A Social Change: The case of Cadres and foot soldiers in Ghanaian Politics and Ethos.

The last 18 months of the National Democratic Congress [NDC] of Ghana has been marked by youth violence and hooliganism.

From the day of the swearing-in [inauguration] of President Evans Atta-Mills, supporters or purported supporters of the NDC have hijacked public places of convenience, markets, public car parks and stations. These supporters have also been accused of running government appointed office holders from their offices – especially the National Health Insurance Schemes and the District Assemblies.

The reasoning of the perpetuators of this violence and hooliganism is that, they [foot soldiers and cadres] of the ruling party have slaved for the Party to win the election so; they expect part of the “spoils”. It begun with the nominations of Municipal/Metropolitan and District Assembly Chief Executives. The Cadres and foot soldiers want specific people put into those positions and where the President [who in this case is the appointing authority] differs with them, there were demonstrations and destructions. In some cases, threats were issued.

A few months back, the Vice President H.E John D. Mahama bemoaned the situation and asked the foot soldiers/Cadres to be more sympathetic to the government as times were hard. Indeed he mentioned that, party membership is voluntary so no one can hold the party to ransom. Well, the Vice President got a tongue lashing from the Cadres.

To appease the key architects of this hooliganism, the government during the world cup flew over one-thousand people, the majority believed to be party members. There were rumours that people boarded the plane without passport, whiles others did without visas. From the signals that come from some party big wigs, this was a “thank you” and “be quiet” gesture from the party. Sadly the planners of this grand misguided adventure forgot to provide accommodation, food and other logistics for the “fans” that went to cheer the National team – the Black Stars. How they were fed and the news feeds that got in to Ghana is another story all together.

The questions that come to mind are what is happening to the NDC? What is informing this violence and Hooliganism?  From a conflict perspective, this could be normal. What is not normal could be why does it involve only the youth of the party?

My immediate reaction was that, the effect of the social change theory is beginning to hit the NDC Party.

As Marx and Engels wrote in the “Communist Manifesto”:

“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary re-constitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.”[2]

Is it the forces of opposites at work? Is the NDC party in a process of recreating itself? What kind of new “creation” will it be? Violent and destructive or a synthesis with a cool head that moves with speed to resolve challenges?

I see an NDC that is slowly reducing itself to a lawless party and is continuously been swallowed by the actions of its youth. What comes to mind however is; are these seemingly coordinated violence just and NDC party issue? Could this be a bigger National issue that is simmering underground? That the few upheavals could just be a tip of the iceberg?

Key in putting these youth led violence to perspective is how successive governments have treated the formulation of the National Youth Policy. During a meeting of youth service providers in the Civil Society Sector in 2009 in Dakar, I said that: “…without a plan – which is the youth policy the youth have become lost in the decision-making process or how to engage in policy issues since there are no specified entry points. This has left the youth front divided and non-functional.” But how the issues have played out now, not only are youth groups and advocates non-functional, but they have decided in my opinion to “advocate” for themselves and since history posits that our leaders understand violence most; here we are – daily reports of seized state cars, closed/barricaded offices, etc.

“I maintain that the best experts in youth development are youth themselves, therefore, creating appropriate openings for bring youth on board the decision making process has huge net benefits to government. First, there must be the effort to create affirmative action for youth in local governance where a quota of seats in the district assemblies could be guaranteed for youth as is the case for women and other groups. It is important though that, the legislature or policy for this will not be one that will be reduced to tokenism. Also, outlets for youth to use other means to influence and participate in decision making such as blogging, social networks and other internet tools must be developed and encourage however, there is the need to first train many armies of youth to be able to use internet as a governance tool. If we are able to do this, the issues of HIV/AIDS, unemployment etc, will be more easily tackled because of the supports that online networking can provide.” This quote was from that Dakar/OSIWA conference in December 2009.

While writing this s piece the Inspector General of Police, Paul Tawiah Quaye is reported to have commanded his regional commanders to “Clamp down on Foot soldiers”.  The police chief is reported to have ordered the arrest and prosecution of lawless youth who engaged in anarchy in the name of politics. This directive is in stark contrast with police chiefs in various districts and regions claiming that the violence perpetuated by these youth are “political matters” and therefore cannot interfere.

What implications do these actions by the ruling party’s “youth have on the Country? What legacies will it leave? What are the implications for investor confidence, democracy, peace and security? How does this impact on governance and the feedback from the Opposition parties?

While the politicians [especially the ruling party] scratch their head about this matter, why not consider giving a very realistic look at the draft Youth Policy and work towards actually implementing the policy. That is will offer 70% relief while proper management and sustainability plan will add another 15% and the resultant gap will be the nuances that come with any project – their management will obviously determine the success of the project.

[2] Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels The Communist Manifesto 1848

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