I start this article with its conclusion. Ghana’s Electoral Commission (EC) and its Chair, Mrs. Jean Mensa, should not contemplate registering and facilitating voting in 2020 by only workers of Ghana’s Embassies/Missions and Ghanaians abroad on government scholarships. Either all Ghanaians Living Abroad (GLAs) vote or no one votes in the 2020 national elections. The EC must implement Act 699- Representation of the People Amendment Act (ROPAA) for the 2020 presidential elections on a pilot basis at a minimum, or no one votes in Ghana or anywhere else in the world for Ghana 2020.
On December 18, 2017, we of the New York City-based Progressive Alliance Movement (PAM) won a case against the EC and the Attorney General in the Human Rights Division of the Accra High Court of the late Justice Anthony K. Yeboah (Boateng, Boateng, Kemevor, Danquah and Sillim vs. the Electoral Commission and the Attorney General). The esteemed Judge’s ruling specified what is wrong and what the EC must do to amend. The non-implementation of Act 699 since February 2006 “is a breach of the Applicant’s fundamental rights under article 42 of the Constitution, 1992. It is discriminatory for” the EC “to continue to register abroad and ensure that a category of citizens studying abroad or working in Ghana’s Missions/Embassies vote in public elections and referenda while living abroad to the exclusion of Applicants and other similarly circumstanced Ghanaian citizens.” It is not difficult to understand breaching the human rights and discriminating against the larger group of GLAs who remit upwards of $5 billion a year to buttress Ghana’s economy, and may number upwards of 2 million individuals aged 18 years and older and of sound mind.
After 14 years of no action, the good Judge ordered the solution. All the Commissioners of the EC “must uphold/ensure full compliance/operationalization of Act 699...by having the constitutional instrument…passed into law by Parliament and ensuring that the Applicants and similarly circumstanced Ghanaians are registered to vote in the 2020 national elections and subsequent such elections and referenda” (pages 41-42). Since January 31, 2020, the EC, the Attorney General’s Office, and now a parliamentary Committee on Subsidiary Legislation have kicked about the referenced Constitutional Instrument, suspiciously delaying it from seeing the operational light of day until after December 7, 2020. On July 21, 2020, PAM, as an entity of interest, requested a copy of the CI from the EC. As of writing and nearly a month afterward, we await the courtesy of a formal reply. What the late Judge Yeboah termed as “deliberate and egregious” refusal to implement ROPAA continues to be evident.
The basis for employees of Ghana Embassies/Missions and scholarship recipients voting is in the 1992 PNDC Representation of the People Law 284. A discriminatory exclusivity at the exclusion of the larger population of GLAs was overtly enshrined in the Flt. Lt. Jerry Rawling’s inspired document that continues to be the primary document that guides Ghana’s elections.
The February 24, 2006 Act 699-ROPAA nullified and ended the discriminatory dispensation of the Embassy/Mission employees by deleting the entire section 8 of PNDC Law 284 where the discrimination resided. It replaced it with ROPAA’s “8(1) A person who is a citizen of Ghana resident outside the Republic is entitled to be registered as a voter if the person satisfies the requirements for registration.” Of course, the EC may argue that they have not implemented ROPAA and do not intend to do so therefore the intended nullification of the discrimination does not apply, at least for the 2020 elections. If they make this argument, then PAM will march all the commissioners to Court for contempt and possible jail sentences. Who wants an injunction on the entire 2020 Ghana elections? The EC has already effected some aspects of the February 2006 Act 699- ROPAA. PNDC law 284 required a five-year continuous residence to qualify to register in a constituency. Act 699 amended that to require a mere “hails from the constituency.” Selective implementation is a recognition of the law, but not a satisfactory compliance.
The truth is that NPP and NDC have been against the implementation of ROPAA for fear that the other would use it to its unfair advantage. NPP is deathly afraid of the West Africa-bound side of the Atlantic advantaging the NDC. NDC is similarly afraid of the Europe/Americas side of the Atlantic favoring NPP. The outcome is the two major parties disadvantaging almost 2 million Ghanaian adults by denying their voting rights for nearly 30 years! Where is the evidence of their fears? Are Ghana-only elections free from abuse? Is one party already doing what the other fears and therefore making this a moot issue? Is this fear an admission of Ghana’s poor national security services for three decades and continuing? What measures can the EC put in place for overseas voting to preempt the fears? Does parochial political party interest trump human rights? Ghana is not the only African country to wade into overseas voting. One dozen African countries have been doing it for years. They have borders too, yet no one has blamed overseas voting for a win or loss of a candidate.
Of course, we are praying for the extinction of COVID-19. We shall not suggest anything that will exacerbate the already difficult situation. The EC is rejoicing over recently registering 16.7 million prospective voters in Ghana amidst COVID-19 for December 2020. President Akufo-Addo has congratulated the EC. At a minimum then, there should be an open discussion about how to implement ROPAA, even for only the presidential ticket on a pilot basis for 2020. We are suspicious of silence. It has a loud sound of a nod from Ghana’s higher powers, whoever happens to be the occupant. We deem it deliberate dismissal. Our position is No ROPAA, No Vote 2020!