The practice and promotion of peace is a powerful tool of diplomacy that has all-too-often been misunderstood, especially in Africa, Vice President of Ghana, Mr John Dramani Mahama has observed.
“This became clear to me recently when Ghana claimed a position of peace and nonviolence in regards to the recent developments in its neighboring country, Cote d’Ivoire,” he said on Tuesday in an article he wrote entitled “The Politics of Peace”.
Vice President said even though the international community had recognized opposition candidate Alassane Ouattara as the legitimate democratically chosen winner of the November 2010 presidential elections in Cote d’Ivoire, incumbent Laurent Gbagbo had refused to relinquish power, thus it had created tension and caused many lives.
He said when President John Evans Atta Mills, announced that Ghana was unable to contribute troops for any mission to forcibly remove Mr Gbagbo from office, the decision was met with a fair amount of both suspicion and scorn despite the fact that Ghana had already publicly aligned itself with the position of the African Union (AU) as well as that of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
“It struck me as odd and disturbing that our president’s plea for peace to be given an adequate opportunity to prevail could be so easily ridiculed and dismissed.
“What it immediately brought to mind for me were the still-relevant words spoken by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1964 after being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. ‘Nonviolence,’ Dr King said, ‘is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time – the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression. Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts.”
Vice President asked: ”Could it be that Africa has been witness to so much violence and oppression that we have actually come to believe it should be an acceptable, if not automatic, response?
“Hasn’t there been enough bloodshed on the continent? Consider: a war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that, since 1998, has claimed 5.4 million lives; two back-to-back civil wars in Liberia claiming upwards of 250,000 and displacing millions; the mass murder of a million Rwandans during the 1994 genocide; an 11-year civil war in Sierra Leone that left over 50,000 dead; decades of war and genocide in the Sudan that has killed nearly a million people and displaced at least twice that number.
“Sadly, the list does not end there. Even Cote d’Ivoire, just within this past decade, was also marred by a 7-year civil war.”
He said the stand that Ghana had taken on the crisis in Cote d’Ivoire should not come as a shock to anyone because it was the first sub-Saharan African nation to gain its independence and had always been a champion for freedom and peace.
Vice President said Ghana’s founding father, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, went so far as to declare that Ghana’s independence “is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of the African continent.”
“Our commitment to peace has been unwavering and undeniable, in both word and deed,” he noted.
The irony in President Atta Mills’ statement that Ghana would be unable to send troops to oust Mr. Gbagbo, he said, was that Ghana’s supplementary forces were currently engaged in peacekeeping missions throughout the world.
Under the flag of the United Nations, Ghana currently has peacekeepers in the DRC, the Darfur region of Sudan, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Chad, Kosovo, Southern Sudan, Lebanon and, of course, in Cote d’Ivoire.
Vice President Mahama said the January 13th African Ambassadors to the United Nations meeting to discuss the dilemma of Cote d’Ivoire, agreed that a military option was no option at all.
“This is not synonymous with inaction. To the contrary, it is representative of the sort of unity and cooperation that has not been seen on the African continent in the political arena since the post-colonial era,” the Vice President said.
He said the final days of January this month would find African heads of state in Addis Ababa at an African Union summit working together to create solutions to the evolving refugee issue, an obvious and unavoidable result of the more pressing problem, the discord in Cote d’Ivoire.
“I am pleased by this recent chain of events that point Africa in the direction of nonviolence because for far too long the struggle for power has taken precedence over the survival of people.”
He quoted former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in his acceptance speech after his Nobel Peace Prize in 2001, when he said: “The 20th century was perhaps the deadliest in human history, devastated by innumerable conflicts, untold suffering, and unimaginable crimes,” and noted that in no place was this more evident than Africa.
“But already Africa is changing, indeed has changed. Look at South Africa; look at Kenya; look at Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Sudan. Look at Tunisia.
“This is the new Africa, a continent that is fast being defined by a politics of peace, and by the will of people who are empowering themselves to shape their own future,” Vice President Mahama said.