Thursday, October 27, 2016

Youth In Northern Region Vulnerable To Electoral Violence –REEWARG Warns

Rev. Dr. Solomon S. Saaka

The Northern Region Election Early Warning And Response Group (REEWARG), has warned that, some youth in the region have become more vulnerable to engaging in violence before, during and after the 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections.

According to REEWARG, such youth were secretly in sports, art and entertainment groups or clubs but unfortunately had conflict factional, religious and in particular, political affiliations and support that tend to increase tensions among them.

“They have engaged in intense competition over who is, or can become more powerful than the other especially in terms of who has a larger following it can incite to engage in violence this year”, Most Reverend Philip Naameh, Chairman of REEWARG and Catholic Archbishop of Tamale disclosed these in a statement read on his behalf by Rev. Dr. Solomon Sumani Sule Saaka at a media briefing held in Tamale.

According to Rev. Sule Saaka, REEWARG was worried that with the unresolved but simmering chieftaincy and land disputes in the region, the vulnerability of these youth could be exploited for violence in this electioneering period. “This is more so because there seems to be ready incentives for violence enticing these vulnerable youth”, he indicated.

He appealed to the youth to be “mindful that as much as their role and interest in politics and governance is encouraged they should ensure a peaceful environment in order to play those roles.

“For example, during this electioneering, the youth should rather ask the politicians critical questions on their manifestoes and plans, and question the attitudes of those with tendencies of violence –those who want to win by all means”, Rev. Sule Saaka suggested.

Turning his attention to the media, Rev. Sule Saaka also urged practitioners in the region to be circumspect in their reportage so as not to be a conduit that could be used to subvert the peace of the region and the country as a whole.

“As media, you should be reminded that without peace everything will come to a standstill. The media itself cannot operate in a disorganised environment. Experiences of other countries that suffered the effects of negative media reporting should constantly be keeping us in check that the role of the media is to inform, educate and entertain but not to inflame passions”, he observed.

Rev. Sule Saaka further observed that even though it was the responsibility of the media to report the truth it was highly professional to curtail the truth if that truth would cause mayhem or deaths.

“....Avoiding inflammatory language is very possible if you censor the messages of those who engage in intemperate language before letting it out to the public. I am not concluding that you should blacklist such “Troublesome politicians” from radio discussions but you can act professionally to prevent them from being self-centred in their quest for power to the detriment of peace and security in our communities and of the nation”  

The Executive Secretary of the Northern Regional Peace Council, Rev. Fr. Thaddeus Kuusah, also encouraged the media to engage in “conflict sensitive reporting” when reporting on conflict related issues by giving equal opportunities to parties involved in conflict to express their concerns. 

Rev. Fr. Thaddeus Kussah
“Sometimes when we hear conflicts being reported we have the impression that it is mainly on one side but what we can do is to try to get the two sides to begin to talk to address their issues of concern”, he said.

Rev. Fr. Kuusah also encouraged journalists reporting on conflicts to push parties involved further to prescribe their own solutions as well as highlight the commonalities or values that the parties shared.

“Avoid the use of words such as devastated, tragedy and terrorise to describe what has been done to one group. These kinds of words put the reporter on side. Do not use them yourself. Only quote someone else who uses these words”, he advised.

He emphasised that, aside quoting the leaders involved in the conflicts, journalists should also speak to other interest groups such as the people they lead to find out what their opinions of the issues causing the conflicts are.

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