Ghana’s election 2016: The role of the youth in promoting peace
As Ghana's 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections draw closer, there is a heightened anxiety and fear among several people and followers of democracy across the globe. Elections in Africa have often yielded some of the dreaded conflicts the continent has seen in the past few years. The recent examples of electoral violence in Kenya, Ivory Coast and other parts of the continents are few examples of how far elections can go in Africa.
Ghana has no doubt received the praise of international observers as the model of democracy in Africa. Ghana which ranked 31st in the world in relations to youth participation in politics as reported by the Commonwealth Youth Development Index 2016, have in previous years seen many young people play key roles in the peaceful outcomes of elections. Despite the narrow margin wins which characterized Ghana's elections in the past years, young people in the country have perfectly managed to avoid violence and where vast disagreement existed, the law courts were duly used to resolve several of the disputes that emerged along the way.
Ghana just like most countries in Sub Saharan Africa is currently under the pressure of youth bulge, with at least 65% of her population made of young people (aged 15-35). Empirical evidence suggest that young people have been victims of radicalization and instrumentalization in most political processes across the continent and the world. The greatest fear sets in for Ghana most especially with some of the recent trend across the continent where elections have ended with violence and conflict. The case of Ivory Coast, Burundi and many others are glaring examples of these fears. Are politicians in Ghana going to copy from these sad examples to perpetrate violence during this upcoming election? OR Are our Ghanaian Youth going to copy from the Nigerian example (in 2015 elections) to maintain peace?
This article is contribution to the ongoing call on young people to be ambassadors of peace instead of becoming vehicles for violence. The article examines the instrumental role the youth can and will indeed play not only in deciding the future outcome of the 2016 polls but also in maintaining peace before, during and after the elections.
THE WINNER OF THE POLLS: A DECISION OF THE YOUTH?
The overwhelming participation of young people in the Nigerian 2014 election and its peaceful outcome despite the results remains a huge inspiration to countries across Africa. The candidate who makes the case to bring solution to the current socio-economic and gio-political problem (corruption, unemployment, poor health facilities, just to name a few) facing young people and the entire Ghanaian population will obviously become the candidate whom majority of the people will vote for. The rising discontent by the opposition party and Ghanaian citizens on the efforts so far in solving this problem remains a growing threat for possible youth radicalization and violence (the rest clashes between supporters of the two main parties is clear evidence of this fear). The World Bank in a 2016 report clearly highlights youth unemployment (age 15-24) to be at an alarming rate of 48% and this a major security time bomb awaiting to explode.
This notwithstanding, there is no doubt the solution bearer (based on proposed policies during campaign) will win the support of the youths as well as have a higher possibility to win this upcoming elections. Many young people have sat on the 'fence' in previous years, perhaps it's time we all rise and make a decision on our future. Perhaps the increasing levels of unemployment should be a motivation for several young people to make a decision on the best party and candidate with the right solution to tackle the ever increasing levels of unemployment.
A CALL FOR PEACEFUL POLLS: THE ROLE OF THE YOUTH
The future of Ghana lies in the hands of the current generation of young people. Ghana has come a long way since the onset of the fourth republic to be sent back into the dungeon of darkness and chaos. The youth therefore have a major role to play in promoting peace, before, during and after the polls. There is no doubt politicians and some selfish unpatriotic individuals will make all attempts to recruit as many young people to foment violence. Young people must however, be careful not to fall for these tricks. The future of Ghana is bigger ambitions any individual to warrant chaos in this country. As young people we must remember we have a great future ahead of us and posterity will never forgive us if we allowed ourselves to be agents in plunging this country into chaos. If we fall pray to follow some of the ageing politicians and detractors to ferment violence, it is obvious that our generation will suffer more.
It is obvious our generation is quite versed with the social media and of course we are of the 'android generation'. The social media is a great tool we can use to reach out to our fellow peer and call for peace through out the country during this period. Reportedly, the social media has been used by some violent perpetrators to share distorting information and insight violence during most political process across the continent today. Once more the clarion call is for young people in Ghana to follow the Nigeria example where young people used social media to pilot very inspiring election no violence campaigns. Indeed, the outcome of the elections in Nigeria was a clear prove of the power of young people in ensuring peace before, during and after elections.
Fellow young people, we have been down this road before. We have had contentious elections in the past, and we have always shown the world that indeed our democracy has come of age. Lets go out in our numbers and vote. We may have our disagreement but the ultimate interest of Ghana should not only be our guiding principle but our utmost priority. Please do not let politicians and violent extremist use you. Look around and see the destruction and economic hardship, which is faced by countries which recently engaged in political violence. You will see nothing else than regrets and tear. December last year, the UN Security Council adopted the Resolution 2250 which recognized us, young people as Ambassadors of Peace and not agents of violence. The sustainable development of Ghana lies in our hand. we have no doubt our democracy will again and we will come out successfully and stronger than ever.
By; Richard Kweitsu and Achaleke Christian Leke