ENSURING A VIOLENT FREE ELECTION
Dear Interior Minister,
With less than two weeks to election 2012, many Ghanaians are deeply concerned about the lack of clear cut transparent election security plans that will assure us of the peace we all so ardently desire. A crescendo of voices rising from religious bodies, non-governmental organisations, traditional rulers, academics, students, businesspeople, professionals, workers and others throughout Ghana are demanding peace from political parties participating in this years’ Presidential and Parliamentary Elections.
In response, many parties have pledged their commitment to peaceful, violence free elections. The New Patriotic Party’s commitment to a peaceful election is unshakeable and unambiguous. It is worthy to note however, that primary responsibility for ensuring and sustaining the peace before, during and after the election is primarily an internal security matter within the constitutional mandate of the Ghana Police Service.
It is in that context that the NPP deems it necessary to state unequivocally that the entire country’s consistent and constant calls for peace depend on demonstrably fair and impartial policing of the electoral processes before, during and after December 7, 2012.
The traditional role of the Police in election 2012 has become even more crucial in the light of the Electoral Commission’s reaction to alleged security infractions that may have contributed significantly to tilting the scales in some voting areas in the 2008 Presidential and Parliamentary elections. When provided copious evidence of electoral violence consistent with an agenda to deprive NPP polling agents and monitors of access to certain polling stations in a region declared virtually ‘no go’ for the NPP, the Electoral Commissioner maintained that vote validity from his perspective did not include an evaluation of potential criminal violence.
Needless to say, this statement literally construed could mean getting the vote onto the Electoral Commission’s desk in any way possible. Coming from a political culture where not so long ago, the mere sight of a security uniform could send shivers of fear through entire communities, complicated by a sense of regime security where the security services appear unwilling to police the governing party, there is a growing sense of alarm that the NDC is planning and preparing to execute measures to maximise their votes and minimise that of their opponents, especially the NPP through any means, foul means not excepted.
Most of the NDC diabolical plans that were rumoured to happen during the registration period in Ashanti and the Brong Ahafo regions indeed happened. Today, it is again rumoured that the Ashanti, the Eastern, and the Brong Ahafo regions, perceived to be the traditional strongholds of the NPP, would be subjected to all kinds of violence, intimidation, harassment and electoral manipulations, including cutting off electricity supply, shortage of voting materials and supplies, late start of voting, and other administrative delays, all calculated to reduce voter turnout in these regions on election day.
Judging by the accuracy of the rumours in respect of the voter registration, every peace loving Ghanaian must take these rumours seriously and demand of the Ministry of Interior that they do not happen. Given the Electoral Commission’s position that it will accept and tally results irrespective of how the numbers are procured, it is imperative that the Police hierarchy assures all Ghanaians that it is not only up to the task of providing a fear free election but that it is prepared to also clamp down hard on any acts aimed at marring the beauty of the democratic electoral process, no matter the source of the potential disturbance.
Unfortunately, that appears not to be the case so far. In Akwatia, NDC tugs masquerading as Jihadists unleashed mayhem on their political opponents and destroyed personal property in broad daylight in the presence of hundreds of Police Officers who did not act to maintain the lawful peace because the goons belonged to the ruling Party, the NDC. Similarly, in Chereponi, an armed man caught on national television shooting at NPP supporters who was arrested and sent to the Police Station has had no charges pressed or any action taken against him. Again, in the Atiwa Constituency bye-election, the NDC National Women’s Organizer deliberately drove her vehicle through a crowd of NPP supporters, injuring several people who were hospitalised for several months. She was neither arrested nor prosecuted.
The registration exercise witnessed massive acts of unprovoked violence. In Greater Accra, NDC party activists roamed the streets of Odododiodio constituency with impunity, brandishing machetes and other offensive weapons, in the presence of the Police and intimidating people and disrupting the registration process, ultimately assaulting an NPP Parliamentary Candidate. All this happened in broad day light, and yet no one was apprehended, arrested, or prosecuted. Similar acts of violence, intimidation and harassments were also recorded at Trobo Amasaman, Krowor, Klottey Korle, and Dome Kwabenya in the Greater Accra region.
In the Ashanti Region, out of thirty nine constituencies, ten recorded episodes of violence, intimidation and harassments over the registration period. In Brong Ahafo, twelve constituencies out of the twenty four constituencies recorded various forms of violent incidents. Similar acts of violence and intimidation were recorded in the Volta, Eastern and the Northern regions. Most of these attacks against NPP supporters were duly reported to the police but not a single case was vigorously investigated, and prosecuted.
The Biometric Registration exercise gave many opportunities for the Police to test their readiness. Unfortunately, events then gave very little reason to grow confidence in the ability of the Police Service to collectively protect every person and party organisation involved in the election. Too many incidents of too little too late being done about major acts of violence and impunity instigated by identifiable people puts the integrity of the Police on line. Interestingly, whenever a Police Officer in the line of duty has acted impartially, the Police hierarchy have not always given clear backing and affirmed the authority of such Officers. In Tafo-Pankrono, the District Police Commander was in turn commended and then publicly chastised and disowned by the Police hierarchy for taking a bold stance against motor cycle riding macho men whose sole object was the disruption of the registration exercise.
Such is a situation that reflects selective justice. Selective justice is no justice and therefore unbecoming of a desire for peace. Allegations filed by the NDC against the NPP are acted on with alacrity. For example, at Asutifi South, Asunafo South and Tain constituencies in the Brong Ahafo region, NPP Parliamentary Candidates were immediately arrested by the Police when their NDC counterparts filed Police reports alleging registration violations. Several similar incidents of selective justice were recorded in the Ashanti region.
The danger of continued selective application of justice in a volatile political environment of heightened competition, demands that the Police Service rise above the fray, break decisively with the negative culture of politicization of state security agencies and approach the upcoming elections with complete professionalism as the only way to meet the aspirations of public calls for peaceful elections.
It is in that context that this letter is written. The NPP, as a major participant in the election and identifying with the fears and anxieties of millions of Ghanaians, demands sound, impartial and effective policing from now till after the election. The Police Service, in its leadership of electoral security must demonstrate an unshakeable commitment to impartiality and send strong signals that the macho menace will not be tolerated. This will go a long way to ease the fears of Ghanaians and ensure a violence free and fair election.
From media reports, the Police Service appears to have inaugurated election security task forces. The Armed Forces are also reported to be providing some support. What we, as participating political parties are not being told is how the on-going arrangements will assure national security on Election Day even if not before. This statement is because the run in to the Election Day has not been distinguished by confidence boosting policing. Very recently, it was reported that a young man was brutalised, assaulted at Tetteh Quarshie Interchange by several persons associated with the NDC. Upon arriving at the Airport Police Station, an Aide to the President, Mr. Baffoe Bonnie is reported to have driven in and secured the release of the NDC thugs whilst the bleeding victim was locked up for several hours and denied medical attention in spite of strenuous efforts to get him some vital medical care.
Furthermore, every day, reports of violence against NPP supporters from across the country, are received, many of which are reported to the Police but are disregarded. In Sefwi Wiawso of the Western region, NPP supporters at the Sefwi Wiawso Womens Nurses Training College who were attacked during the biometric registration were again beaten mercilessly during the visit of the President to the town on an unproven allegation that one student had thrown water at the President. One of the students had to be evacuated to the Okomfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi. Incidents of unprovoked acts of violence, intimidation, and harassments, and provocations by NDC supporters against NPP supporters have been recorded in Yendi, Nandom, Navrongo, Nadowli/Kaleo, Dafflama/ Busie/Issa, Sissala East and so on.
Increasingly, some constituencies are been declared “no go” areas to the NPP. Asutifi South is one such constituency. As recent as November 9th NPP constiteucy executives, including the Chairman, Oppong Appiah, Organizer, Musa Isaka, and senior member of the Party, Mrs. Cecelia Amaoh, a former Ambassador were attacked for distributing bicycles to NPP supporters without any provocations by tugs led by Abdulai Naba, the brother of Collins Dauda, the Member of Parliament for the constituency and also the Parliamentary Candidate. The tugs seized seven bicycles and destoroyed the instantly. The matter was reported to the Dadieso Aba police station. Like the many others listed above, no arrest has been made.
In the current situation, a significant confidence booster ahead of the election would be a closed door briefing of all the participating political parties. Questions that need to be addressed include the role of the Special Forces, the leadership and authority of Regional and District Security Committees, REGSEC and DISEC respectively, the conduct of security personnel at polling stations and the integrity of the early ballot to be cast by Election Day workers. Again, the situation whereby District Chief Executives and Metropolitan Chief Executives, who may be Parliamentary Candidates in this year’s elections also head the District Security Committee DISEC and the Regional Minister who heads REGSEC, should not be tolerated since these individuals have vested interests in the decisions made by these Committees.
In that regard, best practice during the NPP era, to avoid such conflict of interests, was to enable and empower district and regional police commanders serve as the respective chairmen of the security committees. It is important that the Police Service engage the parties in these matters to enable consensus and assure Ghanaians of Police Service capacity to ensure peaceful, free and fair elections.
Going forward, the NPP believes that the Police Service and indeed, the other security agencies supporting the Election Task Force have as much of a stake in free, fair and peaceful elections as has the entire population. A security posture that advises and adopts a ‘hands off’ approach to the ruling NDC party election machine does not guarantee the peace. Instead, the Police have a chance to proudly deepen institutional credibility and capacity locally and worldwide by putting the law above all persons and party colours. Such an approach can only bring glory as the true choice of the people will be legitimised by the fairness of the election environment which can only be assured by the quality of policing.
Indeed, it may be time to demystify issues bordering on National Security and the Inspector General of Police may have the singular honour and historical recognition of leading the process of inclusive democratic policing of the ballot. The 4th Republican Constitution supports such a process given that the security agencies are under civilian control in a framework that emphasises that the maintenance of National Security is a shared responsibility involving all citizens but spearheaded by the State’s Security Agencies. That is why with less than three weeks to the elections, the NPP is urging the Police hierarchy to invite the major participating parties to at least inform them of broad plans, programs or actions to be put in place to ensure peaceful elections.
Once again, the NPP pledges to work fully with all the security agencies in order to accomplish a shared national security strategy to protect lives and property for peace and prosperity. Selective justice or political discrimination in the administration of justice in our country should be done away with and there is no better time to start than now.
Source: Dr.Kofi Konadu Apraku, Chairman of Security Committee, New Patriotic Party