The National Peace Council (NPC) is pointing strongly at “misperception and political vigilantism” as some of the elements Ghanaians must guard against to avoid any election-related violence as the country goes to the polls in 12 months’ time.
Going into detail on the caution, the council explained that a conflict situation often took a turn for the worse when taken at face value or misperceived and, with active disagreements being a regular happening at polls, there was an urgent need to sensitise electoral stakeholders about the dangers of misperception in conflict situations going into the 2020 general elections.
The council’s secretariat in the Upper East Region is already doing the sensitisation with the most recent event undertaken at Bawku where 55 stakeholders— including political parties’ representatives, civil society organisations, youth-centred groups and persons with disabilities— were sensitised on election-related violence.
Sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the two-day sensitisation engagement was aimed at curbing electoral violence in Ghana by deepening the stakeholders’ understanding of conflict and violence as well as political vigilantism.
“We are looking at how perception influences conflict. And that is what happens in our everyday life. We can cite many examples. Let’s say on the election day, somebody sees an unfamiliar person standing in the queue to vote and begins to challenge the person as he perceives the fellow not to be a Ghanaian. But if you go deep, it may just come out that the person is a Ghanaian. So, if you just act on your first instinct or the perception, you may go into issues that, in the end, the truth would be so bare that you would be ashamed of yourself.
“With perception and conflict, you need to have a look at the conflict in its different perspectives in order to understand it, or else you would rush into taking decisions and that can lead into a violent conflict. For example, if you stop the person from voting and the person walks away to avoid being attacked but later the person proves that he’s a Ghanaian, haven’t you denied the person his right to vote? That is one of the ways political conflicts start,” the council’s Upper East Regional Secretary, Ali Anankpieng, said.
Vigilantes are like Tools in the hands of Politicians— NPC
The sensitisation engagement saw the council talk extensively on how politicians used vigilantes as tools against society and how the same vigilantes, after doing the bidding of their controllers for a while, invariably ended up turning against their employers and themselves on the path of self-destruction.
“Vigilantes perpetrate electoral violence simply because they believe in brawn (muscle) over brain. They are like tools in the hands of politicians. If a politician can ask you to go and attack because you are a vigilante or a land guard, you are just like a tool in the hands of that politician. In terms of elections, vigilantes would create a situation that would be conducive for them (politicians) to rig elections.
“Politicians can position macho-men around to intimidate people from coming to vote, especially if they know that this is the stronghold of their opponents. They would do so to cause low turnout from which they would benefit. Vigilantism is like a double-edged sword: today it is helping you, but tomorrow it may eat you up. Some people have sponsored vigilantes in countries like Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Mexico, but today those benefactors are suffering from the work of those vigilantes because they can no longer contain them. As their political sponsors can no longer support them, they have become bandits and kidnappers in order to survive,” Mr. Anankpieng pointed out.
The meeting ended with officials of the council urging the stakeholders to get the youth actively involved in the decision-making process and asking the political parties to help transform their youth into better politicians through “political mentoring” rather than using them as vigilantes. These recommendations, among other measures, would help curb political vigilantism in Ghana, according to the council. The council also recommended families show more commitment towards an ideal upbringing of their children so it would be impossible for any individual or group to lure them into political vigilantism.
Making their own recommendations, the participants asked for fairness in the justice system especially when adjudicating electoral offences or vigilante crimes. Whilst calling on the Electoral Commission (EC) to consider the views of the political parties in shaping the country’s electoral process, the participants also entreated the security agencies to restrict the use of motorbikes, particularly the unregistered ones, on voting day to forestall delinquents from using such vehicles to foment disorder at polling centres.
The stakeholders also decried the use of intemperate language by political communicators and urged the media to be more professional in handling such people on their programmes. Also in attendance were the council’s Upper East Regional Chairman, Alhaji Sumaila Issaka, and other staff of the council.
Source: Daily Mail GH