Posted by: rumnet | April 18, 2012

Looking Back At 2008

Looking Back At 2008: WANEP Takes Steps To Prevent Violent Elections In 2012

(Published in the March 2012 edition of the advocate) 

By Joseph Ziem

About four years ago, Ghana came close to, and nearly recorded one of the most violent and bloodiest elections in its democratic annals, following the unforgettable and fiercely contested December 7, 2008 presidential and parliamentary elections.

It is reported that some parliamentary candidates and government officials at the time, especially from the two major political parties – New Patriotic Party (NPP) and National Democratic Congress (NDC) – fled the country to other countries for safety after the first round of election, fearing there was the likelihood of bloodshed among their supporters or members, considering the way the polls were going.    

Even I, the writer of this piece who had the opportunity to cover the elections and voted for the first time in my life and professional career as a journalist, at certain point in time, felt that there was going to be an explosion of violence among the supporters of the two parties in Tamale, where I and other journalists, covered series of ugly scenes before and during the first and second round of the elections.

For instance, there were clashes between NPP and NDC supporters in Tamale, Gushiegu and other parts of the Northern Region following reports of double voting, vote rigging and other malpractices associated with the election which led to the arrest of people by law enforcement agencies particularly the police.

Interestingly, the 2012 National Youth Policy of Ghana document puts the youth within the brackets of 15 to 35 in line with the United Nations definition of the youth. This group of people, the world over, represents the most active and critical resource of every nation especially developing ones, like Ghana.

However, if this group, most of whom are very ignorant and innocent, continue to allow public office seekers or politicians to use them to achieve their selfish parochial interest, then it means that, this peaceful country of ours which is an envy or shining example in Africa, is walking in the path to self destruction like other countries including La Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Guinea, among others.

In view of the ugly record Ghana nearly set for itself in 2008, the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP-Ghana) in collaboration with its donors, have formed Inter-Party Youth Dialogue Committees (IPYDCs) in some parts of the country and began building their capacity ahead of the 2012 elections, which are tipped to even be the most crucial of all elections in Ghana, due to uncomplimentary remarks being made by some of the presidential candidates and their supporters.

WANEP, a conflict prevention and resolution non-governmental organization, just like many other organizations, holds the view that it is far easier and less costly to promote peace before the outbreak of violence than wait to intervene in conflicts after violence erupts whereupon it recently organized the maiden IPYDCs workshop for over 50 participants representing the various political parties such as the NPP, NDC, Peoples’ National Convention (PNC) and Convention Peoples’ Party (CPP) in Tamale.

Why the workshop was organised

The objective of the two-day workshop under the theme: “Building Party Youth Capacities for Peace in 2012”, was to build the capacities of the participants in conflict handling mechanisms in preparation for the elections in 2012 and beyond.

According to National Network Coordinator of WANEP-Ghana, Justin Bayor, “peace is something that most people take for granted, but it is essential that we enhance the skills of a critical mass of people, especially the youth, in basic community conflict handling skills as a precursor to promoting peace in Ghana in the event of the outbreak of violence in 2012.” 

The Youth in Election (YiEL) project seeks to reduce youth-perpetuated election violence in 2012.

The idea of YiEL, according to Mr. Bayor, was mooted after a research was conducted by WANEP-Ghana on behalf of the United Nations in four conflict hotspots in the country, in which ample data proved that violence was mostly expressed by the youth.

As a result, the idea was developed to work with the youth in some potential election related conflict communities in Ghana in order to reduce election violence in 2012. Fourteen hotspots were identified, some of which include Bawku, Bimbilla, Buipe, Gushiegu, Sunyani, Tamale, Yendi and Wa.

Mr. Bayor stressed that it is the intention of WANEP-Ghana to work with the youth leaders of the political parties in the aforementioned communities to promote peace in 2012, form them into IPYDCs, one per community; members of which would regularly undertake joint activities geared towards promoting peace in their communities in 2012. By working together, it will increase relationships amongst the youth of the political parties and eventually lead to mitigating violence in their communities, he said.

Who were there and what they said

The Canadian High Commissioner to Ghana, Trudy Kernighan who was guest of honour, stated categorically that she and her government do not have any interest in Ghana apart from seeing Ghana continue to move forward and reach its full potential.

 According to her, a recent event she attended involving young people saw more than one person in the audience express the view that foreigners all had their own interests in how the election played out, and they felt that foreigners should step back. 

 “The Government of Canada is committed to supporting the Ghanaian people in their pursuit of democratic governance which is very necessary for sustainable development. We believe that the promotion of a free, fair and peaceful election is critical for the achievement of this aim” she stated.

 Ms Kernighan, charged the youth of Ghana never to underestimate their importance and responsibility, saying “the future of this country depends on the youth of today, because they will carry the day tomorrow.”

According to her, while Ghana is often said to be a model of democratic values and stability in Africa, her people cannot afford to be complacent about peace and security, citing events in neighbouring Cote d’Ivoire and certain events in the Northern part of Ghana, which she observed will perhaps act as an incentive to Ghanaians to tread with care and reflection as the election approaches.

 “You have chosen to be proactive and involved in this election. You have chosen to lead others.  I salute you for that because this country’s future lies not in what it buys and sells, but its values, its people. You and your counterparts throughout Ghana are the future, and I encourage you to adopt a strategy of responsible citizenship. Responsible citizenship is about individuals who realize their obligations to take actions that ensure their community is healthy, safe and secure,” the Canadian High Commissioner stressed.

 Ms Trudy Kernighan urged the participants on: “As voters, ask questions of those running for office. Ask yourself about the answers you are given. Do not let yourself be used by others as if you were unable to think for yourself.  Encourage others to do the same.”

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Responses

  1. What a great initiative! Well reported, and we certainly wish all Ghanaians a safe and peaceful election at the end of 2012. Democracy has been hard won, and it is great to see such initiatives being put in place now, before any small frictions between the political parties become bigger issues!


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