Is it not sad, Ghana has to make a decision on the crucial laws that should guide elections in 2 020, not through our best practice of consensus building first, before legitimisation in Parliament, but this time, through a vote on the basis of a winner, the majority, and the loser the minority?
There are serious implications for such an outcome.
1. While the CI (law) in question will make legal the rules for the conduct of the elections, it will equally violate the ECOWAS Protocol A/SP1/12/01 On Democracy and Good Governance. 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.” It is already less than six months before the elections on 7th December.
If on the basis of division through voting, the CI is passed and allowed to mature in June, first it would have violated the six months threshold. It would violate a treaty we are bound by. It is instructive that because the CI will allow for an entire new Voter’s Register, it is substantive. Because the CI was passed through voting, there would be no consent of a majority of political actors.
It should be noted here that political actors does not refer to Politicians. It is the understanding of all the actors whose consent enhances good governance. This includes the Traditional Chiefs, CSOs, Women Organisations, Academia, Labour Unions etc. All these actors are calling for consensus on the law that governs the elections, not a split in Parliament of a winner and a loser on how the law is passed.
2. Ghana is a key member of the ECOWAS Community. The Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance is supplementary to the Protocol Relating to the Mechanism For Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeping and Security.
Both Protocols emerged out of bitter experiences of ravaging wars in West Africa beginning with the Liberian Civil War that spread to Sierra Leone. Guinea was on the brink at a point. Then was the case of Guinea Bissau, later on Cote d’Ivoire and much later a turbulent political transition in Burkina Faso.
Out of these experiences, Ghana was a leader in how we must act collectively to prevent bloodletting and wars. Under the stewardship of President Rawlings, Ghana led the ECOMOG Mission to Liberia with a Ghanaian as first ECOMOG Commander. The Protocol referred to as the “Mechanism” was signed in 1999.
The Supplementary Protocol was signed in 2001 when it was the turn of President Kufour. As Chair of ECOWAS, President Kufour presided over the Accra Talks that ended the Liberia Civil War. President Mahama as Chair of ECOWAS mediated the first phase of political crisis in Togo before elections in 2015. He later Mediated in the political transition in the Gambia with his colleague Heads of State, Presidents Buhari, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and Koroma.
President Nana Akufo Addo Mediated the second phase of the Togolese crisis before elections. All this is to say, we were /have been well placed in such Mediation and Leadership roles because Ghana has always been a reference. Our elections have been competitive but the rules governing each election was built on consensus. the outside world admired Ghana for this.
Elections outcomes were therefore acceptable because the rules of the game was fair to all political parties. In the political competition, fairness in the game is the golden rule. In the way and manner this CI will mature in a divisive and polarised manner, it could be the beginning of Ghana losing that prestige and convening role as Mediator in West Africa.
3. When we are confronted as we are now; the EC supported by the Ruling Party argue that the Voter’s Register is not credible and on the other hand, Opposition parties and CSOs say the Voter’s Register is credible, you do not solve such impasse through the passage of the Law (CI) in Parliament.
You dialogue over the impasse and build consensus before you pass a law based on the consensus built. If such dialogue were allowed and convened, the Ghanaian creativity of problem solving together would have prevailed. That is the spirit of Ghanaians looking out for one another.
I cannot make the detailed reference here. I have been part of a high level mediation with similar impasse in a Country over a Voter’s Register. Through dialogue, all sides of the political divide in that Country together with their CSOs, EC, Chiefs etc. agreed for an independent auditing of their Voters Register with the prior agreement that they will accept the audited report.
The Organisation of La Francophonie (OIF) put together Experts who verified and audited the Voter’s Register. The verification report was accepted by all . The Country went on to organise a very peaceful election. In our current context, one side says the register is not credible and that is it.
There is no discussion. This is dangerous and not a good development. As it stands, the maturity of the CI in parliament could be or begin to be the slippery road downhill of our revered democracy.
4. We understood at first hand how conflicts can be devastating not only to those who fought it but an entire region. The collective resolve of all the 15 countries to prevent such armed conflicts and chaos informed our Protocols that I have referred to earlier. These protocols are binding treaties.
When we sign a treaty we are obligated to it. It is binding. We cannot for partisan political interest in Ghana, violate a treaty that has been a collective effort and that has worked so far to prevent conflicts.
Our very Honourable Members of Parliament who will vote a CI without the consent of the other Parties would be guilty of a treaty violation.
They will no longer have the moral right to sit in the ECOWAS Parliament that is the institution through which we are bound by treaties. Ghana will lose its legitimacy to be a good Mediator because we will not be different from those we go to help who find it difficult to build internal consensus.
In an election in which the political environment is highly polarised with unbridled partisanship, we do not make it worse with a law that deepens the divide.
Finally, the global appeal from the top leadership of the UN and across board is simple; it is compelling that as part of the response to COVID-19, all countries in the World organising elections should build and seek consensus in the conduct of the elections.
We in Ghana seem not to care or heed to this appeal.
By: Emmanuel Bombande (The writer is a conflict resolution, peace building, and development professional from Accra, Ghana, and is the Chair of the Board of the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict.).