Ghana’s Catholic bishops have called a June 29 incident in which President John Dramani Mahama’s convoy was pelted with stones in the Ashanti region in the southern part of the country as “shameful and despicable.”
Mahama was on a tour of the country he’s described as an “Accounting to the People” expedition when his motorcade was stoned and hooted at, apparently leading to minor injuries for some in the convoy.
Police made two arrests for participation in the incident.
A June 30 statement signed by Bishop Joseph Osei-Bonsu of Konongo-Mampong, President of Ghana’s Catholic Bishops’ Conference, said the stoning of the convoy was “shocking and unbelievable” and “we…wish to condemn this act in no uncertain terms”.
“We cannot fathom why a group of Ghanaians will attack the convoy of the president in this manner and wish to call on the perpetrators of this act to be ashamed of themselves, repent of their sins and seek forgiveness from God,” Osei-Bonsu said.
“This act is despicable and shameful not only because it dents our image as peaceful and tolerant people but particularly because it represents an attack on the sovereignty of the land whose symbol the president represents,” he said. “Therefore, it ought to be condemned in no uncertain terms by all.”
“We are pleased to learn that the police have arrested some alleged perpetrators of this shameful act. We pray that all those involved and/or behind it will be arrested and brought to book sooner than later,” Osei-Bonsu said. “The full rigors of the law must be applied while steps must be taken to deal with all people who visit violent attacks on others in the name of politics.”
Although no motive was given for the attack, Mahama has recently come under fire for accepting a gift of a 2010 Ford Expedition valued at roughly $25,000 from a business firm after it was awarded government contracts, even though Mahama has campaigned on an anti-corruption platform.
A government body called the Ghana Integrity Initiative concluded earlier in the month that Mahama must either return the vehicle or pay its full market value to the contractor.
A spokesman had earlier claimed that Mahama did not accept the vehicle for his personal use, but rather assigned it to the presidential fleet.
Ghana is roughly 60 percent Christian and 30 percent Muslim, with Catholics representing roughly 15 percent of the total national population of 26 million.
The country’s bishops are accustomed to playing a robust role in political affairs.
Recently, for instance, the bishops demanded that a legislator apologize after he implied that the female head of the country’s Electoral Commission exchanged sex for her position, and also insisted that two former Guantanamo Bay detainees Ghana had agreed to accept are not “refugees but time bombs” and must be sent away.
In sub-Saharan Africa generally, religious bodies often play a directly political role that might be seen as excessive by Western standards of church/state separation, since they’re often seen as one of the few legitimate representatives of civil society.