Whatever happened to ‘Freedom and Justice’

grace

First things first – if you read this as an anti-peace article, you have completely missed the point.

Leaders of Ghana’s civil society, the clergy, traditional leaders, and some politicians are having their moments now. They are stepping over each other to preach messages of peace as though they are not aware that they in fact are preaching to the choir. Ghanaians love peace. It is evidenced by how we have somehow managed a 59-year-old republic without a civil conflict in a part of the world where the vice is rampant. But that enviable record is in serious jeopardy if all we concern ourselves with during an election period is peace while completely ignoring the essence of our nation’s motto – “Freedom and Justice.”

It is indeed true that preaching peace has something to do with our record of peace. It is also true that our unreasonable love affair with peace has caused some of our past and current leaders to take the citizens for a ride. We have allowed peace to overwhelm out consciousness, and consequently gone from being the shining star of Africa to a laughing stock of the continent. Meanwhile countries such as Ethiopia, Rwanda, Kenya, Cote D’Ivoire, and others have gone from destructive civil conflicts – and our pity – to flourishing systems and economies leaving us behind.

Again don’t take this line of reasoning to mean a call for civil conflict. Rather, look at this as a call to keep it on the table as a reminder that all can turn chaotic in an instant if politicians don’t do right by the citizens. The adage “hope for peace but plan for war” comes to mind. Has it occurred to our clergy, civil society, and everyone that the economy of “peaceful” Ghana is one of the worst in Africa although our nation is the oldest republic south of the Sahara? That is what peace – in the absence of freedom and justice – gets you.

We have become that old poor but peaceful uncle who risks nothing, but by whom younger members of the family have all passed to become successful. Here again the adage “no pain, no gain” comes to mind. Lopsided peace is no peace at all. And that is what exists in Ghana today. There is peace at the top of the food chain. And those occupying that position will always preach peace completely ignoring the flames that burn members of the rank and file in the country because they have been denied justice for so long. For what really is peace if no matter how hard you work and play by the rules, you cannot make ends meet, but the ones who sweat much less than you do are riding high on the nation’s purse legitimately and otherwise?

What really is peace when an undercurrent of conflict is visibly brewing but leaders prefer to suppress it with sermons of peace? What really is peace when an entire nation knows without a shadow of doubt that the absence of justice makes such peace only superficial, and that it can blow up in our faces any given day? Far be it from me to even vaguely suggest the concept of socialism but free market system or not, the disparity between the haves – most of whom acquire wealth illegally via their public positions – and the have-nots is insanely wide.

If politicians kept their hands off the national coffers and instituted policies and programs to better the lives of the citizenry, we would still have a free market system and a democracy, but that disparity would close to within reasonable levels. And that is what Ghanaians must demand. But when civil society and the clergy do not lead the demand for justice, but rather indulge in repetitive delivery of peace sermons to a citizenry that already respects it, public officials will always enrich themselves at the expense of the powerless in our society.

When public officials steal money there has to be a steep price to pay. In fact the leader of Ghana’s main opposition party once said in Houston that he would make it more expensive to steal in government than to steal a goat. Unfortunately in Ghana today, the reverse is the case. You steal a goat, you go to prison for a long time. But you steal millions from the government, not only do you get to enjoy your loot in PEACE, you are still called “Honorable.” That is a country where peace is more valued than justice.

By: Jermaine Nkrumah