, 11 August, 2020 / 8:09 PM
Every Ghanaian has a role to play in ensuring free, fair, peaceful and transparent elections slated for December, according to Catholic Bishops in the west Africa country who have issued a pastoral letter, cautioning the Clergy to desist from engaging in political predictions ahead of the poll.
In their letter dated Monday, August 10 obtained by ACI Africa, members of the Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference (GCBC) say that various individuals and groups in Ghana, including the Presidency, the Electoral Commission of Ghana, Civil Society Organizations and the Faith-based organizations have a role to play before and during the elections.
“Dearly beloved fellow citizens, now, ensuring free, fair, peaceful and transparent elections, even in this era of the COVID-19 pandemic, is a collective responsibility of all Ghanaians. However, some institutions of state bear greater responsibility,” GCBC members say in their collective letter to the People of God in the west African country.
As for the Church, the Bishops in Ghana say, “The Faith Based Organizations and the Clergy should desist from openly taking part in partisan politics, from preaching predictions of election results, and from pronouncing prophecies of electoral results.”
In the August 10 statement signed by GCBC President, Archbishop Philip Naameh, the Bishops in Ghana further caution religious leaders against prophesying death of public personalities in a bid to take part in election debates.
And it is the role of Civil Society Organizations to intensify voter and civic education, help monitor the election processes and conduct, call attention to errant behaviors and “whatever would undermine the noble values of peace, tranquility and political development of the nation,” according to the Bishops in Ghana.
In their pastoral letter dubbed “Politics for Nation Building and Social Cohesion in Ghana,” the members of GCBC urge the people of God in the West African nation to use politics as a peace-building tool.
“In about four months, we shall be participating in another momentous democratic exercise to elect our president and our 275 legislators to steer the affairs of our country for the next four-year political mandate,” the Bishops say.
They add, “As your Shepherds, we deem it appropriate to issue this pastoral letter as a reminder to you, our fellow citizens to embrace politics as an indispensable tool for nation building.”
“We, therefore, urge all Ghanaians to work consciously towards peace building and abhor the acrimonious type of politics now gaining currency in our dear country,” the Bishops say.
The misconducts that Ghanaians have been warned to desist from include monetization of electoral politics, vigilantism, media sensationalism, politics of ethnicity and disrespect for authority and for the elderly.
The business of buying and selling of votes, the Catholic Prelates in Ghana observe, corrupts the nobility of politics, and distorts people’s power and will under influence of money. That when this happens, politicians are elected not for their good leadership qualities, their high moral and ethical values, as well as the noble vocation to serve the common good and the country, but for their money.
“Let us eschew such political and electoral corruption,” the Bishops say.
They further urge Ghanaians to desist from participating in vigilantism and electoral violence, maintaining that the “twin evils have again reared their ugly heads at recent elections and shockingly in the course of the voter registration exercise.”
“If not duly exorcised from our body politic, these threaten to plague the 2020 elections, in spite of the enactment of legislations and the endorsement and signing of an inter-party code of conduct and a roadmap to peace,” they say in their collective letter.
Further, the Bishops call upon media practitioners in the country to uphold high journalistic standards, ethics and values and to avoid information sensationalism, fake news and what the Bishops refer to as “politics of insult” in their reportage of the electoral processes and activities.
According to the Prelates, journalism is an indispensable component of politics which is, unfortunately, facing the threat of widespread use of fake news, insulting language as well as dirty propaganda in election campaigns and in political discourse.
Condemning the increasing politics of ethnicity, the Bishops says, “Ghana, our dear country, is our only heritage. We should avoid the negative and highly divisive politics of ethnocentrism, mud-slinging and attacks on ethnic groups and personalities... Let politics focus on issues that serve the greater good, that will bring unity and peace, development and dignity to all our fellow citizens and even the “stranger” living in our midst.”
The elections, they further say, provide an opportune moment for the people in Ghana to celebrate the country’s success as an emerging democracy, and also to reflect on how best to confront the inevitable socio-cultural and economic challenges that could pose threat to the forthcoming elections.
“As a nation, let us do everything in our power to maintain the enviable reputation we have so far established as one of Africa’s leading countries whose democratic development is a shining beacon for others to follow,” he says, adding that for more than a quarter of a century, Ghana has become an island of peace and stability in a sub-region threatened by terrorism, insurgence and armed conflict, and socio-political instability.
The Bishops also appeal to Ghanaians to observe religiously all the COVID-19 hygienic protocols.
“Please, let us all stay safe to serve God and Country,” they say in their August 10 collective statement.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa