According to a UNDP workshop held in Barcelona in June 2011, on causes of electoral violence and its prevention, motives for violence were mentioned to include skewing the playing field by electoral management institutions, limiting political space, etc. The report further stated that the enabling conditions include partisan security forces and judiciary controlled by the incumbent which could be catalysts of conflict.
There are more: the report also said that elections could exacerbate into long-term conflicts. Two examples were given: the Angola post-election civil war which started in 1992 and ended in 2002, and claimed 30,000 lives; and the Bosnia electoral conflict which started from 1996 to 2008, and claimed 100,000 lives.
It is frightening to note that these warning signs of electoral conflicts reported by the UNDP are playing out in Ghana like a movie, and a new generation of trauma and terror seems to be incubating.
I would want to concentrate on three major causes of electoral conflicts as reported at the UNDP event.
The inclusion of partisan security forces:
This is more than rife in Ghana, the Ayawaso West Wuogon By-election where masked ruling party’s militia group members clad in National Security apparels shot and wounded agents and party members of the opposition NDC is a typical example of what the report wants to portray. Unfortunately, the Akufo-Addo government rubbished the report of the commission of enquiry it set, and left victims of the sad incident off the hook.
Control of the judiciary by the incumbent:
It has been criticised that the President has packed the Supreme, Appeals and High Courts with pro-NPP judges. For instance it was alleged that Justice Ernest Yao Gaewo who was appointed as a High Court Judge by President Akufo-Addo sometime this month is a known activist of the ruling party who contested as parliamentary candidate for Ho Central in the Volta Region on the ticket of the NPP.
Skewing the playing field by electoral management institutions:
By many measures, the electoral process in Ghana is becoming extremely notorious under the leadership of Jean Mensa which is putting the credibility of the upcoming December polls in doubt. There are strong evidence of unfair acts by the EC which confirms a long-mooted suspicion that the EC Chair, Jean Mensa and others were appointed to ensure that President Akufo-Addo is retained by hook or crook.
It would be recalled that the National House of Chiefs, Civil Society Organisations, Religious Leaders, Trade Unions, Opposition Political Parties, University Professors and well-meaning Ghanaians expressed concerns about the growing tension in the country over the compilation of a new voters’ register amidst Covid-19 and the limited time at the disposal of the EC to conduct a credible election in December 2020.
These prominent citizens also vehemently argued that a new voters’ register would be a waste of taxpayers money since the old register was credible and had been used for the 2016 elections, referendum on newly created regions and the local government assembly elections without any hitch, but the EC didn’t listen.
The EC’s intransigence to compile a new register has not only caused a financial loss to the state, but the register is enough of a conundrum to create serious problems in the country. The exhibition of the register which was opened not too long ago is replete with many irregularities which can never venerate fair play in the coming elections.
Some have argued that exhibition of registers are done to correct errors. But errors this time around are not isolated as have been the case in all the voters exhibition exercises conducted in the history of this country. The mistakes are menacingly serious and prevalent, and Ghana is facing the most difficult electoral challenge unimaginable. The infringements and breaches are extensive, and over 100 constituencies have been affected.
The infractions include outright removal of names, mismatch of ID numbers, same PIN issued to multiple number of people, swapping of photographs between males and females, etc.
In Asunafo South, at the M/A Primary School exhibition centre for example, one picture replaced all the registrants at the centre. At the Tongu polling station in Lawra, out of the 439 people who were registered, only 7 names were found in the register.
In the Binduri Constituency of the Upper East Region, many cases of omission have been detected, at the Narang-Saago Primary School Exhibition Centre, not a single person out of the 444 people registered could find their names in the register.
In some cases, as many as 2,000 infractions have been recorded by a single constituency. But there are more serious infringements — about 80% of exhibition centres have no Biometric Verification Devices (BVDs) even though roughly 1 billion Ghana Cedis of taxpayers money has been given to the EC for a new register. The funny aspect of this is that the EC said it has purchased 77,000 BVDs to be deployed in all exhibition centres, so where are the devices?
What is even staggering is the fact that on September 18, 2020, EC was caught secretly printing an unspecified number of Voters’ ID cards in the night at its district office at the Ablekuma Central Constituency without the knowledge of major stakeholders, something the EC has shamefully confirmed as true.
The EC is required by law to publish the electoral register on its website, but they have not done so. What. Are. They. Hiding?
The EC has also breached the Constitutional Instrument (CI) where political parties must be given copies of the provisional register before the commencement of the exhibition exercise.
All these are creating a folksy air of insecurity that is scaring many Ghanaians. And this hold a damning message for our beloved country–chaos on Election Day. This critical national issue has compelled the flag bearer of the NDC, H.E. John Dramani Mahama to cut short his campaign tour in the Bono East Region.
Traditional Rulers, Religious Leaders, Civil Society Organisations and all peace-loving Ghanaians must rise up and fulminate against such dastardly acts if we want to avert a major electoral and constitutional crisis which could have dire consequences on our peaceful nation.
It is time for the 21-member Eminent Advisory Committee to the EC to come out to speak on these disturbing issues before something bad happens to our beautiful nation, else their hard earned reputations would be soiled beyond redemption: and posterity will never forgive them for their role in destroying our nation.
By Anthony Obeng Afrane