The importance of a cool head in a hot situation

BY: Ajoa Yeboa-Afari
The Minister and MP had no excuse to fire the gun
The Minister and MP had no excuse to fire the gun

What on earth could have possessed a Member of Parliament who is also a Minister of state to attend a purely civic event with a weapon, a loaded gun?

And why would she fire it “for self-defence”, instead of relying on the police?  

These were my immediate questions generated by the Kasoa incident involving Mavis Hawa Koomson, MP and Minister of Special Development Initiatives.

As extensively reported, on Monday, July 20, there was a disturbance in Kasoa, near Accra, specifically at the Peace Town Top Hill Down Polling Station, a registration centre for Election 2020, during which shots were fired.

It was allegedly sparked off by a group of men who came to stop the registration of some people who they apparently believed to have been brought from outside the electoral area to register there.

Some motorbikes were reportedly also burnt in the ensuing confrontation.

Not surprisingly, the violence reportedly held up the registration, as the officials of the Electoral Commission and prospective registrants fled to safety.  

Ms Koomson, MP for Awutu Senya East, is widely quoted to have said that she was the one who fired the shots.

A GhanaWeb story, citing Adom FM, quoted her as saying: “None of my men had guns on them when we got to the centre. I fired the shots myself.”

She said she went to the centre because she heard that some outsiders had been bussed there to register. “I’m a Member of Parliament,” Ms Koomson told Adom FM, “so I need to protect myself. It was at dawn, my police escort had not started work yet.”   

That same day, evidently in reaction to the Kasoa violence, the Electoral Commission issued a statement condemning acts of violence at some registration centres, including physical and verbal attacks on its officials.

“The violence is perpetuated by political party supporters and sympathisers. These acts constitute a breach of the Vigilante and Related Offences Act, 2019 Act 999. The Act seeks to disband violent activities of political parties and makes political vigilantism an offence punishable by a prison term.”

Also, the EC pointed out, there is no need for anybody to use violence to challenge any applicant’s ineligibility, because there is a process for such disputes to be investigated.

At the time of writing this, Ms Koomson has not been reported denying making the statement that she was the one who fired the shots.

However, she has given a statement to the police.

Furthermore, as reported in the Ghanaian Times of Wednesday, July 22, four men arrested in connection with the disturbances are in court and have been granted bail by the Cape Cost Circuit Court.

Among other offences, they are charged with conspiracy to commit crime and discharge of firearms in a public place without authority.

They have all pleaded not guilty.

Meanwhile, police investigations continue.

It is deeply troubling that what should have been a normal activity such as the ongoing Voter Registration exercise, is experiencing incidents of violence, even leading to a death – as reportedly happened at Banda, in the Bono Region.

A student was reportedly killed there following a registration dispute.

While some have expressed support for Ms Koomson’s explanation, many others have condemned her and asked for her to resign, or for President Nana Akufo-Addo to terminate her ministerial appointment.

Notably, the Chairperson of the National Peace Council, Rev Prof Emmanuel Asante, speaking in his personal capacity, was reported in the Times as saying: “Even if her bodyguard was not around, couldn’t she have gone to the police station … As far as I’m concerned, it cannot be justified in any sense.
“She should do the honourable thing and resign.”

Again, I wonder what possessed Ms Koomson.

As an MP, a lawmaker, she is supposed to show the right leadership at all times.

She is expected to keep a cool head even in the midst of a hot situation, or crisis, or the utmost provocation. Her constituents should be able to look up to for direction, how to tackle problems for the best outcomes.  

Was firing a gun in that situation likely to bring the best outcomes: for her constituents; for her party, the New Patriotic Party; for her position as a role model; for the campaign against vigilantism; and for her own political career?

As a Minister of state, a direct representative of the President, she is supposed to demonstrate appropriate comportment for that high office at all times.

In short, she is supposed to know better.

If she suspected that there would be trouble at the registration centre, for which reason she went there with a weapon, what did she intend to do with it? Why didn’t she just alert the police?  

Why did she resort to firing a gun in a non-combatant space?

What if somebody had been hurt, or killed?  

Even if it emerges later that she wasn’t the one who fired the gun that can only add to the questions: why then did she say she did?

Who was she seeking to shield?

Nevertheless, Ms Koomson showed admirable courage in making that admission, and on air.

Maybe the next step for her to take, an honourable and equally courageous way out of this bewildering affair, is her resignation letter to the President.  

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