Ghana’s exceptionalism as an “Island of peace” in a zone of war is on the brink of collapse by current political hostilities with indelible devastative ramifications for Ghana’s democratic stability if immediate collective action is not taken to stem it. As a conflict analyst with practical experiences in the Sierra Leonean and Rwandan wars, it is very worrisome to observe that the current detestable political tension is unfortunately shaping along the much dreaded divisive ethnic fault lines.
Ghana is on the slippery slope to the final stage of conflict escalation. We can however douse the conflagration with prioritization of our collective national interests over individualistic parochial interests in consonance with our cherished common heritage, aspirations and destiny manifested in our unified support for the Black Stars. It behooves the leaders of opposing camps to master political courage and will to call their supporters to order to end their provocative vitriolic rhetoric and violence. Success is very much contingent on governmental and security apparatus’ impartiality in subjecting all Ghanaians to the same standard of justice and treatment. Alleged grievances of selective justice and partiality by the ruling government, and the police in particular, have been reasoned to have partly contributed to the current volatile political atmosphere.
Our ability to stave off conflict in the coming 2012 elections would therefore depend on a fair level playing field for all Ghanaians to freely exercise their democratic rights to elect their leaders without intimidation and unscrupulous electoral manipulations. I am glad President Mills has assured Ghanaians of a fair and free elections void of electoral violence and malpractices and I hope he honors his promise for the sake of Ghana’s peace. The security agencies, particularly the police, must be completely professional and impartial in the application of justice in the run-up to the December election subjecting equal Ghanaians to the same standard of justice and national protection.
As a reminder, leaders and supporters who mastermind and commit atrocities would be criminally liable for accountability to the international community for war crimes in accordance with international humanitarian laws. Leaders who also strategically ignore violations by their subordinates for political expediency would also be held accountable for war crimes in line with the doctrine of command responsibility. The so called empty violent ‘Machomen’ stooges who throw their weight about and brutalize innocent Ghanaians, including women, are reminded that they are not invincible and would face similar fate as their masters.
Self-proclaimed invincible figures such as Foday Sankoh, Capt. S.AJ. Musah and “Gen. Mesquita” Sam Bockarie who masterminded and committed atrocities in Sierra Leone perished while Sam Hinga Norman, a government official, was indicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Liberia’s Charles Taylor is prosecuted by the Court in The Hague. Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir is the first national leader to be indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The youth are also cautioned to resist falling prey to elitist political manipulations and instigations to commit despicable atrocities because they are not immune from criminal accountability. The Special Court for Sierra Leone prosecuted child soldiers who committed war crimes some as young as 15 years.
It will be naïve to be lulled into a false sense of complacency that mere verbal condemnations would obliterate the current tension and avert potential conflict in the December 2012 elections. It is high time we took a vibrant and robust collective action to address the underlying causality and also signal to potential belligerents our distaste, protestation and noncommittal to their violent agenda. I propose the formation of “PEACE FOR GHANA” movement by peace stakeholders including students, market women, and farmers, NGOs, Chiefs and Queen Mothers among others, using nonviolent activism such as peace marches, rallies and education of the masses to practically demonstrate our aversion to violence.
President Obama in praising the tenacity and bravery of the Egyptian people stated that “Egyptians have inspired us”….“For in Egypt, it was the moral force of nonviolence, not mindless killing … that bent the arch of history toward justice once more.” Ghanaians agonized and disempowered by the current political tension need to initiate a potent political platform to avert the slide to a senseless war. We must demonstrate to the detractors that Ghana’s peace cannot be sacrificed on the altar of their selfish interests and that an historic epoch has been reached in Ghana’s democratic polity where the will and dignity of the ordinary people supersede the parochial desires of some greedy political elite.
This historic opportunity must be seized, perpetually and diligently fuelled to institutionalize incorrigible social, economic and political institutions, freedom and justice, respect for human rights, probity and accountability and equal opportunities for all irrespective of our tribal, religious, gender and social differences. Truly, the voice of the people rings louder than the forces of destruction and ours must be heard. I am confident we cannot afford the luxury of bequeathing to the next generation and those unborn the legacy of divisions along ethnic fault lines, nepotism, and politics of marginalization, injustices, brutalities and inequality that are recipes for devastative civil wars.
If we fail and let this historic window of opportunity slip by without any conscientious efforts to restore our dignity, we shall surely be condemned deeper into the doldrums of inequality, injustices, political brutalities, human rights violations and the generations unborn will condemn us. I believe we shall not fail them and will bequeath to them a free, just and stable Ghana void of ethnic animosity, divisions and tribulations. LET PEACE REIGN IN GHANA, LONG LIVE GHANA!!!!!
By Kofi Nsia-Pepra Ph.D.
The author email@example.com is Assistant Professor of Political Science (International Relations/Comparative politics) Ohio Northern University, USA.