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The Culture of Political Violence at Polling Stations

botchway February 5, 2019

 

We have a culture in this country which will never help resolve our problems, and it is the culture of “attacking the reaction and not the action,” and this conduct fits in well in the Political Theory of Organised Chaos.

On Thursday January 31, 2019, in what was supposed to be a very peaceful by-election day in the Ayawaso West Wuogon Constituency of Greater Accra Region, rather turned out to be blood-letting. When I first heard the news and how it was presented to me by my cousin who lives in East Legon, I did not support the action of the security forces on the ground. I said: “Kwesi, this can remove the shine of the deserved victory for Lydia, and some people will overdo things without the knowledge of the President, and yet he will be blamed for it.”

It was later on that the video clip he sent to me had a man narrating how it all began: Four men walked into the polling station at La Balawashie Presby, and started booting a ballot box away from the polling centre, when a security member fired one of them in the leg. Then all hell broke loose.

It was then that all came back to me about what the National Democratic Congress (NDC) had planned to do in Atiwa during the by-elections held there on August 31, 2010. Hordes of thugs called Azorka Boys, the militant wing of the NDC from Tamale, invaded that peaceful constituency in the Eastern Region, and, escorted by armed to the teeth from the Police Service, went from polling station to polling station in attempts to snatch away ballot boxes. The Azorka Boys themselves were armed with clubs, cutlasses, hockey sticks and any instrument that could effectively be used to assault an opponent. These boys descended upon the villagers and gave them the beatings of their lives, with the police just looking on.

In an attempt to secure their votes, the youth in Kwabre, the district capital, sat around the ballot boxes, and this was where the then NDC’s Women Organiser, Anita Desoso, came in and run her sports utility vehicle (SUV) over them, maiming some and took a fast exit. With what was indicating that their lives were now at risk, and without any thing in hand to defend themselves, the youth turned and launched an attack on the armed Azorka Boys. The invaders fled into the bush and, but for the timely intervention of the police, there would have been a bloodbath.

Today, Anita Desoso is walking around freely, just as Woyome is, even though she committed a crime of harmful assault on the innocent. This became possible because the Attorney-General at that time did not see it necessary to press on with the case.

The bravery of the youth in halting any more terrorist attacks on humans and properties was acknowledged by then citizen Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, with his recalling of a Ghanaian idiomatic expression, All Die Be Die. Anyone who wants to tag the President as a violent man, by referring to this idiom, is either ignorant or a hypocrite and not worth listening to.

Fast forward to Thursday January 31, 2019, and it all came back. Just as Atiwa is a New Patriotic Party (NPP) stronghold with no chance of the NDC ever taking the seat, so is Ayawaso West Wuogon. The only way to neutralise the NPP votes is to go for the ballot boxes, swap the votes and return the boxes with everything in it well compromised in favour of the NDC.

So, most probably, the Atiwa Agenda was scheduled as the Plan A for Ayawaso West Wuogon, with the intention to go in for as many ballot boxes as possible, and compromise the votes in favour of the NDC.

The snatching of ballot boxes is considered very criminal, for at a parliamentary candidates meeting with the Electoral Commission (EC) officials, when this concern was raised, we were informed that the police had been instructed to shoot, even if it meant to kill anyone who will snatch a ballot box away.

Reviewing some of the video clips made public on the violence in Ayawaso West Wuogon, I find it strange that someone who was shot in the back of the neck could calmly sit down as if he was waiting for food he had ordered in a chop bar.

And also, the spot of blood shown to us looked more like blood drained at a spot where slaughtered animals are drained off their blood into the ground. The hole in the ground indicated that pints of blood were drained there, and yet, the man who donated that much did not even look weak or unconscious.

In all this, what were the Azorka Boys doing in town? And why were they housed near the NDC candidate’s house? With the shooting of the leg of the man who attempted to snatch the ballot box, a signal might have been sent to all those in readiness to do same in their assigned polling stations to abort mission and retreat to base.

People are worried about the masked security detail on the ground, but I will only suggest a reason. If they are National Security operatives, they live among us and may be considered as some simple people going about normal business, for an example, owning and operating blue kiosks. Such people are in the community gathering information that could be useful for the security of this country. In such operations, they need to hide their faces so that their cover is not blown.

At any rate, was it not the NDC which introduced such combat attire into the security service? When outdooring the Special Forces, did Johnson Asiedu Nketia not warn NPP members that they should now know they have met their meeter, and if they ever dared, they will see something?

If we must attack acts of violence, then we must go to the sources and collectively find ways of how to nip any of such in the bud.

When the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) usurped the political will of the people and took over governance, it introduced violence into the system, with Jerry John Rawlings propagating a new political theory called the Democratisation of Violence. He added that when there is any disagreement, the best way is for one to pull a gun, and if the other does the same, only then will the two opposing sides sit and talk about the issue. The question is, what if one does not have any gun?

It was the era when riff-raffs, school-dropouts, hangers-on who associated themselves with the revolution were given some brief military lessons, trained to shoot to kill, and enlisted into the Peoples’ Militia to molest and harass innocent civilians. There was the regular army and the irregular militia in Ghana.

Violence was introduced during the November 3, 1992 General Elections which stole the verdict of the people and made the then opposition parties boycott the December 29, 1992 parliamentary election.

Since then, there are recorded pockets of violence in all elections, and may I refer to violence by the NDC meted upon other partners of the Progressive Alliance during the December 29 election.

In the December 7, 2000 elections, the original military commandoes converted into the 64 Battalion, who were initially young ordinary civilians who were given military training in pro-socialist states like Bulgaria and Cuba, were unleashed on NPP strongholds, and they created mayhem. Hon. Kwamina Bartels was slashed in the palm by one of these men of violence.

Coming on to by-elections, in which all parties can field the top gurus as polling agents, violence by the NDC, which is no respecter of persons, had the NPP’s Hon. Dan Botwe slapped in Akwatia. We also heard of vain violence in Chereponi, where an ordinary civilian openly shot into the crowd. Then came Atiwa, when almost every polling station became a hotspot, with the NDC militia protected and escorted by Ghana Police personnel who were armed in full battle gear.

To top their acts of violence, there was the Women’s Organiser of the NDC deliberately driving into youth with the intention to snatch ballots boxes, even if it meant killing someone.

To this day, the culprit of the crime is honoured among NDC circles, while H.E. President Nana Akufo-Addo, who commended the youth for rising up and chasing the villains and terrorists out of town, is labelled with a tag of violence. This is how we view things in this country.

Back to Ayawaso West Wuogon Constituency and with an incident occurring in only one out of 137 polling stations, everything was blown out of proportion to make it seem as the whole constituency was on fire.

In the case of this constituency, every person holding a weapon was donned in a uniform belonging to either one or the other security services or forces. If anyone has bone to pick with any of them, this must be addressed to the service or force they belong to. That will be the most logical start to unravelling the truth about the alleged perpetrators of violence. In the other by-elections, the perpetrators were among the civilian militia wings of the NDC. And this should be of great concern and the blame squarely laid on the NDC. Now that we are told that it is a party begat from violence and can return to traditional ways and match NPP boot for boot, we need to know who introduced violence in this country, and even institutionalised it.

Hon. Daniel Dugan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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