Ghana’s former President, Flt Lt Jerry John Rawlings says the political stalemate in Cote d’Ivoire could have been easily resolved if the international community had not rushed to take sides.
He said in such electoral disputes it is logical to seek a recount of votes or a re-election if circumstances called for it.
“Unfortunately the international community overlooked such peaceful overtures and rather took a tough stance against one candidate even though all he was seeking was a further authentication of the results.
“The stalemate has dragged on for too long and the threat of military intervention nearly exposed us to ridicule because how often have incumbent governments not stolen elections on a massive scale in other countries; where people are intimidated and brutalised and despicable things are done; nothing but plain thievery, in circumstances that are more deserving of intervention but no such suggestions were made.”
President Rawlings was speaking as guest speaker at the Rotary District 9110 Charity Dinner in Lagos on Friday, February 26.
He said if we want to distance our political dispensation from coup d’états then it is incumbent upon us to maintain the sanctity of the right of choice and the electoral process.
Please find below the full text of his address.
GUEST SPEAKER’S ADDRESS BY H. E. FLT LT JERRY JOHN RAWLINGS AT THE ROTARY DISTRICT 9110 FOUNDATION DINNER/DANCE BALL AT THE FEDERAL PALACE HOTEL – FRIDAY, 25 FEBRUARY 2011
The Honourable Chairman Williams Adjekughele, Lagos State Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola, Rotary District 9110 Governor Matthias Oladeinde Shoga, members of Rotary 9110, members of the diplomatic corps, last but not the least, the woman of my freedom, Nana, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, I thank you most heartily for the opportunity to share this moment with you.
Rotary is recognised worldwide as highly influential and noted for its various charity projects aimed at achieving world understanding and peace and my wife, Nana can testify to this better I can.
This evening’s event aimed at raising funds to support projects such as peace and conflict resolution, disease prevention and treatment, water and sanitation, maternal and child health, basic education and literacy and economic and community development, confirms the significant role your organisation plays in society.
Ladies and gentlemen, while commending your club for the many achievements it has chalked since 1982 I wish to enjoin you to look beyond the bonds of friendship and networking opportunities that compel many of you to join such groups.
Our world has become a truly global one with the upsurge of the dynamic electronic media breaking down national barriers. In the past political upheavals in countries like Tunisia, Egypt and Libya would have been distant news items of little concern to our daily activities but today we dare not discount happenings in countries thousands of kilometres away.
That is why I enjoin everyone here today to take more serious interest in the socio-political development of our country, our sub-continent and the world as a whole.
Rotary, as is well exhibited here today is made up business and professional leaders who take important decisions that affect the social, economic and political development of the country.
While championing charity projects is worthy of commendation, you cannot alienate yourself from the powerful roles you can play in positively influencing the political direction of Nigeria.
Nigeria has come a long way from the days of military interventions and a state of perpetual political instability. Constitutional rule seems to have taken root and in April your country will again be going to the polls.
Events here over the past year, indicate that a successful election will require, tact, tolerance and the desire of the people of Nigeria to seek a peaceful transition. As leaders of influence your support and programmes will no doubt engender peace and development.
Some of our political and business leaders have failed us by expending their resources on divisive political activity that tend to derail our political development.
In developing Nigeria and our various countries we have to do away with the selfish power-seeking attitudes that have diverted many of our countries from the paths of national development into national decay. It is imperative that as leaders we are able to use mediums such as Rotary to educate the populace, politicians and other opinion leaders to always serve and protect the interests of the nation.
As we talk about Nigeria we cannot overlook the sad stalemate in Cote d’Ivoire. The situation in that country could have been resolved easily if the international community, ECOWAS included, had not rushed to take sides. In electoral disputes of such nature it is logical to seek a recount of votes or a re-election if circumstances call for it.
Unfortunately the international community overlooked such peaceful overtures and rather took a tough stance against one candidate even though all he was seeking was further authentication of the results. The stalemate has dragged on for so long and the threat of military intervention nearly exposed us to ridicule because how often have incumbent governments not stolen elections on a massive scale in other countries; where people are intimidated and brutalised and despicable things are done; Nothing but plain thievery, in circumstances that are more deserving of intervention but no such suggestions were made. And yet in Cote d’Ivoire where the first round was so peaceful and applauded by the whole international community; where the second round results were almost neck to neck but in a manner that almost divided the country on ethnic lines, it was shocking we came up with a quick and rash suggestion of a military solution. It almost looked as if some members of the international community had made up their minds how the results should go and wanted to ensure that at all costs.
The call for a recount initiated by South Africa’s Jacob Zuma and backed by Nigeria and Ghana, which has led to the latest mediation effort in Cote d’Ivoire will hopefully be given cooperation so that the real winner will be declared the president.
Ladies and gentlemen, nothing is more shameful for a people than a government imposing itself on the will of the people. Genuine electoral processes conducted without fear or intimidation, without the harsh use of our armed forces, produces a cleansing effect in society and reassures the people that their will has prevailed. The denial of the will of the people and its attendant corruption is what used to generate the coups of the past.
If we want to distance our political dispensation from coup d’états then it is incumbent upon us to maintain the sanctity of the right of choice and the electoral process.
Ladies and gentlemen, the sanctity of the right of the will of the people is today being vindicated in some autocratic countries and the morality of this position has clearly been demonstrated by the refusal of the armed forces of these countries to obey immoral and unlawful orders to kill their people in a state of revolt.
Ladies and gentlemen, elections will soon be held here. Let us see how far we can restore the integrity of our election without intimidating and corrupting the people with money. People want and deserve the right to vote and live in dignity and to keep their values intact. Let us not corrupt the process.
Ladies and gentlemen, I have reason to question the moral basis for the United Nations and other Western countries to support the rash decision to use force in Ivory Coast when the cost of a re-election will be 100 times less than the cost of a military intervention, human casualties and all.
This is our sub-region and the destinies of our countries lie right in our hands. While we live in a global world and expect influences from beyond our region we should be careful we do not sell our conscience to petty international interests.
Africa has long been tagged as backward and full of conflict. The situation in Rwanda years ago was seen as evidence of the horrors of a so-called backward continent. It was only when Yugoslavia collapsed and engaged in the same slaughter did many understand the fact that each conflict has its unique root causes and all humans when under certain peculiar influences can channel their energies into the brutal killing of their compatriots irrespective of colour, race or religion.
Ladies and gentlemen, while we make merry and donate generously to building communities and bridging continents, let us leave a lasting legacy for our people. Let us positively influence the actions of our leaders at all levels of society and let us speak out against the political decisions that stunt our growth even as we organise fundraising activities for humanitarian purposes.
Once again I wish to thank Governor Deinde Shoga and Rotary District 9110 for this wonderful opportunity to share my thoughts with you.
Keep up your world acknowledged efforts.