Pressure Group, Care For Free and Fair Elections Ghana (Care Ghana) has blamed the Electoral Commission for the incidents of intimidation which have characterised the ongoing voter registration exercise being held around the country.
The exercise began on Tuesday, 30 June 2020 and scheduled to end on Thursday, 6 August 2020.
The exercise has, however, been marred by reports of intimation at certain registration centres.
Mr Johnson Asiedu Nketia, General Secretary of the biggest opposition party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), was captured in a video engaging some armed soldiers at Banda in the Bono Region in an argument over allegations that personnel of the Ghana Armed Forces were preventing eligible voters in the area from registering in the ongoing voter registration exercise.
A furious Asiedu Nketia is seen in the video arguing with the soldiers over the matter.
This came a day after the flag bearer of the NDC, former President John Mahama, posted a similar video on his Facebook wall along with allegations that President Nana Akufo-Addo is using the army to prevent Ewes and non-Akans from taking part in the registration exercise.
In a statement on Saturday, 1 August 2020, Mr Mahama said: “This is not the Ghana our forebears toiled for and built!”
“Each and every successive President”, he noted, “left a peaceful, stable and united country”.
However, he observed, “The road President Akufo-Addo is taking our beautiful country through, using the military and party thugs to stop people from exercising their right to register and vote in the upcoming December elections, is dangerous and unacceptable”.
The Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) has however said it deployed military personnel to Banda to enforce a “REGSEC-brokered Agreement.”
Explaining the presence of the military in a statement, however, GAF said: “On 30th July 2020, the Bono Regional Security Council met representatives of the two main political parties – NPP and NDC – to deliberate on the peaceful conduct of the registration exercise. This was in the wake of the disturbances that resulted in the unfortunate demise of one person”.
The agreement, signed by Mr Joe Danquah (NPP) and Ahmed Ibrahim (NDC MP – Banda) and witnessed by the Regional Minister, stated as follows: “We, the undersigned agreed today to maintain peace in the Banda District during the remaining days of the voter registration exercise and after, until the end of the 2020 General Elections in December 2020.”
It stated the details of the agreement as follows: “That the REGSEC will give the necessary security to the Banda Constituency and the entire region, before, during and after the process of the 7th December Election”.
Also, it said the REGSEC and the Electoral Commission and other stakeholders should meet the chiefs to determine the boundaries of Banda and the two parliamentary candidates (Mr. Joe Danquah and Ahmed Ibrahim, MP) should stop bussing people to the registration centres, if, indeed, they were ordinary residents; they should go there on their own volition.
It also agreed that: “Political parties should educate their agents at the registration centres to fill challenge forms in challenging people whose citizenship or residency they doubted. That no physical violence should be used in preventing people from registering” and “that the two candidates should pledge their support to ensure peace in the constituency by signing the peace agreement offered by REGSEC.”
GAF continued that the “security agencies were, therefore, available to support the REGSEC-brokered agreement.”
It further continued that: “No specific ethnic group was targeted in this regard” and, thus, called on the public to be duly “informed of these developments.”
However, reacting to the incidents in a statement signed by its Executive Secretary David Kumi Addo, Care Ghana said on Wednesday, 5 August 2020 that: “The Electoral Commission (EC) should be held accountable for the intimidation characterising the ongoing registration exercise in the Banda constituency. The EC’s inability to create a registration centre and its refusal to dispatch mobile registration kits to the communities along the lake in Banda account for the confusion we are experiencing in the area.”
According to the group: “The Electoral Commission is mandated to create easy access for all eligible Ghanaian voters to register and participate in all public elections, hence the need to provide polling centres in every community with a population of, at least 800. It is very surprising that even though the population in the communities along the lake in Banda in the Bono Region is over 23,407, the EC has not considered it relevant to provide a registration centre in that community.
“Owing to this, members of these communities, who are predominantly Ewes, travel in buses and trucks to nearby communities to register. According to Okogyeadie Nana Boankoadi, a chief in Banda, these are Ewe fisherfolk, who settled in the area as far back 1919 even before his great-grandparents were born.”
“Therefore, what prevents the EC from allocating registration centres in these communities to enable these Ghanaian citizens to participate in the registration exercise and subsequently, vote in the upcoming general elections?”
It said the “failure by the EC to comply with its mandate to ensure that it provides unfettered opportunity for every Ghanaian citizen willing to vote, occasioned the needless and unnecessary confusion in the Banda constituency.”
It urged the “EC to, as a matter of urgency, dispatch its mobile registration kits to the Ewe communities along the river banks in the constituency to curb the mass movement of people and promote a peaceful cohesion.”
It further indicated that: “The unprovoked, needless and unwarranted action by the Ghana Armed Forces and the national security forces is not useful to the development of our fledgeling democracy. To physically prevent any Ghanaian from exercising his or her constitutional right is an attempt to undermine the 1992 Constitution.”
“We condemn it in uncertain terms and demand an unqualified apology to the Ewe communities in Banda in the Bono Region and the entire country.”
It also called on the country’s “security officers to rather protect the citizenry and not intimidate or threaten the lives of the people whose taxes pay them.”
Care Ghana also advised the EC “to immediately allocate registration centres or dispatch its mobile registration kits to the area to enable these Ghanaian citizens to register and participate in the 7th December, 2020 general elections.”