First and fore most God our creator is very interested in the welfare of his children. Peace is a divine idea and man must work hard to ensure peaceful coexistence in society. Politicians must not pretend they have the people at heart more than the creator of the universe. We are in partners in ensuring peaceful elections in our communities.
God's idea for Peace in Jeremiah 29: 11 For i know the plans i have for you, says the Lord, plans of welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.(RVS). Even the Biblical injunction encourages all to Live Peaceably with all men.
Do you believe this? well, that is reality. Let those aspiring for power and control get some new education. No political party or politician is worth dying for because the welfare, the future and the hope of Africa ultimately do not lie in their hands but in the hands of God. They must realize that they're only stewards or managers of the resources of the state.
With the necessary wisdom and resources applied, peaceful elections can be realized.
Public office is not the avenue for theft and illegitimate wealth creation as some have demonstrated across Africa. It's about selfless service to your nation and people. It's an oath you make to God and man to be upright and diligent in managing the resources efficiently and effectively for maximum national benefit. Understanding this basic spiritual principle is the most important foundation to lay down before embarking on seeking the mandate of the people through peaceful elections.
Why and how must we ensure peaceful elections in Ghana and Africa in general?
We must ensure peaceful elections because Peace is God's idea and forms the basis for national development. Peace secures the future and destinies of nations. Peace builds unity and togetherness. The opposite is true. Disruptive elections destroys lives and properties. Disruptive elections impoverishes not just a people, but many generations to come. It leads to an uncertain future for the children and the youth. Trained and productive human capital is lost and many more setbacks ensued.
How can we ensure peaceful elections?
Peaceful elections is not dependent on just one group alone working to ensure peace but a multiplicity of bodies, structures and individuals working diligently to ensure a peaceful process before, during and after the elections. However, it will take the action or inaction of just one body, group or individual to disrupt the process.
Ensuring peaceful elections is hard work.
As a famous political thinker says..... “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.” —Thomas Paine, 1777.
Important building blocks of a peaceful electioneering process.
The politicians (political parties)
The electoral commission/logistics and structures
The security agencies
The Judiciary/Legal system
Civil society(Religious bodies, NGO's, think tanks etc)
Observer missions etc
The politicians and their political parties
Election to public office is not a do or die affair; nor is it winning power at any cost. It is not about character assassination or inciting one group against another. It is not about using hate speech or indecent language. It is a battle of ideas. The battle of winning the hearts and minds of the electorate. The selling of genuine programs and policies for bettering the lives of citizens.
Elections are about credibility, integrity and trust in the candidates and team with the requisite competences to manage resources efficiently for the majority of people. In ensuring peaceful elections, the conduct of politicians and party members is crucial to having a successful election. Candidates declaring themselves winners before the official announcement by the electoral officer can be dangerous path to take. The Ivory coast is a good example of how taken entrenched positions by politicians after results are announced can plunge a beautiful country into anarchy. We believe leaders across the continent have learned valuable lessons from Ivory Coast.
To every competition there are rules. Let those with the mandate of declaring results be the sole body to do so. Accept the results as announced and don't make trouble because its not in your favor. This is where true leadership and respect for the rule of law comes in. Opposing groups taking entrenched positions especially the losing sides do not auger well for national peace.
The electoral commission/logistics and structures.
The electoral commission(EC) must be empowered with the resources and logistics for running a smooth electoral process. First of all the competing groups must have confidence in the EC and respect its mandate to run credible polls.
Voter education and awareness must be deeply undertaken to avoid tension and frustration with the processes. In the case of Ghana, the introduction of the bio metric system of voting and verification is a new system that is being used for the first time. Voters and politicians must be patient with this system and exercise restraints in their criticisms when the system encounters petty errors.
Some reported challenges with the bio metric system included wrongful spelling of names, increase/decrease in ages, missing names from the system etc. Ample time is being given to registered voters to report to their centers, cross check and rectify all these errors in the system.
If these deadlines are however missed, prospective voters must still follow through to get their details corrected on the system before voting day. The day of voting is not the time to start massive protest if the voters details are either missing or incorrect. The registered voter as a responsible citizen must cooperate with the EC to sort out all problems before the day of voting. This responsible act by all and sundry will ensure a smooth electoral process.
The EC must fix all its machines and get all materials and logistics ready in abundance before embarking on the voting exercise. This sounds like stating the obvious;however, so many administrative bottle necks threatens to mar the process of electioneering.
Instead of the 'lay back-last minute to time' approach, the commission must be extremely proactive to get ready for the entire process and make necessary contingency plans for unforeseen eventualities. Timing is crucial. Lateness and preparing in advance to give excuses is not in the interest of ensuring smooth elections.
Importantly, the government and its development partners who may be the major financial and logistical contributors to the elections must release funds on time to equip the EC with all the necessary logistics for the elections. Verbal promises will not get the work done.
The media landscape has experienced tremendous transformation and improvement overtime with the advancement of technology. The print media, radio, television, mobile phones and social media has brought news and information closer to people in record time. In ensuring peaceful elections, the media is seen to be probably the most important tool for fostering peace or breeding chaos in society.
The managers and owners of media houses have the responsibility of encouraging only decent commentary that is informative and educative. Spewing out venomous vitriolic, character assassinations, unsubstantiated allegations, ethnocentrism, misrepresentation of the facts for political advantage must not be encouraged by moderators, talk show host and the media houses.
Some journalist and moderators show unprofessional conduct by virtually taking sides with one political group or another thereby irritating and infuriating some viewers, listeners or readers. Media professionals must keep their personal sentiments to themselves especially when they should be seen to be neutral in their commentary.
Patriotism should be at the center of a journalist commentary on issues of national importance. There are weaknesses with every system; speak about the problems but do not leave out the values of nationhood. The media is critical to national peace and security and must work hard during elections to calm tension instead of brewing chaos.
Civil society and independent groups can also help clean up the media space by publishing names of individuals, media houses or political parties in the habit of using hate speech or indecent language on the airwaves. This is to serve as a deterrent for all players to tune down and engage their audiences in a decent political discourse.
The security Agencies
In ensuring peaceful elections, the security forces including the police, military, secret services, customs, prisons etc have a huge role to play. The national security is at stake; so those who take the law into their hands and commit criminal offenses must be investigated and brought to book. Justice must not be selective but must be across board. People making inflammatory and security sensitive statements must be warned to desist or face the full rigors of the law.
Those who go the extend of threatening or taking the lives of others should never be left off the hook. While the majority of people are peace loving and orderly, a small minority attempt to instigate trouble by rallying some youth to be disruptive and raise tension in the country.
The visible presence of security forces across the country will keep the trouble makers in check to allow a smooth electioneering process to go on. There must be coordination among security forces to effectively deal with issues that threatens the security and peace of the state. The forces are national assets and should not be abused by incumbency but used for national progress.
Residents/Citizens can and must assist the police and other bodies with information that will ensure that law and order is maintained.
Political Party vigilantes are not the recognized bodies for ensuring security. Such groups must be discouraged and kept at bay by the security forces. Political parties must have confidence in the security forces such as the police to provide security at voting centers in the communities.
The Judiciary/Legal Environment
A well equip and well resourced judicial system is a crucial ingredient in ensuring peace and stability during and after elections. Court processes during elections must be enhanced or fast tracked to avoid unnecessary delays in deciding election related cases.
Cases the courts cannot deal with should be directed to the appropriate institutions to handle in good time. Judicial interpretations and rulings must be respected. The legal body must not be used or abused by any singular group (party) for political expediency.
The role of civil society is crucial in ensuring a peaceful and stable nation before, during and after elections. This could include groups such as faith based institutions, NGO's, policy think tanks, Fan clubs, youth groups, charities etc.
They must all have one thing in common: Which is working diligently to instruct, correct, counsel and promote peace and unity in the state. Their criticisms must be constructive, insightful and non partisan. Civil society interest is in working to build a better society for all devoid of acrimony and division. Politicians should not be quick to judge and label the concerns of civil society groups as partisan or parochial; even if it does not suit them immediately. All should realize that governments go and governments come but civil society will always be around to provide guidance and counsel for the national good.
This includes all legal members of the state. Registered voters especially must be responsible. The rules as pertain to nationhood and elections must be obeyed at all times. Voters must know all the processes involved in voting; all that is expected of them, checking and cross checking for their vital personal information to ensure that everything has been captured.
Exercise your franchise, leave the scene peacefully and go home to await the results later. Voting grounds are not the place for spreading rumor, campaigning or arguing. When all comport themselves, a peaceful election is the ultimate result.
Observer Missions/Election watchers
Observing the processes and reporting the facts is the purpose of this body. In the case of the football game they may be described as the match commissioners. These officials watch every aspect of the game and submit a report to the rightful authorities.
Some election watchers may have quite a lot of experience from other countries that they can bring to bear on elections. Their positive advice and direction can also help the over all electioneering process.
Ensuring peaceful elections is every body's business. The peace we all seek must be worked at consciously and diligently. The consequences of not having a peaceful election are very negative for Ghana and Africa.
For the individuals and parties seeking political leadership, elections are not a do or die affair. The nation needs to stay intact even after a very competitive process. The atmosphere will be competitive but must remain peaceful. Whether winners or non winners in the process, the nation remains one nation, one people, one continent with a common destiny.
Peace is possible when God and man work hand in hand.
Africa has hope because Africa has you!