PAM Takes ROPAA Case to US Congress
by Kofi Ayim
In its relentless effort to get Ghanaians living abroad to exercise their voting rights, the Progressive Alliance Movement (PAM), a New York-based non-religious, non-political, non-ethnic Ghanaian civic group has upped its ante and taken its case further to the United States Congress. After intense lobbying, U.S. Congressman Eliot Engel, (16th Congressional District), a Ranking Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee hosted a special meeting February 24, that comprised of Mr. Kofi Koranteng, Chief Executive Officer and Mr. Obed Danquah, Treasurer, both of PAM and Ghana’s Ambassador to the USA, Lt. Gen. (Rtd.) Joseph Henry Smith and his Special Aide, Mr. Baah Duodu. The 16th Congressional District includes the Bronx, home to the largest number of Ghanaians in the United States.
In a post meeting interview, PAM’s CEO told this writer that he enumerated and told Congressman Engel, the history behind ROPAA and the blatant discrimination perpetrated by the authorities in Ghana.
ROPAA (Act 699) is the Representation of the Peoples Amendment Act, a legislation passed Feb 24, 2006 by Ghana’s Parliament to allow Ghanaians Living Abroad (GLA), with sound mind and at least 18 years old to register and vote from where they live without having to travel to Ghana. Ten years later ROPAA is yet to be implemented.
Hitherto, per the quondam PNDC electoral law (PNDCL 284), only a small number of Ghanaians Living Abroad identified as employees (such as Embassy and UN staff) of the Ghana government and special operations had the right to register and to vote. ROPAA sought to extend voting rights to qualified Ghanaians living outside Ghana. Mr. Koranteng said he pointed it out to Congressman Engel that there have been national elections in 2008 and 2012 without ROPAA being implemented. A third election is in November 2016 but Ghana’s Electoral Commission has been silent on ROPAA. He lamented that the Electoral Commissioner, Mrs. Charlotte Osei, has not deemed it worth her time to respond to PAM’s letter dated August 17, 2015, a copy of which was published in this newspaper.
Asked about the reaction of Congressman Engel, Mr. Koranteng observed that the U.S. Congressman showed concern and found it difficult to understand the stalemate. He said Congressman Engel could not comprehend why Ghana uses its perceived internal peace and respect for human rights as arguments in its many quests for multilateral and bilateral aid and loans, but at the same time denies its growing GLAs their fundamental right to vote even when Ghana’s laws provide such a dispensation. Mr. Koranteng said Congressman Engel wanted Ghana’s Ambassador Smith to explain the rationale behind the non-implementation of a 10-year old ROPAA law for a group that is acknowledged to remit billions of dollars each year to support Ghana. Ambassador Smith, according to Mr. Koranteng, vowed to see to the implementation of ROPAA. ROPAA, the Ambassador was alleged to have said, has not been a priority in his discussions with Ghanaians in the USA. However, he realized the importance of Ghana living up to the dictates of its constitution and laws. After ten years and two elections, the sense of urgency to ensure that ROPAA is implemented has shifted into a higher gear. Amandla has sighted a petition being circulated and other measures being considered by PAM to get GLA exercise their franchise in the November 2016 elections. PAM, in its effort to leave no stone unturned, had initially impressed their case upon New York State Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj (District 80) who moved up the matter to a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives.