EC, judiciary and police not promoting good democracy enough in Ghana – LINSOD alleges

In a statement prepared by Lawyers in Search of Democracy (LINSOD) for a public lecture organized by “Care for Free and Fair Elections – Ghana” on the occasion of International Democracy Day on Friday, September 15, 2023, LINSOD alleges that by some of their conduct, the Electoral Commission, the judiciary, and the Police are not promoting good democratic practice enough in the country.

The statement advises Ghanaians not to be deceived by anything to the contrary, which they shall hear from these state institutions. The statement urges the named institutions to change some of their attitudes if they want the people of Ghana to believe that the institutions are actually interested in good democratic practice in the nation, and want democracy to thrive.

Below is the full statement:

STATEMENT OF LAWYERS IN SEARCH OF DEMOCRACY (LINSOD)

ON THE OCCASION OF A PUBLIC LECTURE ORGANIZED BY “CARE – GHANA”

TO MARK INTERNATIONAL DAY OF DEMOCRACY

Necessary Protocols:

On behalf of “Lawyers in Search of Democracy (LINSOD),” I wish to express our gratitude to the organizers of this event – “Care for Free and Fair Elections Ghana” for inviting us to this function, not only as observers but to also make a statement. The occasion is “International Democracy Day,” and the theme is “Unpacking Ghana’s Democracy to Consolidate the Gains.” This occasion is all about democracy, which is a government by the people or by their elected representatives. For democracy to thrive there must be free and fair elections, and elected officials must rule by law.

The question is whether we are practising true democracy in Ghana. How are we faring? If our governments and state institutions do not allow our Constitution and laws to work effectively, our democracy shall remain a joke. Presently in Ghana, there is a limited voter registration exercise ongoing at the district offices of the Electoral Commission, thereby leaving out a huge expected number of qualified voters in areas that are very far from the registration centres. All the political parties in the country with the exception of the ruling New Patriotic Party have complained, protested to the EC, and filed an action in court against the EC for refusing to take the exercise closer to expected registrants. And yet, the EC is adamant and continues to act with impunity.

Article 42 of the 1992 Constitution gives the right to every citizen of Ghana, who is above 18 years, and of sound mind to register as a voter if the person so desires. Article 45 of the Constitution mandates the Electoral Commission to compile the register of voters and undertake programs to expand the register periodically to give ample opportunity to all qualified voters to register. The Electoral Commission’s own Constitutional Instrument, C. I. 91 as amended by C. I. 126 requires of the Commission to designate voter registration centres in a manner that shall be suitable and accessible to potential registrants to be able to register freely and easily.

By its decision to confine the limited registration to only its district offices, it is clear that the Electoral Commission is acting in contravention of the 1992 Constitution and its own C. I. 91, and acting to disenfranchise a large number of otherwise qualified Ghanaian citizens. This is voter suppression. All opposition political parties have complained and filed a suit at the Supreme Court of Ghana. Many prominent Ghanaians including Chiefs have also complained and cautioned the Electoral Commission in vain. Some individuals have brought human rights actions against the Commission in the high courts of the country. But in all of these, the Commission remains unbothered.

The Commission is wrongly hiding under Article 46 of the 1992 Constitution to act in any manner that the chairperson and other Commissioners like. The Commission is therefore lawlessly evading the service of court processes with overbearing pride. The judiciary, and particularly, the Supreme Court, which in this case, appears to be the only institution Ghanaians have some hope in to call the Electoral Commission to order and compel it to respect our Constitution and laws, does not appear to consider the cry of the people as urgent, and perhaps necessary, enough to act swiftly. The Court has strangely given a date in October to hear an application for an injunction against the Commission. By the date given, Oct. 17th, the Commission will have long completed the exercise which the application intends to injunct. Who does that?

In these circumstances, we cannot say the Electoral Commission and the judiciary are helping to promote democracy in Ghana. If the Electoral Commission shall require of Ghanaians to present only a Ghana Card as identification of citizenship in order to register as a voter, although the Commission knows too well that the Ghana Card has not been issued to every Ghanaian, and the Commission knows also that there are other ways to determine the citizenship of Ghanaians than the use of Ghana Card alone, then the Electoral Commission is obviously not promoting democracy in Ghana. Ghanaians must not be misled if we hear anything to the contrary.

If we must believe that the Electoral Commission is indeed, interested in promoting democracy in Ghana, then the Commission must desist from acting with impunity if the people of Ghana complain about some of their decisions and activities. The Commission must be prepared always to act in the best interest of the people. If the judiciary wants citizens to believe that it is interested in seeing Ghana’s democratic practice develop, the courts must conduct themselves objectively for people to have confidence in them, and not see their judgments as always in favour of the government. The Supreme Court, for instance, must always leave a window open during a legal vacation to attend to urgent constitutional matters, such as the present one against the Electoral Commission.

For democracy in Ghana to thrive, state security agencies must perform their duties fairly and objectively for and towards all citizens and political parties without bias. They must allow citizens to enjoy their rights, which are enshrined in the Constitution freely without intimidation and being brutalized. In the 2020 general elections, eight innocent citizens were murdered in cold blood. Many of these murders were believed to have been carried out by the Military, or people in military uniforms, which were deployed in the 2020 elections. The police were unable to protect the unfortunate victims, whose only fault was their strong desire to participate keenly in the elections. Three years down the line, nobody has been arrested or held accountable for these crimes.

The use, very often, of the Public Order Act, 1994 (Act 941) by the police to change the routes of intended demonstrations of citizens, or stop such demonstrations entirely, is draconian, and an infringement on the fundamental rights of citizens. We are seeing this happen presently in the intended demonstration against the Governor of the Bank of Ghana and his deputies when the police are doing everything possible to frustrate the demonstration. Also recently, we heard some senior police officers on tape, discussing the possibility of getting the Inspector General of Police sacked in order to have a new one appointed, who shall ensure that the ruling New Patriotic Party retains political power in the 2024 general elections. A police service, characterized by these activities, and with the heavy perception of being in bed with, and doing the bidding of, the ruling political party cannot claim to be working in support of democracy in Ghana, and we must not be deceived.

Mr. Chairman, in concluding my short statement, may I commend “Care – Ghana” for the wonderful role it is playing in our democracy. The organization of this event is an ample illustration of its determination to support Ghana’s democratic practice. I wish to equally commend other CSOs, which are playing similar roles to make our governance system work better. I would like to encourage all of these CSOs to move beyond the organization of public talk shows and begin to institute court actions against government and state institutions to challenge any undemocratic practice and abuse of citizens’ rights whenever necessary. We must not leave this to political parties only. In recent years, it is only the NDC or its members that have been embarking on these challenges, and this is not very healthy for our forward march.

On this note, I wish to thank Care-Ghana again for the opportunity given to LINSOD to make this statement, and I thank all of you for listening. I pledge the support of LINSOD in any future collaboration towards our common objective to promote and sustain our democracy.

Source: Ghana Web