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Beware of the ‘political conflict entrepreneurs’ in the December 2020 elections in Ghana

Sun, 21 Jun 2020 Source: Abdul Karim Issifu

Greetings Fellow Compatriots, July 2016, I wrote you my maiden ‘Peace Letter’ on this same topic prior to the December 2016 elections in Ghana.

Interestingly, election year is here with us again, and for the second time, I am writing you a ‘peace letter’ prior to the elections in December 2020.

I shall write you again in the post-election time, somewhere in January 2021, to commend or condemn you, concerning your role in the outcome of the elections. Since, I do not want any of you to tell me if you had understood my ‘peace letter’ you would have acted or not acted the way you did. So, I am writing you this self-explanatory letter, which is different from the traditional formal letter.

I will first explain the meaning of peace and second open your eyes to the global respect for Ghana’s democracy and peacetime. Third, I will tell you the costs of conflict, including election violence, and finally warn you against some ‘conflict entrepreneurs’ and peace spoilers who may want to use the youth for ‘dirty job’, which might be a probable threat to peace in order for them to make profits and attain their selfish aspiration.

What is peace?

Peace has different meanings. Traditionally, peace has been associated with the absence of war and other forms of large-scale violence, referred to as negative peace. Positive peace is the presence of negative peace (absence of war or violence) plus social, economic, and political justice. Taken together, peace is construed as a state of being free from destruction, fear, harm, threat, or physical attack and contact to socioeconomic justice, including access to education, healthcare, employment, equality and social security among others.

Peace is a valuable public good, the basis for development and survival, stability, security and progress. Thus, nobody can controvert the fact that there can be no meaningful progress and development when there is no peace. I am sure by this time you understand the basic meaning of peace. Now let me take you to the next section; the reasons why Ghana is respected globally for its peaceful environment.

Ghana’s democracy and peacetime respect

Ghana is among the few African countries that have not experienced any form of large-scale violence or civil war since independence in March 1957. So, Ghana has often been described at both the local and international levels as an oasis of peace and stability on a continent besieged by conflicts.

Further, Ghana has since 1992 witnessed peaceful transitions of political power. Besides, Ghana has played and continues to play an active role in resolving conflicts and maintaining peace in Africa and beyond. The Ghana Armed Forces and the Police Service have been at the forefront of peacekeeping operations in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Sudan, Israel, Nepal, Lebanon, and Cambodia among others.

Further, Ghana has accepted and hosted a significant number of refugees from some West Africa subregion states like Liberia and Cote D'Ivoire. It is for this and other related factors that the American Fund for Peace in 2009 was prompted to describe Ghana as a peaceful and stable country in Africa. Now that I have informed you about Ghana’s peace and democracy reputation let me also advise you on the costs of violence.

The costs of violence

Africa is ragged with cases of armed conflicts and struggles over political posts among others. The political power struggle is a key cause of violence among groups in Africa. In Africa, women and children are the most affected before, during, and after an election or political violence. Yet, these vulnerable groups have no major role in creating conflicts, but the most vulnerable.

For example, one million people died, and 250 000 women and girls were victims of some form of sexual violence with 66 percent of the raped victims testing positive for HIV/AIDS after the Rwandan genocide in 1994. During the Sierra Leone war, 50 000 people died recorded with many women and girls displaced. Also, up to 1 000 people died in the Niger war while hundreds of women were subjected to rape every week in the DR Congo war.

In Darfur, gruesome rape cases have been reported. Similarly, at least 100 000 people were killed in the civil war in Burundi and between 60 000 and 80 000 people are estimated to have been killed in the Liberia war with one million people displaced, and over 40 000 women raped. Besides, over 4 000 people were killed in the Cote D'Ivoire war. The events leading to the onset of conflicts in these countries are the manipulations of selfish political leaders who I call them political conflict entrepreneurs.

Knowing the effects of conflict, I am confident that by this time you are fully aware of the consequences that might occur from your mischievous role in the forthcoming election in December 2020. I am also assured that you will not do anything that will endanger the peacetime in Ghana. The next section presents insights about people who may want Ghana to taste conflict.

Political conflict entrepreneurs

Conflict entrepreneurs refer to a group or individual who promotes conflict for profit. The profit could be either monetary terms or power. They exist inside or outside government machinery. Typically, a conflict entrepreneur involves or directly benefit from illegal economic and political action that endorses violence or weakens efforts for good governance and economic development. In Ghana, conflict entrepreneurs are some politicians who mobilize aggrieved unemployed youth and manipulate them to cause violence so that they can benefit politically and economically.

These politicians who are knowledgeable about the electoral process and its rules and regulations perpetrate some acts very risky and threats to democracy. The electoral regulations (CI. 15) that govern the conduct of elections in Ghana clearly list people who are permitted to enter electoral polling stations. The list includes voters, candidates and their spouses, candidate agents, persons authorized by the Electoral Commission (accredited media personnel and observers), security officers on duty, persons who are accompanying physically incapacitated voters, and Electoral Commission officials.

Yet, these politicians behave contrary to CI. 15. It is becoming a norm as some government officials, especially Regional Ministers, District Chief Executives go around polling stations ostensibly to supervise the electoral process without accreditation from the Electoral Commission.

Consequently, when opposing political party agents object to their unauthorized presence at the polling station, it usually leads to confrontation and sometimes violence between their bodyguards and the agents who are diligently discharging their duties. If these politicians are not conflicted entrepreneurs trying to maneuver their way at all costs for power, then what are they?

Further, these politicians have formed and finance political vigilante groups for illegal political and security assignments. Political vigilante groups are individuals or groups usually youth groups, who are illegally recruited and/or hired as affiliates or members of a political party for security assignments.

They are organized armed or unarmed groups deployed as private armed forces to safeguard the electoral prosperity of political parties. Usually, members are ‘macho men’ (heavily built-body men). Their major functions include crusading for votes and safeguarding the security of their political masters. Some are prepared to intimidate supporters and political opponents of their masters in strongholds of opposing parties, and they are also used to disrupt the electoral process where one perceives defeat. Examples of these vigilante groups in Ghana are Sese Boys, Veranda Boys, Aluta Boys, Azorka Boys, Gbewaa Youth, NATO Forces, Invincible Forces, Delta Forces, Kandahar Boys, Bolga Bull Dogs, Bamba Boys, Dakota Boys, Volta Crocodile, Atlantic Bases, Burma Camp Youth Wing, Holland Bases, Pentagon, Al Jazeera, 66 Bench, Al-Qaeda, Tohazie, and Bukurisung among others.

Some of these vigilante groups from opposing sides have clashed several times and ensued in violence. These vigilante groups could never be formed and function without the support and funding from politicians who I call political conflict entrepreneurs. It is important to note that most of the wars that occurred in Africa started with activities of vigilante-like groups funded by politicians. Therefore, it is imperative to beware of the conflict entrepreneurs in Ghana who are not, but selfish people interested in profiteering from violence in order to gain materially or politically.

These elements have the machinery to manipulate the conventional practices which in turn may ruin Ghana and push the whole country into chaos. Other outlier peace spoilers are the bias macro/micro level electoral officials, media players, and gatekeepers.

Reflections

Looking at the costs of violence as discussed above, I am sure that by this time we are not going to allow ourselves to be used by the so-called conflict entrepreneurs for their personal political gains. In order to meet the needs and expectations of the youth for them not to be manipulated by the so-called conflict entrepreneurs, policies should be based on comprehensive knowledge and a well-researched understanding of the youth’s situation, especially job creation and opportunities should be available and accessible.

Religious leaders and influential persons in Ghana have a role to play in cautioning the youth about these conflict entrepreneurs. The 1992 constitution needs a strategic amendment, including making the police administration an independent entity, and robust public institutions.

Finally, as I have indicated earlier, I shall come back somewhere in January 2021 to condemn or commend you for your role in the December 2020 polls.

Thank you.

Columnist: Abdul Karim Issifu

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