Don’t celebrate election petition verdict — Catholic Bishops

(From left) Nana Akufo-Addo, first petitioner; John Mahama, first respondent(From left) Nana Akufo-Addo, first petitioner; John Mahama, first respondentThe Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference (GCBC) has appealed to Ghanaians to refrain from provocative actions and utterances that have the tendency to breed conflict.

The bishops therefore, endorsed the call by a section of society for the victors in the election petition case not to celebrate after the court verdict, but rather continue their normal endeavours to develop the country.

At a press conference to crown its extraordinary plenary held from August 6 to 8, 2013, the Catholic Church’s most important decision-making body in Ghana also made a passionate appeal to Ghanaians to remain calm before and after the Supreme Court’s verdict on the ongoing presidential election petition.

It urged the leadership of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) to accept the court’s verdict in good faith and encourage their supporters to do same.

The press conference, which was in collaboration with STAR-Ghana, a non-governmental organisation, was part of numerous sensitisation programmes to preserve the country’s peace and unity before and after the Supreme Court delivers its verdict.

The presidential candidate of the NPP in the 2012 elections, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, and two others, on December 28, 2012, filed the petition challenging the result of the presidential election which declared President John Dramani  Mahama the winner.

On April 16, 2013, the hearing began until July 17 when the court ended taking evidence.

On August 7, 2013, the court took oral addresses and is expected to give its final judgement by the end of August 2013.

The petition appears to have put the entire country on the edge, as Ghanaians wait anxiously for the verdict that will endorse President Mahama, order a re-run of the presidential election or put a seal on Nana Akufo-Addo as the President.

Champion Cause of Peace

To keep the country’s democratic clock ticking, even after the verdict has been delivered, the President of the GCBC, the Most Rev Joseph Osei-Bonsu, called on “all citizens to continue to pray, work and champion the cause of peace before and after the verdict of the Supreme Court”.

“We believe that each one of us can and must contribute to greater justice and peace by reflecting seriously on our personal and collective responsibility in the current state of uneasy calm in our country,” he said.

Ever since the Fourth Republican Constitution came into effect in 1992, Ghana has been to the polls six times, but this is the first time somebody has met the 21-day mandatory period to challenge the results of the presidential election.

That, the Most Rev Osei-Bonsu, who is also the Bishop of Konongo-Mampong, said was commendable, adding, “We have acquitted ourselves creditably, earning the respect of the international community. Today, Ghana is perceived as a functional democracy and a model stable state.”

However, he said, while Ghanaians could take individual and collective credit for the feat and seek ways of consolidating the country’s democratic gains, the time had come for all to guard against complacency which could derail the gains made so far.

With the media and social commentators bracing up for the ruling on the landmark case, the Most Rev Osei-Bonsu appealed to all “media houses and social commentators to be circumspect in their commentaries on the case and to use their media platform, after the verdict, to encourage reconciliation and peaceful coexistence among Ghanaians”.

He was optimistic that Ghanaians would remain calm and that the security agencies would be able to maintain peace and order at all times.

In a passionate appeal touching on pre and post-verdict Ghana, the Bishops took turns in 12 local languages to ask Ghanaians “to think Ghana first”, saying, “Our forebears sacrificed  to bring our country to this position and it is now our turn to work together to safeguard the unity and stability that our country is enjoying.”

In that regard, the Bishops encouraged “the eventual winner to seek ways of building consensus and shared responsibility in tackling the core problems of the nation, including unemployment, corruption and polarisation”.

That, according to them, would eliminate the winner-takes-all syndrome in Ghana’s body politic and unite all Ghanaians as one people.

“Peace is not just a gift to be received; it is also something to be worked for. Therefore, peace must be cultivated and people must be educated to work for it,” they said.

About the nine-member Supreme Court panel, they said, “We are confident that our Justices will offer justice to the nation in their judgement. It is our prayer that in discharging this all-important duty, they will be guided by the Holy Spirit and God will endow them with the necessary strength and courage to give the right verdict without fear or favour.”

By Seth J. Bokpe

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