Ghana, as a country, has enjoyed a relatively long period of peace and stability in the West African sub-region, specifically from the 1980s until present times, Ghana has been considered a safe haven, at a time most of the countries in the sub-region were immersed in ethnic conflicts and political instability. Despite this impressive feat, recent pockets of conflicts in certain parts of the country, with massive involvement of youth, attempt to undermine this achievement.
The United Nations, for statistical purposes, defines those persons between the ages of 15 and 24 as youth. The Ghana Statistical Service estimates the current population of Ghana to be 30.42 million, up from the official 2010 census figure of 24.2 million. Ghana has a young age structure, with approximately 57% of the population under the age of 25, and 18.61% between the ages of 15 and 24. The sheer demographics of the youth can be both a positive or a negative tool for elections. The youthful age is often characterized by virtues such as passion, exuberance, energy, curiosity and increased desire for knowledge and control. However, these good qualities need proper guidance and nurturing in order for the youth to make a meaningful contribution to the peace of Ghana.
Sadly enough, political actors seem to be on the course of misguiding the youth for their own clandestine interests in Ghana. The youth have become baits in the hands of political actors; as they are being used to instigate troubles and engage in needless confrontations among opposing political parties. The lack of required skillsets for employment and limited employment opportunities in the country further increases the likelihood of youth involvement in election-related violence. Over the last past elections, there have been records of disturbances, injuries, loss of properties and even casualties involving youths before, during and after elections.
The Ayawaso By-election Case Study
In an attempt to avoid the negative repercussions of election-related violence and rather inspire the youth to act as peace ambassadors, the Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election is reviewed briefly. On 31st January 2019, a by-election was held in Ayawaso West Wuogon in the Greater Accra region, following the demise of the sitting member of parliament (MP). The election was marked with violence in some polling stations where it was reported that the Ningo Prampram MP, Honorable Sam George and a host of other people were assaulted; and others sustained gunshots.
In the example reviewed above, the youth were either victims or perpetrators of the violence with far-reaching consequences. When the actions and inactions of the youths become chaotic, it can lead to loss of lives, stained economic growth, the unwillingness of investors to invest in the country and also create a sense of insecurity.
Additionally, the youth need to be made aware of the relevance of peace as a panacea for greater economic opportunities necessary to motivate young people to pursue a productive part of their lives. The youth are able to increase their opportunities to learn skills to develop entrepreneurial capacities which make peace a significant ingredient in their lives.
Education is a fundamental human right, a truth that needs to be established among the youth. Access to education is key to facilitate young people’s positive engagement in peace. The only thing that can ensure a better and peaceful nature is by educating each other on the importance of peace.
The youth also need to embrace the fact that security is an essential factor in human life. It is critical to every society since it affects all aspects of economic and social development in a country and society as a whole. No country would develop or grow economically without a peaceful coexistence among its members.
Some Ways the Youth can be Ambassadors of Change
The youth can be the agents of change in the forthcoming election 2020 in various ways including;
- Being tolerant
By allowing for divergent views in as much as they agree to disagree on issues pertaining to several opinions from people of different political parties, we can help to ensure peace.
- Conforming to election practices
Every citizen of Ghana, eighteen years of age or above and of sound mind has the right to vote and is entitled to be registered as a voter for the purposes of public elections and referenda. Currently, there are twenty-eight thousand, nine hundred ninety-two (28,992) polling stations in the country. The polling stations are the places where voters go to vote on Election Day. Where you register is where you vote. The youth must adhere to the rules and regulations concerning the electoral processes.
- Positive debates, discourse and dialogues
Since positive debate promotes problem-solving and critical thinking, the youth can use these platforms to build links between words and ideas that make national issues or concepts more meaningful.
- Patriotism and national togetherness
The youth should always put the country first. They should not focus or what the parties will give to them to cause any havoc but rather fly the flag in the right way. They should be more of a nationalist than being political. They should be able to put the country first before any political party in making decisions, especially related to elections.
They should be clear with what they do and say concerning anything political prior to the election. There should be glassiness when evaluating election activities and responding to complaints. The youth must disclose the right information to the public to help the public make an informed decision due to their access to information. Candidates must, therefore, have good morals in order to gain the approval of her citizens before, during and after the electoral process.
- The youth should be proactive and involved in national elections and democracy
The youth should be involved in productive activities in the community or country geared towards national development. This ensures participation or the engagement of the youth at all levels in the decision-making process to help promote our democratic culture.
To pitch peace in our own words;
To put it plainly
Peace goes beyond the absence of war
Peace is most important when it comes from within
The country is relatively peaceful
Because of the absence of war, you say
But when you journey to the North
Chiefs can’t reach a consensus
Citizens breach the law by lifting cutlasses
And machetes against the other in the quest of ‘yes we agree with you’
I see war flying like a poached bird
Looking for a place not to dread
Itching and searching
As confused as the blustery wind and the flapping trees
Misunderstanding like dead meat to parasite
And the air continuously blows it to the north
Moving from one place to another
In search of a home
Bickering, it continues the search for peace unrefined
To the south, it loses its identity
As peaceful as the South yet
Lost in peace
This is not my home it cries aloud
Why do I lose my identity in the midst of peace
Just to wit
Peace goes beyond the absence of war
Peace sits better when it comes from within
Overall, the youth would be major stakeholders in election 2020 as a result of the roles they would have to play either as political actors themselves, or supporters of political parties or as civil servants involved in electioneering processes (such as electoral commissioners).
It is anticipated that if the youth embrace the viewpoints presented above, they would individually and collectively make a difference in contributing to peaceful elections. It is only when the peace of the nation is sustained that the future of the nation can be secured; thus providing the youth with the enabling environment to achieve the aims and objectives they have set for themselves.
The writer, Djifa Perfect Somevi, is a final year student of Communications Studies at the Central University