Ghana, in many quarters, has been described as the beacon of democracy in Africa.
This is because since 1992, when the country returned to democratic rule, it has witnessed seven successive elections with the eighth scheduled to come off in December this year.
The feat has been achieved through strong state institutions, credible and transparent elections and the will of Ghanaians to live and pursue development in a peaceful democratic environment.
Although elections within the period have been largely lauded as peaceful, there have been bits of tension and pockets of violence before, during and after each poll.
These cases of violence have been occasioned and heightened by the proliferation of small arms and light weapons in the country.
According to the National Commission on Small Arms and Light Weapons, there are more than 1.2 million registered weapon owners in Ghana with a little over 40,000 renewing their licences annually.
A recent survey by the Commission also estimated that there were more than 2.3 million small arms in the hands of civilians.
In view of the high stakes presented by this year’s general election, the Ghanaian Times is extremely concerned about the increasing flow of illicit arms into the country.
This is why we must all partake in the campaign launched by the National Commission on Small Arms and Light Weapons to keep this year’s general election free of gun violence.
Dubbed ‘Ballots without Bullets,’ the campaign is aimed at influencing the behaviour of Ghanaians through public education and sensitisation to the dangers of the abuse of guns, before, during and after the election.
Organised in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the German Federal Foreign Office, the campaign will use both traditional and social media, sensitisation workshops and town hall meetings to raise awareness about gun violence.
Jones Applerh, Executive Secretary of the Commission, said the campaign would target 10 constituencies identified by the police as hotspots for electoral violence.
They include Jirapa, Ketu South, Jomoro, Wulensi, Banda and Chiana-Paga, which are border constituencies while Awutu Senya East, Offinso North, Gomoa West and Upper West Akim are non-border constituencies.
For us, we struggle to understand why the practice of democracy should result in violence because this is a system of government which enables a contest of ideas.
It is not a licence for people to cause mayhem and visit harm on their opponents.
The democratic experience we have tasted within the past 28 years cannot be rolled back and we all have a duty to protect it.
Let us all commit to this campaign, ‘Ballots without Bullets’, and use it as a platform to change the mindset of our people that democracy is not a violent enterprise but an opportunity for everyone to be heard.