Open Letter to Mrs. Jean Mensa, Chairperson of the Electoral Commission of Ghana By One Volta Group December 26th, 2018
Dear Mrs. Jean Mensa: The One Volta Group (OVG), a civil society organization that advocates democracy, rule of law and the fundamental human rights of Ghanaian citizens, wishes to register its strongest condemnation of the Ghana Electoral Commission (EC) under your chairperson-ship.
The democratic process is based on the idea that citizens or groups of citizens should have the right and opportunity to participate in making important national decisions. The Electoral Commission is the agency delegated the authority to oversee and organize the orderly conduct of this exercise.
Its core mandate is to be fair and provide an even playing field for all participants in the process regardless of the positions the participants may hold. An Electoral Commission must be seen to be fair, impartial and be a neutral arbiter in the process.
Dear Mrs. Mensa, it is our assessment that the Ghana Electoral Commission is anything but neutral or even-handed in this very process. The Ghana Electoral Commission is organizing the impending referendum (i.e. to create 6 new regions) as if its marching orders are to do all it takes to create these regions.
The expectations are that EC would conduct a fair and orderly exercise of the polls no matter what the results turn out to be. It is our view that Ghana’s democratic credentials (on the African continent) have been tarnished under your watch.
We draw your attention to the following:
* The One Volta Group approached the EC Headquarters more than a month ago to submit an application for accreditation as an interested group in connection with the polls to determine whether there is substantial need to create “the proposed Oti” out of the Volta Region. A receipt was issued accepting this submission.
However, frequent and subsequent checks with the EC headquarters was met with the response, “we are in the process of creating accreditation guidelines; please check back later.” Several of these encounters were with your Deputy Chairperson Samuel Tettey.
While you deliberately continued to frustrate OVG, you clandestinely conducted a sham exercise to recruit agents for the “YES” and “NO” sides of the upcoming referendum. You intentionally stalled our request to exercise our constitutionally mandated democratic right.
Your conduct as an elections organizer is rather undemocratic and shameful to say the least. We recognize that you were appointed by the current Ghanaian President, Nana Akuffo Addo who openly declared his support for creating new regions out of some of the existing regions in Ghana.
We also recognize that you probably feel compelled to assist him by any means necessary to achieve this goal. However, we wish to remind you that your primary responsibility is to Ghanaians. That is to serve as a fair nonpartial election/referendum organizer. In our eyes, this ethical responsibility has been shamefully compromised.
* Because of your desire to disenfranchise us as an interested group in the referendum, several members of OVG filed a suit in the Human Rights Court on December 24, 2018.
The purpose was to place an interlocutory injunction on the EC and furthermore demand that all interested persons and groups in the Oti referendum be treated fairly. You were personally served the injunction, by a bailiff of the Human Rights Court, at the EC premises at about 12 noon the same day. Shortly thereafter, on the same day, you issued a hasty press release denying that you had been served an interlocutory injunction. This clearly demonstrates unprofessional behaviour and does provide additional evidence of your unethical conduct in dealing with the Ghanaian electorate.
* According to CI 109, issuance of accreditation to interested groups should be completed four days prior to the referendum. In this instance, that four-day period came to an end on Monday, December 24th, the day of our suit.
One would have thought our suit would have highlighted the need for you to act professionally. Instead you further displayed your clandestine characteristics by sending a directive to the District EC offices to issue accreditation to interested groups. This directive went into effect on December 25th, a public holiday. The issuance of accreditation continued through Wednesday, December 26th, less than 24 hours before the referendum. This directive is in clear violation of CI 109 which governs the Oti referendum as it falls outside the 4-day provision prior to the election. Such lawless conduct emanating from the offices of an election organizing agency is a travesty.
* While the EC headquarters stalled and lied to OVG representatives, several of our members who sought accreditation at the District EC offices as polling agents and officers were humiliated, assaulted and turned away. Meanwhile you accredited agents of the “YES” side and handpicked sham agents for the “NO” side. Mrs. Mensa, we believe that as a lawyer you must be well aware that it is criminal to plant sham polling agents for one side in a referendum, while a legitimate duly recognized civic organization had been knocking on your doors to receive accreditation. Ghanaian democracy deserves a more ethical leadership than you are providing in this instance.
As your disingenuous press release stated on December 24th, the lawless conduct of the Electoral Commission continues unabated. You intend to continue and hold a sham Oti referendum in total disregard of the court injunction served on you by a bailiff of the High Court.
We are, however, not deterred. We believe that Ghanaians are paying attention to the high-handed conduct of Ghana’s electoral business under your watch. Hopefully, human rights groups, both local and international, will pay scrutiny to the abuses that have characterized the referendum process in the proposed Oti Region under your watch.
One Volta Group
Peter N Abotchie (Member)
Julius Badu (Member)
Kossi Nutekpor (Chair)
Joe Bright Nyarko
Journalist/Communication Researcher. Environment & Sustainability Advocate. Managing Editor of aptnewsghana.com, a non-profit news portal with bias towards environment and sustainability issues, rural development policies and gender & inequality.