Ominous clouds loom over election 2012 in Ghana

President John Mahama: Is he sincere with his talk of peace?

Contrary to the theme of peace that pervaded the funeral ceremonies of Ghana’s late President John Evans Atta Mills, unfolding events do not ensure peace in the country’s upcoming elections. And that is cause for worry among peace-loving Ghanaians.

The decision by the Electoral Commissioner to create 45 more constituencies in the country some two months or so before the elections has spawned worry and anxiety among a section of the population. The EC’s decision, though constitutional, is most untimely, so say those opposing the move, mostly from the opposition led by the largest opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP). The protagonists, led by the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) believe the EC’s action is appropriate and that the gloomy forebodings of the antagonists are unfounded.

Those opposing the EC’s plans believe that the processes involved in the creation of those 45 constituencies may burden the commission in its effective execution of the elections in December. Furthermore, it would affect the parties and their preparation toward the elections. Several civil society groups, including the Peace Council, and prominent Ghanaians, including former President J. A. Kufuor and the moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Martey, have joined with the antagonists to appeal to the Electoral Commissioner to rescind his decision. But the Electoral Commissioner continues to be derisive in his response construing opposition to his decision as personal attacks.

Among the arguments adduced against the EC’s actions is the lack of logistical support for additional 45 members of parliament. They also argue that the structure that now houses the current 230 members of parliament is temporary and inadequate; and the country’s economy may not be able to handle the financial stress likely to result from the creation of those constituencies. Already two constitutional instruments supporting the EC’s action brought to the parliament have been rejected on grounds of egregious errors by the Electoral Commission.

With less than three months to go for the general elections, it is doubtful if Parliament can fulfill all the constitutional requirements before the elections. At the same time the EC is currently conducting an inspection of the voters’ register in various constituencies in the country, in itself, a tasking project. All what the opposing sides are asking for is enough time for both the Parliament and EC.

The NDC and its cohorts, however, believe the creation of new constituencies would enhance rural development, and say the opposition’s arguments are neither here nor there. But there appears to be an ulterior motive for its position. Even before the enabling law is enacted the EC has conducted the nomination process of the NDC for the party’s prospective members of parliament in those 45 constituencies. The NDC is meanwhile characterizing the opposition NPP as against the government’s development agenda; a ruse that it [NDC] hopes could win it the new constituencies.

According to some sources in the Parliament, the Electoral Commissioner is pursuing what he terms his constitutional mandate to forestall a similar action by the Ministry of Local Government which is unconstitutional anyway.

Clearly, there is a debacle in the making. The crisis in Kenya four years ago arose out of a similar situation. More than a thousand Kenyans died as a result. Long-standing ethnic differences and animosities were exploited and reignited. Currently, the fires of hate among the various ethnic groups are still smoldering. More than 25 people have been killed lately in random riots recently. While Ghanaians fondly delude themselves as a peaceful people, it took only one election in a Kenya that was no stranger to elections to catch flames.

After successfully conducting elections in the country since the inauguration of the 4th Republic, one would think Dr. Kwadwo Afari Gyan would exercise caution in executing his constitutional mandate. His position as the Electoral Commissioner makes him the guardian of democracy in Ghana. It is ironic that he is rather seeking to ignore the voices of dissent in an action that portends crisis.

Since the government is directly involved, President Mahama is expected to step in to forestall a potentially volatile situation. Here is the same president who has been traipsing the length and breadth of the country preaching peace as a tribute to his late predecessor. Unfortunately, it looks as if winning the elections looms larger than peace in the country.

A recent discovery of the NDC’s perfidy is challenging Mr. Mahama’s commitment to the development of democracy and peace in Ghana. Yaw Boateng Gyan, the NDC’s national organizer has allegedly owned up as the owner of the voice on a tape organizing some hoodlums in his party to cause mayhem in the December elections. Mr. Kennedy Agyepong, MP (NPP) for Assin North who discovered the tape claims that he has more of such tapes of NDC conspiracies to disrupt the general elections in his possession and would release them.

The only official response to the discovery from government comes from Mr. Gbevlo Lartey, the National Security Coordinator. He has stated that National Security would investigate the matter.

The content on the tape clearly shows Mr. Gyan’s culpability and capacity to execute. Gbevlo Lartey and for that matter, the National Security, is not the appropriate investigative authority. His office does not enjoy the confidence of Ghanaians as an impartial body to investigate following his organ’s previous conduct in similar cases. He did not investigate the various killings and murders of NPP members at Agbogbloshie, Akwatia, Chereponi and Atiwa. Several members of the opposition NPP are still incarcerated, especially in the Northern Regions after being attacked by NDC goons who are rather walking free. He has not even been able to successfully investigate the murder of Ya Na Abdullahi of Dagbon.

Mr. Gbevlo Lartey’s outfit would not investigate Nii Lante Vanderpuye for his genocidal plans he executed to block non-Gas living in his Odododiodoo constituency in Accra to register to vote. A couple of NPP personalities were physically assaulted by thugs he had personally recruited in the full glare of police and other national security operatives. Persons perceived to be non-Gas were also harassed and prevented from exercising their civic obligation. And furthermore Gbevlo Lartey’s National Security is an appendage of the National Democratic Congress. Ghanaians are demanding an impartial, independent investigator.

It must be recalled that Mr. Kennedy Agyepong was arrested and charged to court for purportedly making a genocidal statement which was interpreted by his detractors as a declaration of civil war. Legally his was hate speech, which is allowable under Ghana’s constitution. Kennedy Agyepong did not have the capacity then nor does he have the capacity now to cause civil war in Ghana but he is on bail pending court appearance.

The government under late President John Mills did not do anything to address the issues of violence against political opponents and selective justice. President Mahama who was chairman of the Police Council did nothing either. Is there any guarantee that he cares now to seek for fairness in the administration of justice? What can he do to right the wrongs in the past for which his NDC is known?

On his ‘thank-you’ rounds, he never stopped promising peace during the elections. But he never said anything about correcting the wrongs of the immediate past committed by his party either.

When Kufuor said the conduct of Kennedy Agyepong’s case was like killing a fly with a sledge hammer, Mahama replied “we shall kill a fly with a bulldozer.”

Obviously the ominous threats on the tape admitted by Boateng Gyan are not worth President Mahama’s attention because those threats are smaller than a fly.

One would wish to conclude that election years in Ghana usually see overheated political climates, but this year is different. The Electoral Commissioner and the ruling party who have the primary responsibility to see to peaceful elections are all implicated one way or the other. It started from 2009 through the biometric registration exercise and has never abated.

But the world is watching. Ghana has achieved a reputation as a beacon of democracy in Africa. Dr. Afari Gyan enjoys the accolade as one heck of an electoral commissioner on the continent. Is it worth standing on constitutionality to commit a disruption that could have been forestalled with a stroke of pen? And would Mr. Mahama in these few months of his presidency want to play Nero?


Posted by on Sep 17 2012. Filed under Features. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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