The Centre for Democratic Development (CDD) Ghana and the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO), say there are disturbing developments and concerns that should be taken seriously by all stakeholders to avert actual violence on Election Day.
In a study conducted from October 5 to 21, 2008, by the two organisations said reported activities by some groups threatened to erupt into violence if not addressed.
The study was undertaken in selected constituencies identified as potential violence prone areas by twenty-five (25) election-related violence observers.
The report said physically well built men, known in Ghanaian parlance as “macho men,” in and around the Fadama area, were being trained to disrupt the December 7 elections at some designated polling stations in the constituency.
Also the growing tension between the Kusasis and the Mamprusis in the Bawku area was said to be “a potential power keg waiting to explode.”
“The conflict is assuming political coloration, with the two factions aligning themselves with the two main political parties in the area, NDC and NPP,” the report said.
It said the formation of numerous youth groups by politicians in the Tamale metropolis was a serious threat to the fragile peace in the area.
The Binaba and Zebilla constituencies were gaining notoriety for their penchant for violence with the Konkomba – Bimoba conflict at Yunyoo in the Bunkpurgu-Yunyoo constituency also assuming political dimension, thus increasing the level of tension in the area.
The report said there was growing level of impunity in the Tamale metropolis, with the police service proving incapable of enforcing law and order, while reports of minors registered at a polling station in Oforikrom constituency, known as ‘Dagomba line’, could be a source of violence on polling day in the constituency.
Other issues also raised in the report were that the Central Region had the highest incidents of election related violence, in the period under study, while the growing culture of impunity posed a threat to the security of the Tamale metropolis with the loss of confidence and trust in the security service.
The report said the Central Region recorded the highest incidents of election-related violence with the use of “keep fit” clubs for political violence “a dangerous phenomenon,” in the country’s democratic experience.
The Bawku Central Constituency was found not to be “ready for big political activities,” as there was still an uneasy calm, with any major political likely to erupt into conflict.
In urban areas in cities monitored, migrant communities populated by people from conflict zones in the country, were increasingly becoming political ‘hot spots,’ while the NDC and NPP were the most likely culprits in election-related violence during the period under study.
Meanwhile the Minister of State of the Interior, Nana Obiri Boahen, has said the mere suspicion that an individual or a group of individuals have been mentioned as having armed themselves or were intending to cause mayhem, was not sufficient cause for action in law.
He said in law there had to be reasonable suspicion before any action could be taken.
In an interview with the Daily Graphic, Nana Obiri Boahen, however said that even if a reputable organisation like the CDD had researched and found evidence of that, it did not have to play to the public gallery but had to engage the police with the information.
He said the onus was on all civil society organisations to engage and corporate with security agencies on evidence they find of people arming or engaging in riotous acts, and that would be reasonable cause for the security agencies to act.
However, a Governance and Legal Policy Officer of the CDD, Mr Kojo Asante said the CDD/CODEO on the release of the report engage various stakeholders, including the police at various fora on the issues raised in the report.
In a related development, the Executive Director of the West Africa Network for Peace Building (WANEP) Mr Emmanuel Bombande, has stated that the Ghana Police Service has not been able to exhibit an efficient level of professionalism in the course of their work during the electioneering period.
He said the police had sometimes discharged their duties with politically coloured judgements.
For instance Mr Bombande said if the Police arrested people who had flaunted the law and some politicians impressed upon them to release them, then that would have been cause for Ghanaians to complain of governmental or political interference in their work.
However, the police, he said, were sometimes clearly in the know about the activities of some people in communities who were flaunting the law and disturbing the peace and had not acted.
He said when they acted and arrested these people, they later released them to walk freely in the communities.
On the part of civil society organisation, Mr Bombande said, they had engaged the police extensively on individuals and groups mobilising to cause mayhem and situations with the potential to erupt into violence.
He said WANEP with the Media Foundation for West Africa (MfWA) and the Foundation for Security and Development were currently training peace volunteers and representatives of key parties.
The aim of that was to build confidence in the communities in Tamale and surrounding areas for people to understand the shared responsibility in securing the peace.