ROPAL - A deliberate deceit of Ghanaians Abroad

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Wed, 19 Aug 2020 Source: Stephen Atta Owusu

Ghanaians who lived abroad for a very long time were hopeful that one day they would be allowed to take part in Ghana's presidential elections and to be part of the voting process while living abroad. This was not to be, until Mr. John Kufuor took over power in 2002. He was hailed for the many projects and policies he began during his rule. However, his dream to allow Ghanaians abroad to take part in Ghana’s elections was principal.

Amidst jubilation from Ghanaians abroad, President Kufuor signed into law the Representation of the People's Amendment Law (ROPAL) on the 27th February, 2006. ROPAL then became a law that would allow Ghanaians abroad to vote in Ghana's elections.

Disappointingly, the dream of every Ghanaian abroad to be part of the voting process in Ghana was dashed. The NDC governments that came after Kufuor also left ROPAL to suspend in the air and on the heads of Ghanaians abroad, even though both the NDC government and the EC knew how Ghanaians abroad were eager to be allowed to register at the various embassies and vote in Ghana's elections. What then happened?

The Electoral Commissioner, Mrs. Jane Mensa disclosed that she has not taken her thoughts away from ROPAL, but she wants to familiarize herself or learn more from the countries who have taken the lead to allow their citizens abroad to vote in national elections. This, she said, will enable her to formulate regulations for the implementation of ROPAL.

The Commission will send delegates to different countries and the lessons they would learn from the trip would form the basis for discussion among all stakeholders to arrive at common procedures for effective implementation of the ROPAL. To prove her seriousness, the EC entered into negotiation with the government and demanded GHc200,000 as a local support for foreign consultation. The government granted the amount. The EC chair took no action but dragged her feet until a concerned group took the matter to court. Is the EC merely playing a mind game with Ghanaians abroad?

In 2017, an Accra High court decision ordered the EC to begin the process of implementing ROPAL. Whether the Election management body will comply with the High Court ruling today is yet to be known.

Something interesting happened at a forum on the election 2020. The Director of Elections, Mr. Michael Boadu, revealed that all was set for the implementation of the law. We are left with about four months to the elections. Was he not deceiving Ghanaians by what he said? Was he not throwing dust in the eyes of Ghanaians abroad?

As if he was compelled by EC to lie to Ghanaians, he assured Ghanaians that all documents are complete and all processes and procedures are ready for a roll out of ROPAL. Ghanaians abroad must hold their peace.

It turned out to be deceitful. Ghana has only 63 embassies in the world. If these embassies abroad are those going to handle ROPAL and to ensure that no Ghanaian abroad is left out, what then happens to those Ghanaians who live in countries that have no Ghana embassies? This difficulty makes it impossible for ROPAL to be carried out.

One major concern is that since most of the diplomats are government employees and party appointees, any party in opposition may be suspicious about the veracity of the votes cast abroad. ROPAL is not likely to happen for Ghanaians abroad because any of the two major parties in Ghana when in opposition is not likely to trust the embassies abroad.

Now the EC has a good excuse why ROPAL cannot be implemented for 2020. It is likely that the EC will go to the High court to tell them that they cannot implement ROPAL as ordered due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This deliberate excuse, if given by EC, will anger or disappoint the group of Ghanaians abroad who sacrificed their time and money and took the ROPAL impasse to the High court. Their plea was accepted by the court and EC was ordered to take action immediately.

Three years now and no arrangement has been made by EC to inform our embassies abroad to get ready for ROPAL, after having provided them with facilities to enable the embassies to register Ghanaians abroad. The EC has not acted or taken steps to furnish the embassies with information on the procedures to allow Ghanaians abroad to vote. If these steps are not taken, the EC has no excuse to use COVID-19 as a reason for inaction.

Not until the EC changes its mind or takes steps to remove all obstacles that are preventing ROPAL from being rolled out, it will be considered as a complete deceit.

Columnist: Stephen Atta Owusu