Re-orient party supporters-Attafua (Saturday May 29, 2010, pg 14)

The Executive Director of the Justice and Human Rights Institute, Prof Ken A. Attafuah, has called on political parties in the country to re-orient and educate their supporters to forgo violence in pursuit of what they consider as their share of the spoils of electoral victory.
He said while some foot soldiers exemplify the cardinal virtues of valour, temperate character and foresight, the behaviour of yet many others demonstrated blind loyalty to party to the detriment of the national good or fairness to the individual.
Prof Attafuah was speaking at a national conference organised by the Centre for Freedom and Accuracy (CFA), a non-governmental media organisation, dedicated to the promotion and defence of free enterprise in Ghana.
The conference which was under the theme: “Managing Foot soldiers and Party Loyalists for a sustainable Democracy and effective development,” was to discuss issues relating to foot soldiers and party loyalists and how such matters could affect the country’s governance process and development.
The occasion attracted members of academia, journalists, political figures and traditional rulers.
Prof Attafuah who spoke on the topic: “Fighting political corruption and making institutions work in the face of strong and high expectations from foot soldiers and party loyalist,” observed that recent foot-soldier activities in Ghana highlighted the youth’s complete loss of faith in mainstream national institutions and legal frameworks for governance.
“It is akin to the public’s loss of faith in the administration of justice which fuels reliance on self-help policing, resort to instant justice or lynching of crime suspects, besieging court rooms, and attacking judges.” he noted.
He stated that the principle underpinning the militant agitation and expectations of contemporary foot soldiers included demands for accountability and transparency by public office holders, both past and present and demands for vengeance against implacable political enemies constructed as “justice”.
He said the ouster of Carl Wilson, the  former Chairman  of the Confiscated Vehicles Committee  and the Upper West Regional Minister, Mr Mahmood Khalid, at the request of foot soldiers illustrated  that while  Mr. Wilson’s exit typify the power of foot soldiers, despite official Government denials, in facilitating the dismissal of public servants they deem to be corrupt, greedy, selfish and audacious,  the removal of the minister speaks volumes about what sustained public attacks  mobilised by foot soldiers could do.
Prof Attafuah stated that to deal effectively with the situation, there was the need, among other recommendations, to promote the concept of “justice across board” over cyclical vengeance which is inherently transient, violent and self-reproducing, promote transparency in public procurement procedures and find effective ways of engaging with the agitated youths and getting them to prioritise patriotism and to avoid recrimination.
“We must train foot soldiers in efficient and effective ways of ensuring administrative justice by public officials, expressing dissent, lobbying, advocacy and preventing, managing and resolving conflict,” he stated.
The “foot soldier” phenomenon recently sparked public debate following the demands of some National Democratic Congress (NDC) activists.
The Executive Director of the Institute of Democratic Governance (IDEG), Dr Emmanuel Akwetey, speaking on the theme of the conference, noted that it was important that the nation realised that in spite of the aggression that characterised the activities of the foot soldiers, they remained Ghanaian citizens who had needs that needed to be satisfied.
Dr Akwetey, however, indicated that contrary to conventional knowledge, the influence of foot soldiers may not be as powerful hence the need conduct a study into their activities because “parties in government have the fear of foot soldiers and this affects the decision-making process.”
He stated that if the recent aggressive nature  of the foot soldier phenomena is not checked and condemned by society, the activities of the foot soldiers “would put the nation in a situation of chaos.”
He said one of the challenges confronting the country’s democracy was the inability to differentiate between the election period and post election governance.
He also added his voice to need to build the capacity of the foot soldiers to ensure that the nation rather benefited from their activities.
He called for the empowerment of the National Commission on Civic Education to effectively play its role in the governance process as the politicians and citizenry alike needed to be well grounded in issues concerning democracy, tolerance and party activism.
The Executive Director of the CFA, Mr Andy Awuni, for his part,  stated that “foot soldiers have always been and will continue to be  an integral part of the nation’s politics.”
According to him, the phenomenon was an organisational product of politics that demonstrated a certain structural defect in the country’s governance in which government, state and party are wrongly seen as one and the same.
Mr Awuni said the foot soldiers remained an indispensable asset in political party organisation as they contribute to parties’ development by doing everything necessary to give parties the needed visibility.

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