Tag Archives: Youth Empowerment

Ghana’s youth leaders urged to resist inciting violence during 2012 election

Ghana has long been regarded as a beacon of hope in West Africa and the world will be watching in 2012 when it will mark its 20th anniversary of peaceful democratic elections. In the meantime, leaders here are taking steps to ensure youth activists aren’t lured into jeopardizing that landmark.

“(Politicians) say look at you all you have no jobs, when I come to power I will do A, B, C, D for you. Once you do that, it has the potential to incite the youth to engage out of lawlessness during election period, ” said Stephen Azantilow, Regional Director of Ghana’s Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ).

Azantilow chaired a workshop in Tamale in early October where youth leaders from Ghana’s three northern regions were invited to discuss the illegality of accepting money or favours for votes and the importance of integrity and peace during elections. The event was organized by the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition, made up of public, private and civil society groups from across the country.

Calvin Rashid Yahaya, Student Representative Council President at Tamale Polytechnic who participated in the workshop said election violence is a trickle-down effect. Politicians make promises to youth leaders, then those youth leaders in turn gather what are known as foot soldiers – mostly underemployed and illiterate – and pay them small fees to steal ballot boxes and cause other disruptions.

“Most youth they don’t even know what they are about. The law is not available, it’s not made available for them to read. They don’t know why they are fighting. They don’t know why they are lobbying for this person,” he said.

But Kojo Tito Voegborlo, Secretary for the National Commission for Civic Education who also spoke at the event, was quick to challenge him. “There’s a linkage between poverty and some of the ills that go on in the electoral system. But I can also tell you that a large chunk of those who are involved in malpractices are people who are well-to-do. The youth activists who are sitting here, many of them are at least university graduates others Polytechnic, they are well-to-do,” he said.

Here in Northern Region, where tribal violence is not uncommon, political affiliations often run along tribal lines. The 2008 elections saw an outbreak of violence in the region when foot soldiers for the two major political parties, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) clashed at the polling stations. Meanwhile, all over Ghana foot soldiers recruited minors to register and vote in strategic regions, a practice called bussing. Nevertheless, after a tight race NDC leader John Atta Mills was declared victorious, and NPP leader John Kufour stepped down willingly after having served two terms.

Sandra Auther is the Programs Officer for the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition and is organizing these dialogue sessions with youth in trouble spots all over the country.

“Election without peace is chaos. So we’re looking at the fact that with the integrity that they build, they will not give themselves out to people to indulge in things that will destruct the peace of this nation. That at the end of the day, our election goes peacefully and nobody loses their life, we don’t want to be like other countries that we are experiencing around us,” she said.

Yahaya said he fully grasped the meaning of the event, quoting John F. Kennedy’s ‘ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.’

“At the end of the day politics is not do or die, it’s not a win or lose affair. When you lose you need to sit down as a team and say – what actually lead to you being at the negative side? It’s about learning. The room for improvement is the best room,” he said.

JHR-AUCC Chapter Holds Official Executive Handing Over Ceremony

JHR-AUCC newly-elected President Ernest Lartey delivers a speech at the official executive handing over.

As the start of classes drew closer at the African University College of Communications, members of the Journalists for Human Rights School Chapter held their official Handing Over Ceremony.

“For me, this was significant in the history of the chaper,” says Danny Bannah, two-term president of the school chapter. “This is the first time JHR AUCC is handing over – officially handing over.”

The event was to officialize the transfer of administrative responsibilities from previous executives to the newly elected team. The event was also in recognition of the accomplishments of the previous year’s executive team and as an induction for the administration of the chapters new leaders.

The event began, as all events in Ghana do, with a prayer of blessing, followed by a welcome address. As the theme chosen was African Wear, the room was filled with bright colours and beautiful patterns. All which matched the uplifting energy of a room filled with empowered students passionate about human rights education.

Journalism major at the AUCC, President Lartey has already been hard at work planning and preparing with his newly elected fellow executives for the coming semester. Upcomming initiatives include human rights awareness campaigns, Train the Trainer workshops and a multi-media project focusing on impacts of mining on rural communities in Ghana’s Western Region.

Lartey comes from the small village of Torompan, a suburb of Samreboi in Ghana’s Western Region and has always been passionate about media.  He has chosen to pursue a career in journalism – and act as the president of jhr-AUCC chapter – because he strongly supports the work of jhr and believes media has the power to change lives – which is exactly what he hopes to do.

“I want to impact society,” he says. “I come from a place where many people don’t have a voice – I want to help be that voice.”

Past President Bannah also delivered a speech acknowledging the dedicated hard work of his fellow executives and chapter member. He also highlighted the successes from the previous term, including the launch of rights media magazine Faces of Old Fadama – which told the stories of those living in Ghana’s largest slum.

He admitted that when he entered office, the chapter was unorganized, and said without giving himself too much credit, it took work to put back together. Proudly, he stated the chapter membership had doubled within his term, something incoming President Ernest Lartey hopes to continue.

The celebration included presentation from AUCC Dean of Students Mr. Osei Piesie-Anto, who also acted as Chair of the ceremony. He echoed recognition for the dedication and success of the previous year successed and joked, stating at times he would grow tired of the daily visits from chapter members knocking at his door with new ideas and initiatives.

Piesie gave due recognition to previous jhr Vice President Rahinna Iddrisu, stating every time President Bannah would come knocking, she would be right behind him.

Lawyer and lecturer at the AUCC, Mr. Ogochukwa Nwek was the special guest of the ceremony. He discussed the important role of journalists in the development of human rights. He gave word to the responsibilities of journalists to uphold their credibility by reporting factual, non-bias stories which serve public interest.

The ceremony was open to all students at the university and was followed by a group social, including beverages and chops provided by jhr chapter members. To see photo’s from the event check out jhr’s Facebook group called “jhr:Journalists for Human Rights”