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New voters register with ‘new law’ less than 6 months to elections breaches ECOWAS protocol – Bombande to Parliament



New voters register with 'new law' less than 6 months to elections breaches ECOWAS protocol - Bombande to Parliament 1

Ghana may breach the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) protocol on elections, if it goes ahead to procure new voters register under a new law less than six months to the December 7, 2020 elections, according to conflict resolution and peace building expert, Mr Emmanuel Habuka Bombande.

Explaining, Mr Bombande made a specific reference to the protocol on democracy and good governance (ECOWAS Protocol A/SP1/12/01).

This is the supplementary protocol to the main ECOWAS mechanism for conflict resolution, peacekeeping and security.

It basically underscores that no new substantial modification shall be made to the electoral laws in the last six (6) months before elections, except with the consent of a majority of political actors.

This Protocol states under Elections in Section II, Article 2 (1). “No substantial modification shall be made to the electoral laws in the last six (6) months before the elections, except with the consent of a majority of political actors.”

Speaking in a radio interview with Accra based Class FM, which was monitored by Graphic Online last Thursday, Mr Bombande noted that because it was less than six months to elections [December 7, 2020], and “because there is no consent from the other political actors, to now go ahead and allow a Constitutional Instrument  (C.I.) to mature into law, whereas it would be the legal procedure in our laws, it will be a violation of the [ECOWAS] treaty that we [Ghanaians] are bound by.”

The comments of the former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration in the President John Dramani Mahama’s administration followed an earlier comment he wrote and published on Facebook on June 3, 2020, on the issue.

“Keep in mind, we [Ghana] are a key member of the ECOWAS community and so the implications then would be huge in terms of not only what reverberates in our country but also across the region,” he said in the Class FM radio interview.

“The EC is asking for us to totally put aside and discard the voters register as we know it up to now, and re-configure completely a new voters register, which then will have serious consequences on the voting that will happen on 7th December because, some people might not be able to vote on the principle that they were not able to register and the reason for that will be because, they either don’t have a Ghana Card, or they don’t have a passport.”

“Now even without a petition, ECOWAS, I believe will remind Ghana, that you cannot do what you are proposing to do, especially if the tensions continue, because there is no consent, and ECOWAS then is monitoring every day, and begins to feel that the elections in December are likely going to have repercussions that we can describe as violent, as in the frame of prevention, which is then provided in the protocol on democracy and good governance, ECOWAS will definitely draw attention.”

“And keep in mind that before any elections there are normally what we call the advanced ECOWAS mission for monitoring of those elections but because we are in the Covid period {Coronavirus] and travel restrictions are still in place, you probably have not seen that happening yet, but it will definitely happen because, not only is it within the remit of a protocol that is being breached, but it’s also within the purview of where Ghana sits and stands in the ECOWAS community, because if Ghana goes down, it means it is going to be a huge setback for the entire West African sub-region,” he added.

Commenting on whether or not in relation to the consent of all political actors made reference to in the protocol, and the fact that the EC in Ghana have been consulting with all political actors on its move on the new register and that on January 10, 2020 for instance, the EC held an Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) meeting together with an Eminent Committee it formed on the issue, Mr Bombande argued that at that meeting, it was not made clear that the existing voter ID would be excluded as a source document for the new register.

When he was also prompted that at that meeting a majority of members from that meeting agreed on the need for a new voters register and pointed to the number of 13 political parties being, a majority supporting the new register, Mr Bombande said:

“Let me not go into the discussions about the credentials of the political parties referred to because that will be politics. I want us to stay above politics.”

“At the meeting you referred to, the EC did not indicate to this Eminent Advisory Committee that the voters register as we have it now would be excluded as a major document of identity if a new voter’s register were to commence.”

“So the principle of agreeing to a voters register at that time, did not also tell the people of Ghana that, your voters register, which you have, and I’m talking about the voters registration card, will become an illegal document by the time that the registration starts and that for me, marks of insincerity.”

“And that is why we have to move out of this type of acrimony and suspicion that includes the type of misleading processes, hopefully with the view that we can arrive at solving problems… people now have become concerned that we are not transparent enough and we are not capable of building the consensus on the basis of the principles of integrity.

“So if I were to make that summary, once the issue of the documents of identification emerge, we should have then gone back to build consensus on how that means in terms of Ghanaians who are entitled, keep in mind, the political and civil rights to vote, is a human right, so that if now we are preparing to start the voters register, and the consequence of the documents that will be used to register to vote will now disenfranchise, and we are not prepared to talk about it and find a common resolution based on principle, then it reinforces why the ECOWAS protocol in the first place was a very important treaty so that we are able to prevent conflicts from happening.”

“That, we do not have a situation in which towards the end of preparations for an election, we begin to see new elements that inform the preparation that will not be commensurate with the agreed principles that we [Ghana] are part of and we are a key contributor that now violates peoples basic rights and now becomes in my view dangerous ground, that could now impact negatively on the credibility and the peacefulness of an election.

What Parliament should do

Mr Bombande said Parliament has an opportunity to look at the C.I. before the House and make sure that it is aligned with the ECOWAS protocol.

“And so our laws at the national level, should not violate that law, that treaty at the regional level. But the emphasis on that treaty is that we collectively agreed on convergence criteria that led to a sub-regional declaration of political principles that the whole of West Africa, made up of the 15 member states will always engage collectively when it comes to the major convergence criteria of political engagement and standards.”

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