Of course, protestors demonstrating for their rights have a constitutional right to do so. But they also have a civic duty to conduct themselves responsibly and abide by whatever procedures and regulations are in place. This is important because if rights are not pursued in a responsible way, then the inevitable lawlessness, even vandalism, can exceed the limits of routine enforcement measures, thereby attracting strong law enforcement sanctions.
This has to be viewed against the background of a society where people seem to gloat over the perpetration of organized lawlessness and mob gangsterism, to the extent that they would attack and vandalize police stations to free criminals detained there. Crimes of impunity have an unfortunate tendency to provoke repressive response. (Kofi Bentum Quantson, Ghana: National Security…The Dilemma).
It is an undeniable fact that the spate of violent protests in this country in recent times has become seemingly uncontrollable. Uncontrollable not because the police have no capacity to deal with them but the political actors, depending on who is in power and which group of people are organizing the demonstration at any given point in time and what their issues are, will either turn a blind eye or offer the needed impetus for the perpetuation of the crime.
This reminds me of the Radio Eye demonstration of 1995. We started the demonstration from Accra Central through the high streets where the courts are through the now Baba Yara Sports Stadium. Parliament was then sitting at the Accra International Conference Centre. The demonstration was against the seizure of Radio Eye equipment and the arrest of Dr. Charles Wereko Brobbey. The leaders were to present a petition to Parliament on that day, hence the route through the Osu Cemetery.
I was a participant of the protest and at the same time covering the event. On reaching the traffic light at the Osu Cemetery, I decided to abandon the protestors and get to the Parliament House at the time, early enough to capture the interaction that would ensue between the leaders of the protestors and the leadership of Parliament.
It was at this period that a counter protests organized by the ruling NDC met the Radio Eye protestors at the Osu Cemetery and unleashed mayhem on them. A few moments later, I saw my senior man, Kabral Blay Amihere, virtually running to seek solace and succor in the bosom of the Parliament House. A few minutes thereafter, the then Majority Leader of the House, the late J.H. Owusu Acheampong and the leadership of the House (the leadership was made up of the NDC, NCP and the lonely Eagle party MP) came to the lobby of the House.
A group of people, who apparently were members of the NDC organised protestors, met the leadership of the House to apparently present their version of a petition to the House. Mr. Acheampong mistook them for the leadership of the Radio Eye protestors and turned down their petition until a spokesperson of the group identified themselves as coming from the NDC stable.
That was when Mr. Owusu Acheampong received the petition. In the end, the scattered Radio Eye protestors did not have the opportunity to present their petition.
This long but interesting narration in this piece is to emphasis the truism that our current political dispensation has played no mean role in the needless bravado which has become a function of some of our young men in this country. Politically related acts of needless violence leaving in their wake destruction of property of both private and public nature have gone unpunished and that encourages others to do same if not worse.
Is it not amazing that the youth of the new born Savannah Region who have had the enviable opportunity of being offered their own region after years of pleas and petitions will embark on the type of protests and destructions just because their preferred town did not become the regional capital? What has become of the youth of this country? Do we have to go on the rampage destroying anything that comes our way each time we do not get what we want? When did this all begin and when will it end?
It began when job opportunities for the youth started diminishing. First, there are so many young people parading the streets of our towns and cities without jobs who are simply unemployable. Many of such people do not have the basic education that makes them employable nor do they have artisanal skills. It becomes very difficult for any potential employer to engage this category of people for any meaningful jobs where job opportunities even exist.
These are the category of the youth who are susceptible to manipulations by the affluent in the society for selfish and personal gains. Politicians find them handy to use for politically related acts of violence. Sometimes they act on emotions rather than a critical analysis of an issue. Our educational system, primarily from such grammar type of education has not imparted the needed knowledge and skills to make them employable and trainable. They use only their raw strength and energy.
Secondly, those with some levels of education but with no skills and training for productive use become the most frustrated among the teeming unemployed youth. They can easily be mobilized for good or for ill. Sadly, over the years, formal technical and Vocational training institutes have dwindled in number relative to the growth of the young ones who either do not have the opportunity to have formal grammar type of education or who fall out of grammar type of education.
The only avenue for them to have artisanal skills is through the apprenticeship programmes with private tradesmen. The environment in which these young people learn their trade is so horrible and unattractive to them. Take Suame in Kumasi, Ghana's foremost hub for artisans; take the Kokompe in Takoradi and the environment in which they have trained the thousands of artisans we have today. The places do not attract the young ones.
The nation has a responsibility to develop such places to make them attractive to the youth to learn some skills so they can do something for their upkeep. Trained artisans normally do not depend so much on the government for jobs; they serve the general public in various capacities. About 95% of vehicles on our roads are serviced by these local artisans.
Having said this, the fact that society has not helped them to prepare them for life as they are growing up does not insulate them from prosecution if they fall foul of the law. Many of these young people who engage in lawless and violent acts without provocation get away with what they do because one politician or the other and in some cases traditional authority will quickly intervene on their behalf and they go unpunished.
Such mob actions each time a group of people disagree with official policy or decision that affects a wider people is a major threat to the general society. When such people get away with these crimes and get away with them, they and others get emboldened to engage in worse acts in the future. Today, many young people have taken to building their muscles and getting engaged as 'body guards' and harass innocent people with their newly acquired skills.
It is these groups of people who find themselves in the Delta Forces, Azorka Boys, the Hawks, the Scorpions, Kandahars, you name them. This nation cannot live with this. It is a major threat to the peace and security of this country. It is the hope that the police in Salaga will bring the full force of the law on these latest shows of hooliganism before it is too late. Enough of the lawlessness is becoming a norm rather than the exception.
From Kwesi Biney
Kwasi Biney, © 2019
This author has authored 2 publications on Modern Ghana.
Author column: KwasiBiney
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