THE CAUSES OF ELECTORAL VIOLENCE
While frequent political violence in Ghana does not generally occur spontaneously and is not an intractable problem. Electoral violence in Ghana is one of the few issues that do not follow the normal historic ethno-religious or sectional divide-lines. In Ghana, electoral violence can be both intra and inter party and cuts across religion and sections, though they might transform into ethno-religion without initially aiming at that. There are many reasons behind the constant recurrence of electoral violence. All the four actors mentioned earlier have different compelling force inducing them to involve themselves in electoral violence. The following are to mention just a few.
1. Financial Inducement
More often than not political violence is paid for, used as a tool by prominent Ghanaians to bolster their own political and financial positions. Virtually, the bulk of the causes of electoral violence in Ghana are financial. Every active participant of electoral violence, aim to gain one thing or the other, here are five (5) causes under financial inducement.
a. The Plum of Office
Political offices in Ghana are too attractive. The ostentation lifestyle of political officeholders is a great stimulus for those outside to go to any length to win election including using electoral violence. While those in power also try to maintain their seats by hock or crock. Their impunity from the harsh realities those outside government face is one the greatest attraction of going to every length including electoral violence to maintain or wrench away power.
b. Attraction of Official Lucre
Greed cut across all the four actors of electoral violence – instigators, collaborators, implementers and retaliators. Selfish desire and lack of accountability and transparency as a short cut to becoming wealthy once elected into government is a major catalyst of indulging into electoral violence. Thus politicians see government as big business where they invest little and reap huge profit after winning elections. In an attempt to win elective offices, politicians and their agents often induce electoral officials, law enforcement agents and other influential stakeholders in the system with financial and material gifts, all in the bid to subvert the outcome of the electoral process.
c. Illiteracy, Ignorance and Poverty
The lack of adequate knowledge or information on politics, particularly electoral processes, coupled with low level of education, the high level of deprivation and impoverishments of the Ghanaian youths, force many to take the readily available ‘job opportunity’ – implementers of electoral violence. These conditions easily play the gullible youths into the hands of unscrupulous politicians, who manipulate them by dangling irresistible baits for the youths to undertake electoral violence, despite the attendant aftermath of violence. The aftermath could be denial of education and other capacity development training for the youths, a vicious circle that also causes another round of electoral violence. The worst is that over 99% of promises made to the youths by the instigators are never fulfilled. Yet, these youth go back to the same instigators again and again over paltry sum and electoral violence continue.
d. Monetization of Elective Offices and Godfatherism
Elective offices in Ghana have become mere commodities to be purchased by the highest bidder. Thus, those who ‘invest’ in them, use all the means at his disposal to secure winning the election as an avenue to recoup and make profits. Potential aspirants therefore, monetise whichever office they intend to contest. The godfather then steps in and finances the candidate. The sole aim for both the aspirant and the godfather is to win by all means. That is where electoral violence comes into play. In this case, no amount is too much to use in instigating electoral violence, even expending the lives of opponents and valueless youths.
e. Sit-tight Syndrome
Having enjoyed the plum and paraphernalia of office, as well as the impunity attached to their positions, incumbents use state resources and machinery at their disposal to maintain power. Everybody is either seen as a resource or an enemy. All the EMBs are influenced and manoeuvred to rig election in favour of the government of the day. Security operatives as the most effective instrument of coercion in accomplishing this selfish ambition is brazenly implored or bribed. They are deployed to harass, intimidate, arrest and physically terrorize opponents. For other reasons too, the opposition do not take this laying down. Thus, clashes results into electoral violence.
2. Election Management Bodies (EMBs) Breach of Trust
Election Management Bodies (EMBs) are the electoral umpires. In the case of Ghana, the Electoral Commission (EC), Intra-party Advisory Committee (IPAC) security forces, political parties, the media, CODEO, civil society organizations and judicial officials are all EMBs. The EMBs are responsible for providing election security. Election security is the process of protecting electoral stakeholders such as voters, candidates, poll workers, media and observers; electoral information such as vote results, registration data and campaign material; electoral facilities such as polling stations and counting centres; and electoral events such as campaign rallies against death, damage or disruption.
In all ramifications – the rule of law, respect for human rights, democracy, good governance and morality, the EMBs should discharge their duties and responsibilities honestly, transparently, fairly and impartially to all electoral stakeholders without fear or favour. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, almost all the EMBs are found short in the discharge of their constitutional and civic responsibilities. Their brazen approach to electoral matters is a significant cause of electoral violence.
a. Electoral Body
When electoral officials, as collaborators allow themselves to be influenced or manipulated by politicians, definitely the opposing camps react spontaneously. Sadly the common language known as a reaction is electoral violence. Partial electoral body could be a source of electoral conflict in any nation. No matter the financial independence enjoyed by the electoral body, when it is seen not to be neutral or impartial in the way it conducts it activities, it is bound to create a lot of dissatisfaction that may subsequently lead to crisis.
b. Law Enforcement Agencies
Past elections in Ghana had clearly shown the bias position of some security agencies, who are supposed to be absolutely neutral and impartial in supervising the system to ensure fair play and security of life and properties. But they are obviously found to be active collaborators in subverting the process. In most cases, they succumb to government influence, collect bribe to harass and intimidate voters or remain indifferent when voters are harassed or intimidated. More so, they provide cover for electoral officials and politicians to destroy electoral materials, intimidate voters, or fully engage in electoral violence just to rig elections. These actions give rise to protests and subsequent violence by aggrieved individuals and parties.
c. Judiciary and Election Tribunals
Civilization provides an avenue to seek redress in the event of electoral disputes. This implies that even in normal circumstances, genuine electoral disputes might occur. The law provides that if people feel dissatisfied with the electoral process, as law abiding citizens, they are expected to follow legitimate means of seeking redress through election tribunals.
In Ghana the judiciary through the Supreme Court is the main organ saddled with the responsibilities of resolving election disputes. The judiciary is therefore the last hope for resolving any electoral disputes. For this reason, the way and manner electoral tribunals handle electoral disputes contribute in stemming or aggravating electoral violence. So when the judiciary fails to deliver judgement in accordance to the law and the electorate feels that the ruling was not fair, unbiased and impartial, the aftermath could be electoral violence.
d. The Media
The role of the media also as an unbiased and impartial umpire goes a long way in preventing or triggering electoral violence. So the media might become a source of conflict generation when they succumb to influence of selfish politicians who would want to use their outfits as propaganda launch pad. The media is a causative instrument for electoral violence if they indulge in campaign of calumny, mudslinging, defamation or slanderous attack on other political actors. This is a sure cause of electoral violence.
3. Religious and Ethnic Sentiment
Religion and ethnicity are two very sensitive issues that unpatriotic elements effectively use to their selfish purposes. Either one or both religious or ethnic cards are used, depending on the one that favours the instigator. The bait for the simpleton youths is that the worst candidate of your like is better the best candidate outside your religion or tribe. Sometimes places of worships are turned into campaign grounds for candidates. The support of religious and community leaders are sought, once that is achieved, their followers fall in place like a pack of cards.
These practices greatly threaten the very fabric of our national unity and integration. Qualities of merit like competency, honesty, integrity, trust and credibility would not be put into cognizance. Such a candidate on merit would not win as such he has to resort to acts of electoral violence. No sooner would they ascend the throne would they turn against the same youths that supported them through electoral violence, yet during another election they go back to the same people with the same story.
By Gh. Kojo | myactiveonline.om