To many politicians and stakeholders who oppose the ideologies of the ruling government, the president has barely paid any service to all the reported cases of electoral violence recorded in the just-ended voters' registration exercise.
This may be sharply contradictory to what is actually on the ground or what the president and his government have done so far.
It would be recalled that there were widespread media reports of intimidation of some residents by military personnel at registration centres along the border communities of the country. Aside from that, other reports including invasion by party thugs were recorded.
Paramount these infractions was Mavis Hawa Koomson’s involvement in an incident of gun-firing at a polling centre in her constituency. Why did her case top charts?
She is the Member of Parliament for Awutu Senya East constituency who also doubles as the Minister for Special Development Initiatives.
This incident heaped pressure on President Akufo-Addo to make a pronouncement about all the reported cases of violence. To the extent that president of policy think tank, Imani Ghana, Franklin Cudjoe put his relationship with the president on the line to coerce the president into addressing the issue but in a rather unexpected turn, the president denied knowledge of any of such incidents.
He is quoted to have said “I haven’t heard of any person being denied the opportunity to register on grounds that you are not this or what so go we can't register you. Every person has the right to go and register. What I have heard is that the exercise is going on smoothly in Asawase and Asokore-Mampong, we thank God for that.”
Could there be a possible explanation to the president’s apparent silence and non-admittance?
GhanaWeb sampled opinions from some experts - Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Ghana and Head of Youth Bridge Research Institute, Ransford Gyampo, and a political communications strategist Dr Kobby Mensah - in this regard.
Professor Gyampo, with particular reference to the case involving Hawa Koomson, said the president’s silence is in a way justifiable. He said Ghanaians cannot fault the president when the case is being investigated by law enforcers.
He articulated his argument as follows, “I’m aware the police is investigating…you wouldn’t want to always hear the president making comments about every infraction of the laws of the land, particularly when the matter is being handled by the law enforcement agencies…I’m sure he’s aware the matter is before the appropriate state agency and they’re handling it…Until we have a cause to believe that nothing is being done about it, we cannot fault the president for being silent on the attacks…”
Prof Gyampo, however, noted that the President’s public remark that he hadn’t heard about any incident of violence and intimidation, around a time when many Ghanaians, including some members of his own government and party, were talking about the needless display of power and intimidation by Hawa Koomson, was unfortunate, as it had the potential of putting fear and weakening the hands of the law enforcement agencies in handling the matter.
According to Prof Gyampo, “our security agencies have doubtful independence and pander to executive influence. Such comments from the one who appointed their bosses may influence their fair handling of the matter.”
Prof Gyampo, therefore, emphasized the point that, in as much as the President cannot be heard commenting on every act of intimidation and violence, he must also not make comments that may serve to surreptitiously compel the law enforcement agencies to sweep serious acts of infractions of the law, under the carpet.
On his part, Dr Kobby Mensah found it difficult to come to terms with the president’s claim of unawareness. According to him, with barely four months to a major election, political leaders, specifically the president must exhibit “swift leadership response.”
He was expecting that just as the president addressed issues of propaganda against his efforts to fight COVID-19, he would attempt to address the electoral violence too.
“…as the president claimed there were people doing propaganda with the COVID and he actually criticized it, you’d expect that during this process and we have some violence characterizing it he’d make a pronouncement…so yes I would agree that the president couldn’t stay on the fence and say he’s not aware when clearly there have been widespread media reports.”
He added that “not to say the president is lying but I sort of find it difficult to actually appreciate the president’s unawareness of the issue…probably his handlers have to be a lot more observant and transparent, critical of issues for the president to comment on…”
The Electoral Commission, on the other hand, has given themselves a pat on the back for bringing closure to the month-long registration exercise.
The commission in its address has said the registration was generally smooth.
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