Defining Youth in Electoral Violence in Ghana.
Usually, it is generally perceived that youths who are largely unemployed, mostly politically ignorant on electoral processes and many who are illiterates are used to score violent political points either in a bid to hold tight to or wrestle political power.
These unfortunate segment of the Ghanaian population are those who are always referred to as “Youths involved in electoral violence. Nothing can be far from the truth than this. But largely, it is indeed wrong thinking. So the question is, who actually are the youths involved in electoral violence processes in Ghana? What really constitute a youth? Is it age, status or station?
In this case, youths involved in electoral violence are NOT confined to ‘vagabonds and gangsters’ both defined by their status of being ‘unemployed and illiterates youngsters’. Rather, ‘youths involve in electoral violence’ are political godfathers, aspirants, electoral officials, civil servants, technocrats, ethnic militias, area boys, students, vigilante groups, criminal gangs and state security agencies, either by age or as mentors. They are all a political team.
The definition of youth, varies, as many as the individuals handling the issue. For the purpose of this article, a working definition would be use. However, the concern here is not just defining ‘a youth’, rather defining “youths involve in electoral violence”! And the best way to go about that is to give an example of Ghanaian Football Team.
The question is who and who constitute Ghana’s Senior National Team? There is no iota of doubt that Ghana is a football loving nation. This inform the fact that whenever any of the Ghanaian eleven players are doing well in the field of play, it is common to hear statements like “we thrash so, so and so, or we beat this and that”. In this case, the Minister of Youths and Sports, administrative officials, the coaching crew and indeed the entire nation is Ghana National Football Team, irrespective of age.
Unfortunately, when the eleven National team players are not doing well, Ghanaians blame the sports administrators, the administrators blame the officials and in some cases the officials blame the players and Ghanaians dissociate themselves from the ‘team’. The definition of the Ghana’s Senior National Football Team thus changes according to the success or failure of the active participants in the game.
This analogy graphically and vividly illustrates who constitutes ‘youths involved in electoral violence’ in Ghana. When the going is smooth, the entire polity constitute the youths involved in electoral process irrespective of age. The point is, in normal circumstances, a team comprises of the active players usually confined by age limits and their officials or mentors. But when things go wrong, categorization of youths by age, social status and employment, redefine ‘youths involved in electoral violence’ and NOT ‘electoral processes’. In this case, youths involved in electoral violence would then be confined to ‘vagabonds and gangsters’ both defined by their status of being ‘unemployed and illiterate youngsters’.
But ‘youths involve in electoral violence’ is far more than that. The main actors of electoral violence as youths are listed below in their individual and collective capacities.
- Political godfathers
- Electoral Management Bodies (EMBs) (electoral officials, civil servants, judiciary and technocrats used during elections)
- Ethnic militias
- Area boys
- Vigilante groups
- Criminal gangs
- State security agencies
All these are youths normally involved in electoral process, either by age or as mentors. The most significant issue here is that they are all directly involved as a political team. And they can all be penalized by the officiating official if found wanting, just like the case of issuing a yellow or red card to a coach in a football match.
It is true that at the centre of electoral violence are categories of restless youths who act as party thugs, and who form youth wings used by party henchmen for political violence and criminal activities for token sums. These youths are deeply involved in the massive rigging that characterized the Ghanaian elections.
They actively participate in electoral acts that marred the elections and jolted people’s confidence in the democratic processes. Youth involved violence includes a range of aggressive acts from bullying and physical fighting, to more serious forms of assault and homicide. But this indeed is the surface. Youths involved in electoral violence can adequately be categorized into: Instigators, Collaborators, Implementers and Retaliators.
By Gh. Kojo | myactiveonline.om
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