Violent demonstrations - A result of exploited civil silence or threat to Ghana’s democracy?

BY: Gifty Afia Oware-Aboagye
The Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, Chancellor of KNUST, where students embarked on demonstrations recently
The Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, Chancellor of KNUST, where students embarked on demonstrations recently

Africa resembles a coat of many colours with a trying exhibition of cohesiveness.

The forming foundation of the many African states have been with the threatening egos of formally educated patriarchal people, supposedly called the founding fathers of countries and the impact they had on the varying trends in the build-up to independence.

The legends of the pre-colonial stages have facilitated several of these flash points in a more cunning way that shied away from the violence during the struggle to independence.

The mention of the 1948 riots in Ghana saves a little time on the several examples that ought to be given in our history.

African landscape

I have taken time to scan through the African landscape on the patience imbued in the silence of the teeming youth of the continent, and the threats of ignoring them are tangibly felt in our current situation every passing day.

On October 11, 2016, Aljazeera reported a university fee protest in South Africa.

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The report stated how the protest happened on a calm note until the exuberance of the youth were exploited by the state's law and order outfit.

The demand was for the government to institute a free education in the university, instead of the fee-charging one.

That suddenly became the point for the agitation, the fibre of their resistance to hold the blocks against breakage.

The result was the violent protests of pelting stones and the firing of tear gas by police personnel.

Dominant tendency

The dominant tendency by some of these protesters has been to take inspiration from the somehow misinterpreted sacred words of the National Anthem.

That varying definitions of resisting oppressor’s rule and being fearless has found a way often to the fore, in an attempt to justify the necessity of these wrongs.

A few years ago, there was an uprising in Libya, when the Tahir Square became a legendary place with the mass of protesters.

Burkina Faso also followed, and took their turn to man their own future as required by the youth of the country.

Thomas Sankara, a rare revolutionist, imbued the spirit of these words ‘my homeland or death' in his citizens, as to whether the tragedy of violence was a prerequisite for achieving this goal, your guess could be good as mine.

However, none can be blamed, in the presence of so much distress and neglect of the plight of a future generation living today, the result suddenly becomes unable to manage.

A few weeks ago, one of our very own prestigious universities, the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), became violent.

The subtle ignition was sparked by the culture of our inability to listen to the dissenting voices of these undergraduates.

Several of the news reports on the matter sought to project a certain deafening trend, that, authorities had an unshaken standpoint, while the student body had another.

The news items seemed to suggest that the opportunity of service, as instituted in our various schools, could not be adhered to. Properties got burnt, several innocent students sustained injuries.

I am a Ghanaian who has gone through every phase of our educational system.

The encouragement of listening to dissenting views, especially, when it has to be the voice of a student, a youth and maybe a younger fellow, has been the scary part of our culture, a culture that seems to be encouraging participation but in truth, it only supports a sit at the table without speaking.

A couple of weeks after the KNUST sad incident, the laws lost their binding spirit and citizens of Adentan resorted to violence to register their displeasure against road accidents, in a suburb right in the capital city of the country.

Civil violence

That is civil violence, violent demonstration made possible by the anger of citizenry ‘forced to shut up'.

This happens to be an argument espoused by many on the front that leadership only listens when demonstrations become bloody and such is culled from the examples stated above.

However, there is a democracy to protect. An iconic peace to uphold in the ambience of a volatile atmosphere, a situation that has seen neighbouring countries witness several of these uprisings and even at worse, the civil overthrow of governments and possible coup d’etats.

There happens to be a thin line between democracy, citizenship and their patience.

In as much as the two latter variables are a subset of the democratic dispensation, they are also triggers of dire situations.

That is where the argument is: the ability to decipher the work of a government as they manage the expectation of citizens, in a risky environment.

There is always a reason for the establishment of a constitution to uphold the laws of a country, and that reason is for all and sundry to remain in the circles of submerging their views.

It is absolutely unacceptable to resort to violence to register a displeasure against a certain trend and, perhaps, destroy properties established by the taxes of all citizens; destroy lives and caused harm to the underprivileged such as persons with disability, children and women is one that cannot be allowed to happen.

In order to be very protective of peace and tranquillity, law and order must be maintained by any means possible, a non-negotiable effort.

Parallel version

That is a parallel version of the conversation. It becomes a useless practice if the protected democracy cannot listen to dissenting views and factor them into a growing national discourse.

It established that the moment the elasticity of the patience of these dissenting voices is abused (ignored for several moments), the only avenue to vent it is to become violent.

That is the only moment authorities become attentive and call for a sit-down to discuss the revealing issues.

The fear is that most of these violent protests have been staged with the youths at the forefront. This makes it very scary to the sustenance of the security of the country.

There is an exponential upsurge of unemployment in the country, there is a tendency of frustration forming around the holding belt of the future of this country.

It has become a normal trend to have people who have scores to settle looking for these vulnerabilities to exploit by misinforming people of their fight for their rights and resisting oppressor's rule as they demand what they have paid for and are entitled to.

That becomes the crux of the fear factor and the threat which this article seeks to rectify.

The price to pay for the loss is preposterous, compared to the activities supposed to be employed in rectifying the flaws in our democracy.

Frequent communication in honesty is a necessary tool to begin fixing the sorry state of the anger of the masses.

The writer is the Deputy Director of the National Service Secretariat.

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