The Police Administration and the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP) have warned Ghanaians not to take the prevailing peace and stability in the country for granted.
They noted that Ghanaians must brace themselves up for a tougher task in the run-up to the December 2012 general elections if the pockets of violence across the country were anything to go by.
They, therefore, reminded Ghanaians that development and democratic politicking can only take place on the platform of peace and security.
The Inspector-General of Police, Mr Paul Tawiah Quaye and the National Co-ordinator of WANEP, Mr Justin Bayor, speaking in separate interviews on the pockets of violence across the country, also agreed that if care was not taken, Ghana would soon have a highly armed civilian population which could pose serious threat to the country’s peace and stability.
They called for a non-partisan and holistic approach to resolving the differences in ethnic, chieftaincy, land and political issues in the various communities.
Expatiating on the issue, Mr Quaye said although police reaction to the various conflicts had been swift and effective, a better mode to dealing with the outbreak of the violence should be an effective intelligence gathering and proactive stance that should be linked with an effective contingency plans.
He said it would be wrong for people to perceive that the police had the wherewithal to deal with religious, ethnic and political conflicts, stressing that what was normal today could change within minutes or the next day.
“But the bottom line is how the security agencies respond when the conflict arise. This calls for the capacity of the police to be built in respect of number of personnel, vehicles, equipment etc”, he said.
Mr Quaye reminded Ghanaians that security was not just a preserve of the police but a shared responsibility.
He said anytime there was conflict, the police could respond from the perspective of maintaining public order, investigating to bring the culprits to book.
He explained that the police would usually provide a temporary hold to the breaches but the resolution to underlying causes of the conflict, which was often embedded in chieftaincy, ethnic, land and historical factors needed to be resolved through dialogue and negotiation.
On the proliferation of small arms, Mr Quaye said it was necessary for the country to take a bold decision to either ban the importation, sales and distribution of arms in the run-up to the December elections or “we all become very vigilant to expose the illegal arms dealers and agents”.
He said it had been the vigilance and professional attitude of the security agencies that had kept the nation holding.
He referred to the 2012 Mo Ibrahim Index security grading which described Ghana as a safe place but was quick to add that “we cannot take that for granted”.
According to him, “we need apolitical attitude to fighting the small arms menace in the country”.
For his part, Mr Bayor explained that because of the constant preaching of intolerance by politicians, it got embedded in the minds of Ghanaians.
He said the resort to violence was the net effect of the preaching intolerance instead of dialogue.
Mr Bayor said differences would remain society but the way and manner we perceive those differences and how to resolve them were crucial to maintaining the peace and stability of the country.
He said before the end of 2011, WANEP sent signals about the emergence of such violence across the country.
He said the agency its January-March 2012 report, alerted the National House of Chiefs to resolve all the unresolved chieftaincy disputes as they had the potential of resulting in violence.
“WANEP as a proactive agency, has done its part and will continue to engage all players in Ghana’s peace and stability to protect the country”, he said.
Mr Bayor was particularly alarmed with the gradual infiltration of small arms in the country and wondered how many have been distributed to civilians unnoticed, stressing “what has been discovered is just a tip of the iceberg”.
“If we do not take care, we will very soon have a heavily armed civilian population. At least, in each of the conflicts that have broken out recently, we have recorded some deaths through gunshot wounds”, he said.
He said the presence of ex-combatants in the country could easily serve as a source of potential fighters to be recruited and used.
“The December 2012 general elections will prove to be a major test for us as a country and we have to work to let it pass peacefully”, he added.