The new “culture of silence”
Irmo, South Carolina
6th October, 2015
My fellow Ghanaians, there is a new “culture of silence” in our country.
Despite our democracy, the freedoms enshrined in our constitution and our motto of “Freedom and Justice”, our freedoms are under assault. This assault is led by our political parties and legal establishment who were advocates of our freedoms. Disregard the increased noise. It is just that--- noise.
Consider the following:
--- There was a brutal assault on citizens marching peacefully to present a petition to the Electoral Commission and the most vociferous defenders of the POLICE were NDC leaders, with the commendable exception of the President.
--- Anas Aremeyaw Anas’ effort to publicize the corruption of the Judiciary is being fought by lawyers who see nothing wrong with goat thieves going to jail while judges who accept goats as bribes invoke legalisms to defend themselves.
--- The NDC silenced Nana Konadu at their congress with underhanded tactics.
--- The NPP branded challengers of Nana Akufo Addo traitors and threatened them with future punishment just for contesting the flag-bearership.
--- NPP leaders holding a Press conference were attacked with guns and cutlasses amidst threats to “burn Kwabena Agyapong like his father”.
--- The Supreme Court panel hearing the Election petition humiliated and punished party activists whose only crime, as in the case of Sir John, was that they were too loud and “ had grown horns”.
There may not be imprisonment as in the case of Kwaku Baako and Haruna Atta, or deaths, as in the case of Tommy Thompson yet but--, these efforts using threats and intimidation are working. In the old days, those targeted could count on the media, the political parties and the legal profession to defend their freedom of expression. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case.
The NPP leadership looked the other way while Sir John was humiliated because they believed it was the price for a favourable verdict in the Supreme Court. The NDC defended the Police because they believed the unholy alliance with the Police would bring political advantage. They are both wrong. The NPP should have stood behind Sir John and the NDC should have condemned the Police.
Now, all dissenting voices have been silenced, with threats, intimidation and insults.
Over the last couple of years, to the consternation of my friends and family, I have stepped out repeatedly to defend those under assault, including Archbishop Duncan Williams, Pastor Otabil, the Asantehene, Sir John, Tarzan, Dr. Apraku, Alan Kyerematen, Nana Akufo-Addo, President Kuffour, and now Paul Afoko and Kwabena Agyapong. People have asked me why I would risk my political future, my safety and my peace of mind to defend people who would not defend me and in some cases, would happily seize the first opportunity to attack me. My answer is that principle requires it and that my place and my destiny are to always be on the side of those being attacked unfairly. That is why I defended Danquah against charges that he was a traitor to his country even while his family was silent. Consistent with this attitude, I pledge that some day in the future, when his pursuit of the Presidency is over, regardless of the outcome-- and his fair-weather friends turn against him, as happened to Rawlings and Kufuor in their turn, if I am alive and well, I will be standing by the side of Nana Akufo-Addo, making his case, not out obligation because I owe him none, but on principle.
My outspokenness in defense of the unpopular has lost me friends and made me enemies—many enemies. There is a concerted effort to shut me up--- with insults, threats and intimidation.
Despite never using drugs in my life and being of sound mind, I have been called mentally deranged by some.
Others have called me traitor in the party that was formed by Danquah whose family has suffered so much pain and anguish because he has been falsely called a traitor to his country.
I have been labeled “enemy combatant” to incite hatred against my person. I have asked for what designation those who called me “enemy combatant “ reserve for President Mahama and Asiedu Nketia.
People who could barely get out of the classroom have called me illiterate.
These days, there is hardly a day that I do not seen, on face-book or Ghanaweb, or hear on radio, a gratuitous attack on my person by vigilantes and supposed party activists, and one or other known or unknown group or branch of the NPP.
It seems attacking my person has become the new loyalty test for our party. As one wag told me,” these days, if you want to see certain big men around the flag-bearer, nothing will get you access quicker than claiming you have attacked Arthur K.”
Dr. Busia said, “The true test of a democracy is not even the right of minorities to disagree. It is the right of a lone individual to disagree with his country and feel secure.” This groupthink and supposed infallibility would ensure that Busia would not recognize his party if he came back.
Today, I call on you to rise against this new “culture of silence” that is being imposed by insults, threats, and intimidation. The culture of silence we foster against members of our own party will strengthen the hands of lawless security forces bent on silencing all of us.
As far as I am concerned, let the word go forth from here to friend and foe alike that I will NOT BE SILENCED by those who were silent while I spoke in the face of guns. I confronted the PNDC at the head of the greatest generation of students because I believe in freedom and in Ghana’s motto, “FREEDOM AND JUSTICE”.
Our relationship to the truth should be based on our faith, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” from John 8:32.
I shall give up my party, my country and my life before I give up my voice or the truth, as God gives me to understand it. Let the faithful say, “AMEN!”
Let us keep faith with our FREEDOMS, of speech, of thought and of association.
May God protect our freedoms.
Arthur Kobina Kennedy