From Sebastian R. Freiku, Kumasi
Coalition of Muslim Institutions (COMI) has been formed by the Coalition of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), Ashanti Regional Chief Imam, Council of Imams and Ulamau, the Council of Zongo Chiefs in Ashanti region, Office of the Kumasi Sarkin Zongo, Muslim Executive Forum (MEF) and Queenmothers (Magagias) in Kumasi.
The formation was informed by the unparalleled vigilante activities in the country, following the quest for political power before and after the 2016 elections, which put the country’s security and future in jeopardy.
Its main objectives include reaching out to the whole Muslim Community with information on political vigilantism prevention or electoral violence through the leadership, in the various Zongo communities in Ghana.
Relying on radio and television media, as a powerful tool in the dissemination of information, COMI would produce effective understanding of electoral processes through discussions which would influence listeners to act in a manner expected of them in violence prevention.
COMI, in partnership with the media would, therefore, embark on a sensitisation exercise beginning with Ashanti Region (Kumasi) to undertake intensive community education on the eradication of vigilantism seen to be threatening the stability of Ghana as a whole.
The proposed interventions follow COMI’s realisation that in Ghana, political violence are noticeable in varying degrees during pre-election period, involving the registration of voters by the electoral commission, screening and clearing of political aspirants, party congress and conventions, Political campaigns (Meetings/Rallies), Nomination processes for candidates for various elective posts ranging from local to national levels, Election Day, which is a major election holding and Post-election crisis.
Chief Azumah Ndagu Ibrahim, the Executive Director of COMI said Ashanti Region has been chosen to start from, because the Zongos in Ashanti have the largest population of Zongo communities scattered across the country and serves as nerve centre for recruitment of vigilantes.
He said the Coalition of Muslim Institution seeks to eradicate this canker that has not only created a dent on the image of Zongo communities and the country at large, but serving as a notable potential target for Islamic Fundamentalists to also recruit terrorists groups.
The Executive Director said the sensitisation programmes by COMI would be piloted in five Communities and that COMI would organise fora, rallies, workshops, radio and television media to educate the leadership (Imams, Clerics, Chiefs, Women and Youth groups and associations) about the role of citizens in the Ghanaian electoral processes and areas of vigilantism activities that breed political violence.
COMI, he said, would also design and produce conflict resolution tips in relation to political and electioneering violence for presentation on radio and television stations in the form of group discussions to highlight the repercussions of political vigilantism violence to targeted audience and viewers.
To effectively carry out the proposed activities in order to prevent any vigilante inspired violent conflicts that will affect the conduct of the 2020 electioneering campaign activities, especially within the Zongos and elsewhere in Ghana, Chief Azumah Ndagu said the yet to be launched Coalition will seek support from resource partners like the West Africa Network for Peace (WANEP), Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Centre for the Development of People (CEDEP), Ministry of Inner Cities and Zongo Development (MICZD) and the Office of National Chief Imam to initiate entrepreneurship, skills and capacity development centers to occupy the idle youth victims and reduce unemployment which is the key causative factor that pushes the youth to fall prey into vigilantism recruitment in Zongo communities.
He said it is very crucial that COMI is effectively mobile to enable the implementing team to conduct its campaigns and duties with ease, in order to facilitate the project throughout the country.
COMI’s Executive Director, who is a retired researcher of KNUST, said “We intend implementing this programme throughout the Muslim communities in Ghana, especially the Zongos. This is because the Zongos are the fertile grounds for recruiting the strong idle youth for vigilante work”.
He noted that most politicians use the vulnerable, the deprived, unemployed and the less knowledgeable (ignorant) in implementing their selfish political interest, tactics and games, including stealing of ballot boxes and the use of weapons and violence for insignificant rewards.
According to Chief Azumah Ndagu, the NGO, in line with the provisions of its constitution has proposed to undertake a number of interventions including organising Training Sessions for effective advocacy skills, Development and Peace building mechanisms for the leadership of the Youth, Traditional, Religious, Identifiable bodies and the media.
Executive Director, Azumah Ndagu, noted that with the 2020 elections drawing near, there was the need to establish, sustain and intensify the whole sensitisation and educational process before, during and after the elections, up to the inauguration of the newly elected president in January 2021, in order to achieve positive results.
He said successful implementation of the project concept would help in curbing increasing political vigilante violence, especially within the highly fertile Zongo grounds, who out of ignorance are easily recruited as vigilantes for all manner of violence related activities.
“If vigilantism is not eliminated, its huge implication on national security and refugees cost to the nation and the international community will spell doom for Ghana”, Chief Azumah Ndagu indicated and called for support for the project towards peace building efforts and democratic institutional development.