ACCRA, GHANA - Violent clashes between supporters of rival political parties have raised concern about security as Ghanaians prepares for presidential and parliamentary elections on December 7.
Ghana's Center for Democratic Governance released a survey this week that said 54 percent of Ghanaians thought political parties or candidates were "very likely" to use violence in the upcoming elections.
There have been several incidents during campaigning this month. The Odododiodio parliamentary constituency in Accra has seen three violent episodes between supporters of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP).
"There is this uncertainty amongst a lot of people," said Nii Ahinakwa Nunoo, an Accra resident. "For the fear of the unknown."
Nunoo received a blow to the eye during a November 9 altercation between the NDC and NPP parliamentary candidates that turned into fisticuffs as youth groups came to defend their political candidates, including NPP candidate Nii Lante Bannerman.
Man 'punched me'
"There was this other guy who was on a motorbike, pulled a machete and strikes it on the ground, so Bannerman had to run into that house," Nunoo said. "Another also pulled a gun [and] fired shots, so I went back into the car out of fear. After firing the shots, the man just finished, put the gun down and then punched me in the face. The [local] guys started throwing bottles at them. The young guys that were just [nearby] started to scare them away and also get the situation under control."
The police recently foiled a similar incident at the home of the main opposition leader and presidential candidate, Nana Akufo-Addo, at Nima.
Both sides have traded accusations about who is to blame for the altercations.
The United States, European Union and Britain issued statements condemning the violence. The ruling NDC responded Thursday, accusing the international community of "malicious propaganda" in favor of the opposition. The U.S. Embassy in Accra rejected that accusation, saying it had not taken sides.
In Accra, professor Michael Tagoe says frustration over the poor economy and a lack of understanding of the democratic process fuel tensions.
"If you have growing unemployment among the youth and they can only find work around election time, where party officials go around mobilizing them to campaign for them, it is likely that there will be violence," Tagoe said.
Ahead of the election, police announced a one-month amnesty for people wishing to turn in illegal weapons. The Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Center in Accra released a survey estimating there were about 1 million unregistered firearms in Ghana.
But police said they were up to the task of securing the vote.
Superintendent Cephas Arthur, director of public affairs for the Ghana Police Service, said, "We're going to have about four-tier security arrangement. The first one is going to be security officers who'll be posted to the polling stations to provide security for the exercise, and it could range from one to three depending on the nature, the characteristics of that particular polling station. The second tier will be patrols.
"And then after these patrol teams we will have officers standing by at vantage positions across the country in the constituencies. We will have a fourth tier, which will be our friends from the military. They will be about the remotest ring. And that is when things are getting out of hand and pandemonium is almost breaking lose."
Arthur said security would be tightened in potential flashpoint areas.