Recent allegations of attacks and mistreatments of some media personnel and their agencies by the Ghanaian security forces have worried many Ghanaians back home and abroad.
Many wonder if Africa’s “most stable and democratic” country has disintegrated into an oppressive regime where law abiding citizens have been allegedly arrested, raided, arbitrarily detained, invaded and mistreated for simply exercising their democratic right to speak freely, assemble or demonstrate peacefully. There have also been allegations of torture and equipment destruction and counter accusations and denials between the supposed victims and the Ghanaian law enforcement. Various videos have also circulated the Ghanaian mainstream media and social media showing aggressive confrontations between citizens and law enforcement officers.
If the security forces are right in the way they handle citizens? Do they apply appropriate and reasonable force or are they excessive? What is the threshold for excessive use of force and for what offense? Have there been transparency on the part of government officials and law enforcement?
Do the actions by security forces violate any human or democracy rights? Do Law enforcement officers and politicians disrespect citizens and the media? Do their treatments of the media and the public affect Ghana’s image domestically and internationally? Do such actions affect the people’s confidence and trust in Ghana’s democracy and authorities?
Currently, the government is appealing for Ghanaians in the diaspora to return? Is this the country they want us to leave our lives, adopted countries to pack up and come to? This is how they treat their own and fellow citizens?
Are these actions democratic? Are they just and lawful? Aren’t democratic principles and structures the system that gives people the right to be in government, parliament or authority? I thought democracy was a system of government by the people and for the people? I thought it meant a representation of the people by politicians? I thought democracy included:
1. Freedom of expression, thought and conscience;
2. Freedom of association and to peaceful assembly (1992 Constitution Article 21 (1) (a&b, d & f) UDHR Article, 20; ICCPR Article 11);
3. Equal treatment before the law;
4. No preferential treatment or any forms of discrimination (1992 Constitution Article12);
5 Transparency and accountability;
Or in Ghana democracy is a form of domination after being voted for? Or Ghanaians create mini gods after they voted? So the people that politicians represent become a nuisance after elections? Or should they be silenced or must lay low to be walked over? People do not have the right to protest? Protests too have become criminal acts?
How would Ghanaian officials have any moral grounds to talk about racism or racial treatment of African peoples when you mistreat your own people much worse, and without even any comparable guarantees or compensation available to those of us living in the diaspora. While no society is perfect, the atrocious treatments that are perpetrated against ordinary Ghanaians on a daily basis would if occur abroad would attract serious repercussions. In fact, such mistreatments of fellow Ghanaians are a deterrent to many of us who know and have experienced equitable treatments and better standards to care, due process, access to public goods and services including justice and remedies.
While I am not suggesting here that the citizens who come across law enforcement are always right or totally innocent, I have observed general disrespect towards ordinary persons by authorities who think they have power to lord it over the people. Many in positions of power typically abuse the people they are supposed to be serving and often without any political, civil or criminal responsibilities.
Ghana continues to do better in areas of democracy, political stability and press freedom in sub-saharan Africa (SSA). At the same time, violent attacks on the media and other individuals including the brutal murder of Ahmed Suale, Tiger Eye’s investigative journalist earlier this year have dented the country’s international reputation and caused lots of concerns amongst the Ghanaian public.
If we want a better society that would attract real investors, nation builders and the return of the diaspora communities, we ought to tolerate diverse views, abide by rules and treat citizens with respect. It is because of the people you are in power and in the position you occupy. Moreover, it is not enough to have laws and rules shelved in a book, constitution, documents or the minds of brilliant elites.
It is the responsibility of authorities to ensure the people know the rules; this can be done through effective dissemination, education and access to all. Information and the expectations of citizens should be clearly communicated always and everywhere in a language they understand. Failure to do so cannot be blamed on citizens.
Public office is service, not domination. Accountable service means delivering the collective interests of the people not self-indulgence. Mistreatment of the public breeds trust, apathy and resentment which undermines democracy.
Leaders serve and act right. Let’s treat our people with respect and dignity they deserve.
Long live Ghana and our responsible leaders and advocates.
July 06, 2019