Voting for Peace
What does an African country do in the aftermath of election violence in its neighbors, including Kenya and Zimbabwe? In the case of Ghana, about to hold its presidential elections in December, it takes the mere thought of election violence very seriously and starts a country-wide campaign against it.
Africa is a very big place, but in some ways despite its vast landscapes, cultures, and governments, there is a sense in Ghana that it is all connected. African wear and television channels like TV Africa connect them together and create a sense of African pride—but after the violence following elections in the past year, it has also created a sense of panic that Ghana could be next.
Last week, the morning after president-elect Obama had just heard of his victory (midnight of election day in the United States EST), everyone at the head office of Christian Rural Aid Network gathered in our conference room for a 30-minute morning devotion, just as we do every day. This morning the executive director was in charge of leading prayers, and one of the main subjects of prayer this day was thanking God for a peaceful election in the United States and praying that Ghana will have a peaceful election of its own.
But Ghanaians aren’t relying on God to ensure this—the government has started a nation-wide campaign concerning peaceful elections. This campaign includes frequently played commercials on all the television channels, articles in all of the newspapers, and even a Ghana peace concert with all of the most popular Ghanaian singers and bands that is traveling to all ten regions in Ghana to perform free concerts for the people. Various popular singers have made videos that have been turned into peace commercials and play throughout the day on television, especially during primetime. Many companies and media entities have taken on the campaign as their own and are holding their own events—all based on keeping the peace.
Even all the candidates are getting into the action. Seven of the eight presidential candidates and their running mates attended a symposium called “Towards a Peaceful Election 2008: My Party’s Contribution; The way forward.” It was an opportunity for the candidates to tell the public how they intended to keep the peace before, during, and after the elections.
One candidate, Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), said, “We acknowledge that the call for peace is underlined by events in Kenya and Zimbabwe and we are committed to ensuring that Ghana becomes an example for Kenya and Zimbabwe instead of repeating what happened in those countries. “
He ended saying that Kenya and Zimbabwe should be a lesson and not a model for Ghana.
This campaign for peace isn’t only based on what has happened in other African countries, it is also due to some small skirmishes that have already taken place in Ghana this year. In Northern Ghana, shots were fired during a campaign tour for the NPP, which led to a rampage across the town the following day. In all, three people died and nineteen houses were burnt down.
Political struggles in the capital of Accra that left eight people seriously injured were caused by supporters of two different political parties fighting, and a few other incidents of similar measure have happened mostly in September in at least three of the ten regions of the country.
In the midst of these sporadic acts of violence throughout the country, people are scared. They enjoy the freedom and the peace that they have now, and they enjoy the economic prosperity that goes along with it. Ghanaians know that they are considered a very peaceful country that is good for doing business with—and it doesn’t want to lose its current or potential business partners due to political violence and instability. Some people think the peace campaign is unwarranted and that Ghana’s peaceful state is not something to worry about, but others are afraid.
The election is now 24 days away, and what will happen only time will tell. In the meantime, a group of Christian Rural Aid Network employees, including myself, gather every day for morning devotion. And every day they pray to God for an election where peace will prevail in their beloved Ghana.
Go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yg_LK9mllQQ to watch one of the videos from the Ghana peace concert series./>