

3. Exposure: The youth of political parties and disputing factions to a conflict should ignore and expose political/chieftaincy members who might want to influence them to perpetrate violence in their communities.


International Community

1. Support: The international community should endeavor to understand the polarizing nature of our politics and in their partnership, support the building of bridges amongst the political parties while undertaking not to show open bias towards any political party.

2. Circumspection: The international media should be circumspect in their reportage of the election coverage as this can affect the outcome of the elections.


CONCLUSION

Ghana is seen as one of the rare cases of stable and functioning multi-party democracies in Africa. However, recent electoral experiences in Africa should serve as a constant reminder that nothing should be taken for granted. It is a collective and shared responsibility of all stakeholders: local and regional, governmental and non-governmental, sub-regional and international to work towards the promotion of peace in Ghana, before during and after the 2012 elections.
 
 
 
Source: PEACEFMONLINE.COM/Ghana
 
 

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