Ghana’s Agric Minister must retract provocative, divisive statement – MFWA

The statement by Ghana’s Minister of Agriculture, Bryan Acheampong, that his party will retain power at all cost in the upcoming 2024 elections in Ghana is distasteful, divisive and disappointing. The Minister’s comments threaten to dissipate Ghana’s democratic consolidation, peace and stability garnered over three decades since the advent of the Fourth Republic.

The Minister who is also a member of parliament of Abetifi constituency made the provocative statement on Monday, April 10 during a rally organized to climax a health walk by the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) in the country’s Eastern Region.

“I promise the people of Eastern region that as IMF has come to our aid and our policies are working better, the NDC [leading opposition party] will collapse. But if they decide to employ violence and intimidation in the 2024 elections, we will show them we have the men.

“It will never happen that the NPP will hand over power to the NDC. We will use whatever means possible to retain power,” Mr. Acheampong said to a cheering crowd of party supporters.

It is distasteful for a Minister to brazenly tell the opposition and the entire nation that his party will use “every means possible” to win an election, which suggests that even crude and dishonest methods are not off the table. It is even more dangerous when the Minister knows and, indeed, anticipates possible violent reactions to such a scenario, and goes ahead to declare that his party is preparing to crush its opponents when they go violent.

The MP’s comment has the potential to further aggravate the already rising tensions ahead of the December 7, 2024 elections. His statement poisons the discourse on elections in the media and on the political landscape which must ideally be focused on critical issues of development and ideas on nation-building and citizens’ exercise of their franchise.

With a multi-party system, multiple media platforms which are mostly divided among the political lines and affiliations, and extreme polarisations, Ghana’s political landscape ahead of the presidential and political elections are often characterized by heightened tensions. These tensions are contributed to and are as well manifested by the use of hate speech and abusive campaign language by political actors.

Since 2012, the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) has been monitoring indecent campaign language, particularly on radio stations, the main source of information in Ghana. The reports from the monitoring over the last three elections (2012, 2016, 2020) have demonstrated the precarious nature of the country’s elections emanating from the use of hate speech and abusive language in the media.

MFWA’s monitoring has also observed that politicians, communication officers and representatives of the two leading parties, NPP and NDC, are the main perpetrators when it comes to the use of indecent language during elections. For instance, in the 2020 Presidential and Parliamentary elections, both the NPP and NDC contributed to 61% of the entire violations recorded during the period of monitoring.

With a little over a year to the elections, the Minister of Agriculture’s comments point to a disturbing foreshadowing of what is to be expected during the polls and it must be squarely condemned and discouraged.

What is further worrying is that, in January 2019, while in office as Minister of National Security, Bryan Acheampong oversaw a security brutality against citizens during a by-elections organized in the Ayawaso West Wuogon, a constituency in Ghana’s capital. The brutality included beating, maiming and opening fire on protestors and citizens who were casting their votes. Even though he has denied authorising the violent security operation during the by-elections, the incident was a stain on his office. One would have therefore expected that the MP would use his return to a ministerial position to make amends for the ignominy of the Ayawaso West Wuogon electoral violence. He is the last person one would have expected to make inflammatory remarks in connection with any event, much less the crucial 2024 elections.

The MFWA deplores the minister’s statement and urges him to retract and apologise. We also call on President Akufo-Addo and leaders of the ruling NPP to openly criticize and dissociate themselves from the statement of the Minister of Agriculture.

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