Ghana?s former President John Agyekum Kufuor is calling on political leaders in the country to desist from using violent rhetoric ahead of next year?s general elections.
?The future of our country hangs on elections when they come. And I will urge that all concerned will comport themselves well and will go in as sports, men and women, so the results can be accepted with equanimity,? said Kufuor.
Mr. Kufuor who was recently in Washington, D.C. to receive the Leon H. Sullivan Foundation award for his leadership, says Ghana?s unity and peace should be strengthened in the run up to the polls.
The former Ghanaian leader stepped down after serving two terms in office, the maximum allowed by the constitution.
Ghanaians are scheduled to vote in presidential, legislative and local level elections next year.
In an interview with VOA, the former president expressed confidence in Ghana?s political development.
?We are maturing as a democratic nation,? said Kufuor. ?Without elections you don?t begin democracy, so it?s a necessary first step. And I am hoping next year, the elections will be truly free and fair so the outcome will reflect genuinely the decision of the people.?
Some analysts have expressed concern about recent heated rhetoric between supporters of the ruling National Democratic Congress and the main opposition New Patriotic Party.
The bombast, they say, could incite violence in the run up to the vote. Kufuor underscored the need for ethical behavior by all involved.
?I do not wish ill for my country,? said Kufuor. ?Many a good game is destroyed by bad refereeing. So, am hoping the electoral commission will be up to its task, to dispense the refereeing truly, fairly and impartially.?
The former Ghanaian leader also encouraged voters to be good citizens.
?Parties are just diverse ways of expressing our moods feelings and beliefs. We are not like armies with which we go to war to conquer [our enemies]. So, we should be civil to each other,? said Kufuor. ?It will be in our interest that we use the elections wisely to pick the party that will best serve the interests of the people of Ghana.?
Kufuor also encouraged Ghanaians not to be bound by tribalism, regionalism or ideology.
?Parties that will come and move the country forward; socially, economically and lawfully and in all respects help give us round development. So, if you are not sure your party can do it, vote against your party,? said Kufuor.