GHANA: Pre-election violence escalates

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Following an upsurge of pre-election violence that has killed three people and injured many others in northern Ghana, experts fear hostilities will continue in the months leading to December presidential and legislative elections.

Charred remains of houses, walls riddled with bullets, and burnt cars and are talismans of last week’s violence in the Northern Region's capital of Tamale. Violence erupted  following a shooting incident on 31 August that abruptly ended a political rally organised by the ruling New Patriotic Party.
A 12-hour curfew is currently in force and additional joint military-police patrols have been deployed on the streets.

Fred Degbe, president of the religious non-profit Christian Council, told IRIN, “If Ghana burns because of politics we have nowhere else to go, so it’s in our interest to do everything possible to preserve the peace we are known for in the sub-region.”

Burnt remains

Affected by the violence was Alhaji Mahama Jeboni, an opposition party chairman for the National Democratic Congress (NDC), who is based in Tamale.

His 30-year-old daughter, Sayakulu Mahama Jeboni told IRIN, “The attackers asked my father to choose between his life and his properties. There were about a hundred people all armed. They were arguing whether to burn the houses first or my father’s commercial vehicles. They set fire to all of his eight cars.” She said the flames razed their three homes to the ground. “Everything was burnt, all our possessions, possessions dating back to one hundred years. We have nothing left,” Jeboni told IRIN.

Violent flashpoint

There have been other conflicts since the beginning of 2008, mostly based on land rights, but none that turned deadly.

In early August 2008, violence erupted during voter registration as supporters of the two main political parties vandalised registration centres and traded gun shots.

December elections

In December 2008 Ghana’s President John Kufuor is expected to hand over power as he has served the maximum constitutional eight-year term.

The ruling New Patriotic Party seized power from the National Democratic Congress in 2000 during the first peaceful democratic transition of power since Ghana attained independence in 1957.

Now for the first time in 16 years the NPP, a party that won power while in opposition, must hand over the presidency and with polls predicting a close race with a high possibility of a run-off, that president could equally come from the NPP or the NDC.

But for Degbe, who is helping to launch an anti-violence campaign in the north, “the importance of the elections can never be a justification to destroy the country’s peace.”