FORMER PRESIDENT Jerry John Rawlings has cautioned that the political tension in the country is rising to an undesirable high level, stressing that the dangerous development poses a serious threat to the peace and stability of the country.
The NDC founder, who was speaking at the KNUST Great Hall, Kumasi, yesterday, during the high level meeting of the presidential candidates in the December 7, 2012 polls organized under the auspices of the Manhyia Palace and National Peace Council (NPC), said the signals should not be ignored as the elections gradually drew nearer.
All the presidential candidates, President John Mahama, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Dr Henry Lartey, the Great Consolidated Popular Party (GCPP), Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, New Patriotic Party (NPP), Dr Paa Kwesi Nduom, Progressive People’s Party (PPP), Akwasi Addai, United Front Party (UFP), Hassan Ayariga, People’s National Convention (PNC), Dr Abu Sakara Foster, Convention People’s Party (CPP), who was represented by his running mate, Nana Akosua Frimpomaa Sarpong Kumankuma, and Joseph Osei Yeboah, independent candidate, publicly signed a pact committing themselves to peaceful polls on December 7.
They also pledged to be of good conduct.
Mr Rawlings tasked the political leaders to quickly render proper counsel to their teeming supporters scattered across the country so that the tension would be reduced significantly before the country headed for the polls on December 7.
According to him, he had personally seen, during his tour of the country recently, that political tension in the country was at its all time high. He said something prudent should be done about unity for the sake of the nation.
The former president, who said his desire was to see Ghana through the upcoming national elections successfully, tasked all stakeholders who had been mandated to ensure that Ghana’s peace was protected before, during and after the December 7 polls, to watch out.
Having gone through five successive peaceful elections, he stated that Ghana could not allow its high reputation on the international stage of being one of the best democratic countries in the world to fade.
All the eight presidential candidates in the coming elections were made to sign the peace pact dubbed ‘Kumasi Declaration’, which was witnessed by the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II and Chief Justice Georgina Theodora Wood.
The event, christened ‘Promoting Peaceful Elections and Justice’ was on the theme ‘Taking A Stand Against Electoral Violence, Impunity And Injustices’ and was graced by former President John Agyekum Kufuor, IGP Paul Tawiah Quaye, CDS Lt Gen Peter Augustine Blay, key security gurus, the clergy, ministers of state, traditional leaders among others.
Former President Rawlings, once again, echoed his call on the populace to be vigilant during the December elections to avert situations whereby one political party could rig the polls and change the wish of the electorate to its favour.
He entreated Ghanaians to respect the rules governing the polls for peace to prevail. “You should not just be mean and mild” but you should also “be responsibly vigilant during the electoral process”.
He expressed great concern about the high level of abusive language that had become the order of the day on the country’s political stage, warning that the development threatened Ghana’s democratic dispensation.
He observed that political party representatives had lately resorted to taking their political opponents to the cleaners in the media without justification, calling for common sense among political leaders when debating matters of national concern instead of insulting each other.
The reckless nature by which political party representatives were insulting each other in public, he cautioned, could be a catalyst for conflict, calling for an immediate stop to the unfortunate trend.
Security Agencies Should Be Impartial
He tasked the security agencies whose roles would be vital in ensuring peaceful elections in the country to be impartial, professional and forthright whilst providing their essential duties of ensuring law and order during the elections.
Mr. Rawlings was of the view that the neutrality of the security agencies would go a long way to protect the peaceful atmosphere that the country had enjoyed since the country started practising democracy two decades ago.
He asked the judiciary to expedite action whilst resolving matters that would arise during the polls so as to ensure public trust in the judicial system and help to promote peace.
Mr. Rawlings warned that any delays on the part of the judiciary regarding political disputes could trigger unnecessary tension and rancor among the political parties.
He charged the media to play their roles of educating, informing and entertaining the public by staying within the strict ethics of the profession to help deepen the country’s peace as the polls drew near.
Otumfuo Stops Booms
Mr. Rawlings, who is noted for delivering impassioned speeches, said he was about to deliver one for the media to write about but he would not do so because the Asantehene who he respected so much had signaled him not to do so.
He said but for the Asantehene, he would have given a ‘boom’ speech at the occasion, and that attracted wild shouts and laughter from the anxious crowd.
Mr. Rawlings said that the polls were a two-horse race between the NPP and the NDC, disclosing that the two parties were at par currently.
Unlike in the past, he stated, the two leading political parties did not have much separating them when it came to matters of moral values, predicting that the polls would be very close between them.
Mr. Rawlings warned both parties not to allow the closeness of the race which had the tendency of creating a potential clash between the two to degenerate into conflict, stressing that Ghana needed peace.
Mr Kufuor said, “Anybody wanting to lead us must submit to our choice; we must vote for him or her to become president just like when we get fed up with him, we go again to vote to take him out of power to put another person there…From history, people have done all sorts of things to secure power. Some will kill, some will lie, some would do anything, anything, buy to get the power… but power belongs to the people.”
FROM I.F. Joe Awuah Jnr., Kumasi