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STATEMENT ON THE CONDUCT OF REFERENDA ON THE CREATION OF SIX NEW REGIONS AND MATTERS ARISING: DELIVERED BY COMRADE PETER BOAMAH OTOKUNOR, DEPUTY GENERAL SECRETARY OF THE NDC ON BEHALF OF COMRADE JOHNSON ASIEDU NKETIAH, THE GENERAL SECRETARY OF THE NDC. READ ON THURSDAY, 3RD JANUARY, 2019 AT THE INTERNATIONAL PRESS CENTRE
Ladies and Gentlemen of the press, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Representatives of Civil Society Groups,
On behalf of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), I extend to you New Year greetings. It is our hope that we will in the coming years deepen our bonds of cooperation for the good of Ghana.
The purpose of this press conference is to share with you some concerns over the conduct of the just-ended referenda on the creation of six new regions, some of which are already in the public domain.
Let me state from the onset that in the NDC 2016 manifesto, we made a pledge to create five additional regions as part of our commitment to ensuring equitable development of all parts of the country. Though the NDC was denied the people’s mandate, we persisted in the commitment by making available a trove of our party’s resources to support the referenda.
Be that as it may, we respect the central principle which guided the need for the referenda.
We congratulate all our brothers and sisters from the Oti, North East, Savannah, Ahafo, Bono East and Western North regions on attaining regional status. We urge government to prioritize the needs of the newly created regions to give practical meaning to the outcome of the referenda
Ladies and gentlemen.
Had we won the 2016 elections, we would have taken the necessary steps towards achieving that objective of creating the five regions as indicated in our manifesto. We would have done so in full compliance with the law and with fairness and transparency as the guiding principles.
We believe earnestly that the processes leading up to such an exercise must comply with acceptable standards and referenda held for that purpose, must also be in conformity with democratic and legal tenets.
In this respect, we have been extremely alarmed at the brazen violation of our electoral laws and the general vandalization of due process and the principle of fairness that should govern the conduct of any credible election.
We have been particularly shocked at the level of incompetence and dereliction of duty exhibited by the Electoral Commission under the leadership of Jean Mensah in the conduct of the just ended referenda. Compelling evidence has emerged showing clear electoral malpractices and shocking abuse of the process with the active participation and involvement of Election officials.
Many Ghanaians have seen the viral video footage showing multiple voting by Electoral Commission officials themselves and others obviously recruited for the purpose. It is unthinkable that persons in whom we have reposed our trust and confidence-the very stewards of our democracy- would act in ways that bring the whole exercise into disrepute and undermine the public trust in the electoral process.
In addition to the video footage and several reports of wrongdoing by the EC during the conduct of the polls, we have noted a report by the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO) in which they highlight grave violations of our electoral laws.
The CODEO report confirms reports of voter turn-out which can only be described as incredulous.
In some instances, turn-out was as high as 99.7%, which is most unlikely in any election in
Ghana. This is the sort of turn-out one would expect to see in elections held in banana
republics or under brutal dictators, not one held in a democratic state like Ghana.
CODEO also highlighted abnormal use of manual verification, sometimes as high as 58% of all voters at a polling station.
The Ghana Journalist Association has on its part, bitterly complained about the prevention of their members from observing the collation of results in the Oti Region referendum. We are even more appalled by statement of the Volta Regional Police Commander warning Journalists to stay away from the voting because he could not guarantee their safety. This decision by the Police institution which is expected to provide a peaceful environment for Ghanaians to go about their lawful duties is a disgrace to our democracy.
It appears to be a dress rehearsal by the Akufo-Addo government aided by the EC to manipulate voting processes for future elections for a pre-determined outcome outside of the true will of the people.
Taken together, these events make the just ended referenda, the most shambolic elections in Ghana’s recent history.
Coming on the heels of the most successful and efficient elections held in 2016, it highlights the gulf in competence, capacity and conscience between the past and current leadership of the Electoral Commission.
These events cast a deep shadow over the level of trust that should be placed in the Jean Mensah led Electoral Commission. Jean Mensah as Chairperson of the Electoral Commission and her deputies especially Dr. Eric Bossman Asare have completely bungled their first assignment in their indecent haste to impress President Akufo-Addo.
Undoubtedly, the conduct of the Electoral Commission leaves one with the impression Jean Mensah and her Deputies consider themselves NPP appointees with the same mandate as others appointed by the President and appear prepared to carry out his wishes.
They appear to have found themselves obliged to deliver mouth-watering results, irrespective of the need to ensure that lawful means and processes are used to conduct any such polls.
In return, the President has also not missed the opportunity, to sweep the glaring instances of electoral malpractices under the carpet with a hasty and unnecessary statement commending the Electoral Commission and claiming that they had “passed the first test”.
This was obviously done deliberately to draw the attention of the public away from the worrying issues CODEO and other observers had witnessed during the conduct of the poll. It was also aimed at tying the hands of investigative bodies who may be called upon to look into the various infractions.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
For a man who held the country to ransom with a frivolous election petition after he had been thoroughly and resoundingly defeated in the 2012 elections, it is utterly hypocritical that President Akufo-Addo now seeks to use his office to hide gross violations of the law during the conduct of the just-ended polls.
While his petition was being heard at the Supreme Court in 2013, Jean Mensah, then Executive Director of the IEA, organized a forum on the theme; “A Review of Ghana’s Electoral System’’ at the Capital View Hotel in Koforidua. In her invitation letters she observed that;
“Ghana conducted relatively peaceful, free and fair elections in 2012.
However, there were several irregularities that marred the beauty of the nation’s efforts to consolidate her democratic gains through elections. The introduction of Biometric Verification Machines to authenticate the identity of voters proved ineffective in many polling stations.
Besides, there were several reported cases of electoral irregularities including the blatant disregard for the rule; that one cannot vote without being first verified, over-voting, discrepancies between figures and letters of recorded votes etc.”
It is an irony that the same Jean Mensah who saw the above as worrisome in respect of the outcome of the 2012 elections is satisfied with her performance in her new role as EC Chair, as far as this referendum is concerned.
It is a matter of public record that Jean Mensah’s IEA led calls and recommended that the appointment of a EC boss should be made by the President with two thirds majority approval of parliament. She argued with colleagues that the current manner of appointment enabled the president make appointments not by merit but by political loyalty.
It is also instructive to note, that Jean Mensah replaced a woman who at different times received the US Embassy’s Women of Courage Award in 2017 and was described by the US Ambassador to Ghana, Robert P. Jackson as one the most competent women ever.
The conduct of the President is very much in keeping with his extremely partisan stance on national affairs and his tendency to govern the country like a monarch instead of a democratically elected President who is accountable to the people.
Once again, he has constituted himself into a one man investigative and adjudicating body and purported to clear officials of wrongdoing despite glaring evidence to the contrary.
We note that, following the overwhelming evidence of voting malpractices, the Electoral Commission, rather belatedly, issued a statement claiming to have asked the Police CID to conduct investigations into the matter.
This supposed investigation and its outcome, if even sincere, have been pre-empted by the President’s premature praise of the Electoral Process. We are unable to see how the Police CID, headed by a woman appointed by the President under controversial circumstances, would ever carry out investigations whose outcome can run contrary to the stated position of the President.
There is precedent for this in the infamous A-Plus vs Asenso-Boakye, Abu Jinapor case.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The fraudulent conduct of the poll by the Electoral Commission further strengthens our position about the unsuitability of Jean Mensah as Chairperson of the Electoral Commission. As noted in our statement following her appointment, she had displayed far too much bias towards the NPP in her previous role as Executive Director of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), to be deemed neutral enough for the sensitive position she now occupies.
Such has been Jean Mensah’s devotion to the NPP, that as Executive Director of the IEA, she pulled a report on campaign expenditure by political parties in the 2008 elections which was critical of the NPP in order to save the party’s blushes.
This brought the credibility of the IEA into question after the Ghana News Agency, which published the report proved that it had indeed been removed from the IEA website.
As EC Chair, she has not found in necessary to shed the partisan garb and consider herself the occupant of an independent office. Instead, Jean Mensah openly flaunts her ties with the NPP appointees in a manner she will never do with NDC officials.
Jean Mensah recently attended events held for NPP appointees and carried herself like one of them. The videos of Jean Mensah at lavish parties, wining and dining with NPP members and appointees of the President is a clear manifestation that she is tied to the apron strings of President Akufo-Addo’s government.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Neutrality and impartiality are vital prerequisites for any Electoral Commission Chair and the failure of Jean Mensah to adhere to these, poses a grave threat to the sustenance of our democracy.
Jean Mensah’s conduct confirms our deeply-held belief that both Executive and Judicial powers were abused, to remove the former Chair of the EC at the behest of President Akufo-Addo, in order to install an NPP operative at the Commission to further his interests.
The abysmal and fraudulent conduct of the referenda clearly vindicates our position. This represents a clear and present danger for the future of this country especially as the 2020 elections approach.
The non-partisan nature of the referenda and the convergence of interests in the creation of the regions may have limited and tampered the response of various stakeholders to the manipulation and fraud by EC officials.
It goes without mention, that if such incidents were to be repeated in the 2020 polls, it would result in total chaos and anarchy from which our country may not recover, given the very high stakes that would be at play.
The partisan posturing and glaring incompetence of Jean Mensah and the current leadership of the Electoral Commission leads us to believe that, left unchecked ,the EC will operate as an appendage of the Executive led by President Akufo-Addo who has actively sought to populate independent arms of government with relatives and partisan elements in order to totally capture the state for his political benefit.
We wish to make clear and draw the attention of all concerned, including those in the diplomatic community and our development partners, that we in the NDC will not allow or permit the manipulation of the processes leading to the 2020 elections.
Pursuant to this, we wish to state our position on two subjects which are critical to the holding of peaceful, free and transparent elections in 2020.
1.GHANA CARD AND NEW VOTER’S REGISTER
The National Identification Authority has failed to heed calls from well-meaning segments of society to include the voters ID card in the list of identification materials for registration in the National Registration Exercise.
Here too, President Akufo Addo has shown his hand as the driving force behind the move by robustly defending the unreasonable decision of the Ken Attafuah led NIA, not to accept voter ID cards as means of registration.
Yet, the same ID cards qualified voters, to vote in the just-ended referenda he called.
The President’s haste to give himself unfair advantage in impending elections, has led him to unwittingly question his own legitimacy.
He has claimed that a lot of foreigners have voter ID cards, hence the decision not to accept it. In one breath, he holds himself out as President of Ghana, voted for by persons who used the same Voter ID cards to cast their votes. In another breath, he brands these same voters as foreigners, who are unfit to be registered as Ghanaians.
We are fully aware that this illogical and bizarre position taken by President Akufo-Addo is aimed at voter suppression in the Volta Region and other strongholds of the NDC where passports and birth certificates are not widespread, while using state resources at his disposal to facilitate the acquisition of passports and birth certificates for people in NPP strongholds to register.
The President obviously intends to instruct the Electoral Commission to compile a new voters’ register for the 2020 elections in which he hopes to see reduced numbers in NDC strongholds.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We wish to serve notice to Jean Mensah and her lieutenants especially Dr. Bossman Asare at the Electoral Commission; that the National Democratic Congress (NDC) will not accept any new electoral register compiled based on the Ghana Card which excludes voter ID cards as a means of identification or registration.
If EC Chair once again sees herself as an NPP appointee and feels obliged to act in accordance with the President’s wishes, she would bear full responsibility for any consequences thereof.
The NDC is currently holding consultations on the way forward for our members in relation to the ongoing Ghana Card registration and we would be issuing directives in that regard in the coming days.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the NDC is represented on the Advisory Committee on ROPAA set up by the Electoral Commission to work out modalities for its implementation. There are several issues he will clearly articulate during the committee’s deliberations.
We however, for the avoidance of doubt, wish to make public one of those positions.
As far as the NDC is concerned, if ever ROPAA is implemented, it should be on an ‘everywhere or nowhere’ principle. In other words, every Ghanaian living everywhere on earth must be afforded the opportunity to vote in the national elections.
If President Akufo-Addo and the Electoral Commission perceive this as an opportunity to let only persons living in places where NPP supporters dominate to vote, in order to swing elections in the NPP’s favour, then they are grossly mistaken.
Despite the overwhelming popularity of the creation of the six new regions, the referenda held for the purpose, fell far below acceptable democratic standards due to incompetence and or deliberate manipulation of the Electoral Commission.
This has raised enough red flags about the prospects of the 2020 polls and the incredible danger we are in as a people if remedial measures are not taken immediately.
The NDC on its part will be actively engaged in policing all the steps leading up to the next general elections and will not countenance any opaque and lopsided arrangements that seek to give advantage to the incumbent party.
We wish to notify President Akufo-Addo that we will not allow him to use administrative measures, violence, intimidation, voter suppression and electoral malpractices to entrench himself in power against the will of the people.
Every activity of the Electoral Commission and other state agencies, whose activities will impact the 2020 General elections, will be carefully and meticulously scrutinized to ensure that only the will of the people reigns supreme.
We urge the international community, the diplomatic community, civil society, moral society, the media and Ghanaians as a whole, to take keen interest in the work of the Electoral Commission and other agencies, so as to ensure that due process and lawful means are used to conduct all elections in Ghana.
The abysmal conduct of the just ended referenda does not inspire hope and we all need to put our shoulders to the wheel to ensure that integrity and competence are restored to the organization of elections in Ghana.
Our democracy cannot survive in a climate of manipulated elections just like the sort we witnessed on 27th December, 2018 and never should we allow a recurrence.
To Jean Mensah and the leadership of Ghana’s Electoral Commission, they must appreciate that their office is an independent one and not an extension of the Akufo-Addo led government. That fact that, the President wants a certain outcome to dovetail into his political agenda, is no reason why basic rules governing elections must be cast aside.
Evidence in the form of video footages, snapshot photos, eyewitness accounts, and official records from election observers including CODEO relating to the just ended referenda has called into question, the credibility, impartiality, competence, and capability of the current leadership of the Electoral Commission, to conduct and supervise free, fair and transparent election in Ghana.
The NDC wishes to emphasize that the Jean Mensah led Electoral Commission is a looming disaster with the potential to reverse all our nation’s democratic gains.
Ghana cannot afford the price of a partial and incompetent Electoral Commission, and the NDC will continue to do everything possible to safeguard the independence and transparency of our state institutions.
We wish, on account of the incompetence displayed the EC, evidence of electoral infractions perpetuated in the referenda, the direct involvement of electoral officials in the massive electoral fraud, to indicate that we will follow closely the performance of the new leadership of the commission in subsequent elections including the District Assembly Elections. A repeat of this shambolic display will leave us no choice than to demand for the resignation of Jean Mensah and her team.
Meanwhile, we hereby as a matter of urgency, demand an immediate independent inquiry into the fraudulent conduct of the referenda to restore confidence in Ghana’s electoral process.
Jean Mensah and her Deputies have failed this first test in the processes leading to, as well as, the conduct of the referenda. All Ghanaians must be concerned about this situation and demand the highest standards of performance from those put in charge of election management.
To President Akufo-Addo, we wish to state, that his stay in office or otherwise, will only be determined by the true will of the people of Ghana and not through manipulation of any election. We stand prepared to defend our democracy and we ask all and sundry especially our progressive friends to join us in that endeavor.
We thank you for your attention,
We wish you a Happy New year once again,
May God bless our homeland Ghana and make our nation great and strong again.