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Opinions Fri, 30 Jan 2015

ROPAA and Ghana‘s 2016 Elections: An Inconvenient Truth

Dr. Kofi A. Boateng, New York January 30, 2015

Every four years Ghanaians go through two predictable rituals. One occurs on the football field where we scream, clap, cry, and engage in antics to show a unified support for the nation’s Black Stars. Oh how glorious those days are when Ghana is one, and the best players are called from around the globe to play for dear country. Barely a note of distinction between Ghanaians living in Ghana and those living abroad is sounded. This wonderful truth is set aside when it comes to the country’s quadrennial general elections to elect our president and parliamentarians. As quickly as one can spell Ghana, a distinction is made between Ghanaians residing in the country, and Ghanaians Living Abroad (GLAs). The facts that GLA’s could possibly be numbered in the millions, and represent perhaps the third or fourth largest electoral constituency of Ghanaians; and that they support the foreign exchange foundation of Ghana’s economy with their billions of annual remittances are simply ignored. GLAs are not allowed to vote in their country’s elections, despite the fact that there is a law that permits them to do so, and this law has been on the books since 2006.

Truth 1: The Representation of the People Law-1992 (PNDCL 284) specifically limited the registration of citizens of Ghana residing abroad for the purposes of voting to those “employed in a post outside Ghana in the service of the Republic or in the service of the United Nations, or in any other international organization” (Section 8, 1). In addition PNDCL 284 required that for Ghanaians to be qualified to register to vote in polling areas, they should have lived in their respective polling areas for six months prior to the date of registration. PNDCL 284 is important because it continues to drive Ghana’s elections.

Truth 2: Article 42 of the Constitution of the Republic of Ghana (1992) states that: “Every citizen of Ghana of eighteen years of age or above and of sound mind has the right to vote and is entitled to be registered as a voter for the purposes of public elections and referenda.” Nowhere is there any requirement of residence. Was the section of PNDCL 284 that denied the right to register to vote to the increasingly growing numbers of GLAs counting in the millions unconstitutional? PNDCL 284 recognized the inconvenience of requiring the government’s employees abroad to come home and live in their towns and villages for six months just to register; and then return to vote. Sadly the recognition of this truth was not extended to the larger majority of GLAs. Was this a case of deliberate discrimination, exclusion, and abuse of human rights?

Truth 3: On February 24, 2006 the parliament of Ghana, under strong protest from one political party, and with inspiration from the Diaspora Vote Committee that sent two delegations to Ghana to humanize the raging debate, passed Act 699- Representation of the People Amendment Act to extend the right to register to vote without the requirement of residing in a polling station to “a person who is a citizen of Ghana resident outside the Republic.” In one swoop, the decades-old special dispensation to only Ghanaians in the Government’s employ was gone. All GLAs were equal and could register to vote.

Truth 4: Act 699 charged the Electoral Commissioner (EC) to implement ROPAA. Sadly, the 2008 elections came and went; the 2012 elections came and went; and the EC has not implemented ROPAA. At least 10 African countries have consistently implemented overseas voting without their countries coming apart as politicians in Ghana irrationally fear.

My fellow GLAs, we must take up the implementation of the 2006 ROPAA law with unity and passion. Left to our EC and politicians, 2016 will also come be gone and ROPAA will not be implemented. It is a questionable democracy that disregards its own laws and intentionally discriminates against sizable numbers of its citizenry. The two major political parties in Ghana have their own reasons for standing in the way, even as they travel abroad to solicit funds from GLAs. It should be Ghana first, parties second- right first, wrong nowhere. Please visit the website of the Progressive Alliance Movement at pamgh.org to learn how you can support this worthy cause, and be part of putting the shine on the Black Star starting with the implementation of ROPAA for GLAs to vote in 2016. If you carry the citizenship of another country, please apply for your dual Ghanaian citizenship through any of Ghana’s missions and consulates. Do it early. Our politicians like to play with that as well. We should keep them from changing the dual citizenship implementation scheme when they think it may not favor them. In 2010 Ghana’s Supreme Court ruled that prisoners had the right to be registered to vote and the EC implemented processes to accommodate them in the 2012 elections. Do the voting rights of 13,000 prisoners trump those of 3 million GLAs? Join the nonpartisan struggle. Yentie Obiara. We go Vote 2016. kofi.aboat@gmail.com

Columnist: Boateng, Kofi A.