22 January 2013

Ghana: NPC Condemns Violent Reactions to NPP Court Case

THE NATIONAL Peace Council (NPC) has condemned reactions to the New Patriotic Party's (NPP) election petition challenging the outcome of the December 7, 2012 elections by way of violent demonstrations and massing up of party activists at the precincts of the Supreme Court of Ghana.

The Council expressed worry that these acts have the potential to undermine national peace and due process of the courts dealing with the disputes. It stressed that "the judicial process should not generate breach of the peace."

Chairman of the Council, Most Reverend Professor Emmanuel Asante noted that the activities of activists of the major parties in contention were not only deepening divisions in the society but also undermining the quest for national cohesion and unity.

In his view, massing up supporters at the premises of the courts did not add anything to the rule of law but rather intimidates Ghanaians and the judges concerned.

Addressing a news conference on the rule of law and integrity of the Supreme Court, yesterday in Accra, he said "the council notes with some satisfaction that peace has generally endured throughout the country."

He said that the NPC was pleased that disputes over both presidential and parliamentary election results were being pursued peacefully in the courts by the affected candidates in accordance with Article 64(1), (2) and (3) with regards to the election of the president and under Article 99 for parliamentary elections.

He noted that the Council was pleased about pursuit of the case in court. This is because the Council had earlier made urgent appeals to parties concerned to resolve any outstanding election disputes peacefully in accordance with established constitutional and legal processes, in an atmosphere free of violence, intimidation and harassment.

He, therefore, appealed to the parties to the election disputes, and their teeming supporters to desist from any verbal or physical confrontation between groups.

He emphasized that the parties should also "refrain from any acts of hostilities, harassment or intimidation which would not only threaten the national peace but also create an unhealthy environment around the courts during and after the determination of all election disputes."

According to him, the NPC commends leaders of the political parties for working hard to restrain and discourage their restless supporters and activists from engaging in any violent behaviour. This is especially because their public pronouncements have been helpful in maintaining peace and order throughout the country", he stated.

However, he called on the leaders of the political parties to reaffirm their commitment to the Kumasi Declaration and intensify education of their members on the tenets of the Declaration and its pronouncement against election-related violence, impunity and injustice.

Also important is the need for the parties to educate their members to understand the importance of the rule of law to sustaining continuous democratic development of the country, within peaceful and stable conditions, he pointed out.

Furthermore, the Council called on political parties to immediately discourage their activists from engaging in behaviours that may be misconstrued as acts of violence, or disrespectful of the independence of the judiciary and the integrity of the Supreme Court in the exercise of all its core mandates.

The Council's Chairman commended the Ghana Police for maintaining law and order and keeping peace during the demonstrations surrounding the judicial proceedings in respect to the election disputes.

Nonetheless, he called on the police to fight the growing impunity on the part of all political actors in the country by strictly enforcing the existing laws on public order.

He added that suspected perpetrators of all election-related offences before, during and after the 2012 elections should be brought to book expeditiously. "The police must not behave in a manner that directly or indirectly encourages impunity in the country", he cautioned.

Additionally, he called on all civil society organizations, chiefs, clergy and the general citizenry to remain vigilant and circumspect in their condemnation of all actions or activities that threaten to put the country's democracy, peace, stability and national unity at risk.

He said Ghanaians worked together to secure the peace before, during and after the elections, and are required to equally do so now that the supreme court adjudicates the dispute over the declaration of the winner of the 2012 presidential elections.

Thus, "it is time for us all to work tirelessly to secure the political and security conditions that are crucial to the peaceful development of our country to the benefit of the entire nation."

He ended by saying that "we are confident that the traditional restraint and good sense of the Ghanaian people will prevail and that the police force, with characteristic professionalism, will take all necessary steps to ensure post-election peace and tranquility."

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