The Chairman of Ghana’s Electoral Commission (EC), Mrs Charlotte Osei has expressed concern over the proliferation of small arms in the Ghanaian society saying its ability to enable political and criminal violence is threatening.
Speaking at a symposium on peaceful elections in Ghana on Wednesday September 7, Mrs Osei who is of the opinion, the political dispensation is already tense, said a lot of care needs to be taken in guarding the sanctity of the electioneering process.
She blamed the media for the hostility “in the air” as the polls approach, suggesting the fourth estate of the realm may not be completely dedicated to carrying out its mandate.
“We are going into elections where one party believes it must win and the other believes it cannot lose. However, it’s a contest where there is going to be one winner and many losers so in spite of all the preparations and the experience we have, this election is beginning to look like a volatile event if we do [not manage it well],” she told the participants.
Mrs Osei who mentioned they identified 82 flashpoints, a cause for vigilance, also expressed concern over a 2014 report by the Small Arms Commission which states there are 2.3million small arms in Ghana out of which 1.1million are illegal, a situation that can enable the “proliferation of political and criminal violence”.
She said the existence of trigger marks indicate the elections are “volatile”.
Mentioning researches conducted by the Kofi Annan International Peace Keeping Training Centre, the Narcotics Control Board, placing the youth [mostly unemployed] at the center of susceptibility to drugs and violence, Mrs Osei called on the youth to avoid the temptation of allowing themselves to be used as agents of violence during the December polls.
She however asked that the media be more protective of the peace the country currently sees.
“One of the key ways in ensuring peaceful democracy and a stable one is to have a strong independent media and Ghana is voted 26 out of the 180 countries in terms of press freedom.
“So although we have an independent and free media, the political discourse in the media especially in the local language is very [bad] and we have serial callers and political analysts, who set the agenda every day. Rather than creating the recipe for a stable democracy, even the strength of the media and their accessibility is beginning to create problems for our democratic culture”.
She said the EC is also working hard to keep everyone safe.
“As a state institution at conducting free, fair, transparent and peaceful elections, we are working very hard at achieving that.”