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Political violence and the coming elections


Smaller political parties in Ghana, on the surface, don’t exert a lot of influence; they are marginalized and often don’t get credit for their contributions to the national political discourse, no matter how important; they have little representation in parliament, therefore their ability to influence policy is limited to occasional public utterances which Ghanaians don’t place much premium on, anyway.

However, lately, the small parties have indicated that they, too, matter. Barely a month ago, at a joint meeting in Tamale, they came together and vehemently denounced the viligante and militant youth groups that are attached to political parties like Siamese twins and which are so inclined to engage in political violence.

It was a teachable moment…. at long last, the political parties in Ghana have realized the dangers these youth groups pose to our national security and did not pause a bit in condemning the vigilantes.

The two large political parties which are the major sponsors of the youth groups did not send representatives to the meeting. The excuses they gave for their absence were as laughable as they were ridiculous. And it goes to show you who on the political landscape is more interested in curbing political violence.

It is the least of my favorite subjects/topics…….politically connected vigilante youth groups… for commentary but somehow I keep coming back to it, all because of a concern that I share with millions of other Ghanaians, that the elections in December are free, fair, decent and devoid of violence.

Moreover, it is worth revisiting the issue if only to drum some modicum of sense into the heads of certain political party affiliates.

As the political temperature gets heated with the elections tantalizingly close, so is the potential for violence. There are already signs that the two major political parties, the NDC and the NPP, who ultimately should be responsible for any breakout of violence, are ready to do battle, literally.

Just listen to the high pitched and shrill voices of their representatives on radio and television. They have deliberately ratcheted up the rhetoric, calling on party foot soldiers to resist any attempt at intimidation and coercion.

These talking heads are essentially instructing their followers to fight fire with fire and not turn the other cheek. It is a verbal slug-fest which could soon morph into fisticuffs if authorities, by which I mean party big men… don’t bring these voices to order.

And the foot-soldiers most likely to engage in violence are the youth groups of the two parties who have built this dependent relations with their benefactors.

But in reality one cannot do without the other and vice versa. The politicians rely on these misguided young men to intimidate opponents and in return, the boys count on the politicians to provide them with jobs, money, gifts and other handouts. It is a screwed up system, pure and simple.

These youth groups thrive because of the acute lack of political will on the part of party hierarchies to cut them down to size. Our political leaders have demonstrated a stunning reluctance to take the first step towards bringing calm to our political process; it is not the least surprising. In Africa, political power means eye-popping wealth, riches and influence, so don’t expect any change in approach by the political parties to these youth groups.

We are all aware of this painful fact; there are so many fault lines, a whole lot of sharp divisions in the Ghanaian society today and politicians are clearly exploiting them to their advantage.

Ghanaians are not being told in plain terms by their politicians that collectively we can build a better society if we bury our political, tribal and financial differences.

The polarization is so entrenched that small crises that should not see the light of day, that frankly could be amicably resolved, quickly morph into distracting political arguments, pitting one political party against the other. The Montie 3 is a clear example of the deeply entrenched positions we hold.

Political violence of any kind is deplorable and the prospects of our beautiful and peaceful nation degenerating into violence frighten me a great deal. Let us hope that the political agitators in the major parties would come to their senses and put a screeching halt to their nonsense for the collective good of the nation.

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