With about four months to the December 7 polls, the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference (GCBC) has called on Ghanaians to work consciously towards peace building and abhor the acrimonious politics gaining currency in the country.
“As a nation, let us do everything in our power to maintain the enviable reputation we have so far established as one of Africa’s leading countries whose democratic development is a shining beacon for others to follow,” it said.
It said this was an opportune moment for Ghana to celebrate its success as an emerging democracy and also to reflect on how best to confront the inevitable socio-cultural and economic challenges that could pose a threat to peaceful and credible elections in December and to the country’s democracy in general.
This was contained in a pastoral letter to Ghanaians on the subject, “Politics for nation building and social cohesion in Ghana” and signed by the President of the GCBC, Most Rev. Philip Naameh.
It noted that for more than a quarter of a century, Ghana had become an island of peace and stability in West Africa, a region that had been threatened by terrorism, insurgence, armed conflict and socio-political instability.
It said there had been worrying sources of tension that required the entire nation to be on guard and to grapple with, “lest we suffer unhappy consequences.”
It said every election year came with its own challenges and that the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) had added a special one to this year’s election.
The letter, therefore, appealed to Ghanaians to put an end to all practices that worked against peace and embrace the noble values of politics for the common and greater good of all.
It advised Ghanaians to eschew political and electoral corruption since the buying and selling of votes corrupted the nobility of politics and distorted people’s power and will under the influence of money.
On vigilantism and electoral violence, the letter said if those twin evils were not exorcised from the body politic, it would plague the 2020 elections, in spite of the enactment of legislations, endorsement and signing of an inter-party code of conduct and a roadmap to peace
Politics of insults
It called on media practitioners, particularly, to uphold the highest journalistic standards, ethics and values in their reportage of the electoral processes and activities.
It said although journalism was also an indispensable component of the noble vocation of politics, the increasing use of virtual space and electronic medium of communication had also heightened the threat of widespread use of fake news, insulting language as well as dirty propaganda in election campaigns and in political discourse, stressing that “This must stop. It is not civilised”.
“We, therefore, call on all political actors and communicators to remain civil when canvassing for their respective political parties and personalities,” it stated.
The pastoral letter urged all political actors to avoid the negative and highly divisive politics of ethnocentrism, mud-slinging and attacks on ethnic groups and personalities.
“Let politics focus on issues that serve the greater good, that will bring unity and peace, development and dignity to all our fellow citizens and even the “stranger” living in our midst,” it said.
It said although ensuring free, fair, peaceful and transparent elections, even in this era of the COVID-19 pandemic, was the collective responsibility of all Ghanaians, some institutions of state bore greater responsibility.
It said while the Presidency held in its hands the people’s trust and ensured that citizens lived in conditions of adequate peace and security, it must also ensure a level playing field for all contestants, political parties and candidates in the December 7 polls.
The letter urged the Electoral Commission (EC) to ensure an electoral process that was free, fair and transparent for all political parties and candidates in order to prevent people who might feel unfairly treated from resorting to violence.
The Catholic Bishops tasked the National Election Security Task Force (NESTF) to ensure that the nation went to the 2020 elections and came out of it in peace and tranquility.
“The political parties should ensure the peaceful comportment of their members and supporters, stop vigilantism, the politics of insults, vote buying and selling and support their candidates, both women and men, to win parliamentary seats,” it said.
The letter entreated faith-based organisations (FBOs) and the clergy to desist from openly taking part in partisan politics, “from preaching predictions of election results, and from pronouncing prophecies of electoral results, the death of public personalities, etc.”
It also appealed to civil society organisations (CSOs) to intensify voter and civic education as well as help monitor the election processes and conduct.
The pastoral letter also wants the CSOs to call attention to errant behaviours and anything that would undermine the noble values of peace, tranquility and political development of the nation.
“Finally, we appeal to all our fellow citizens to uphold the highest and noblest of ethics and good conduct, and, of course, to observe religiously all the COVID-19 hygienic protocols,” the letter said, adding “Please, let us all stay safe to serve God and country.”