17 December 2012

Ghana: This Vote Could Not Have Been Free and Fair

Of all the clarion calls on Ghanaians to accept the seriously flawed elections of 2012 as free, fair and transparent, the one from the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, freaks us the most. "The Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice," crowed state-run Daily Graphic in the paper's issue of Saturday, December 15, "has rated the December 7, 2012 elections as 'free, fair and representing the will of the electorate."

There are so many things interesting about the CHRAJ verdict, contained in a statement said to have been signed by its boss, Ms Lauretta Vivian Lamptey, who courted much publicity by claiming that at the time of her appointment she did not know that she could not sit on the board of the Ghana Commercial Bank, drawing fat cat allowances at the time she had officially assumed duty as CHRAJ boss.

In the first place, this decision was captured in its preliminary report, even before CHRAJ could study the report of its observer group in full. In the opinion of the human rights body, its findings tied in with the reports of the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO) and the ECOWAS Observer Group.

According to CHRAJ, its main mission in policing the poll was in fulfillment of its mandate of ensuring that the average Ghanaian had the right to vote. Apart from indicating that some voters had a few problems of identification with the verification machine, forcing them to resort to unorthodox methods, every other thing with the elections went on according to plan.

The Chronicle is not surprised about this finding, in view of the obvious political leaning of the leadership of CHRAJ. All other institutions going on about how transparent, free and fair the elections were are merely singing tunes of melodious music to the ears of those who exploited their leadership of this society, to skew the elections in their favour.

At the eleventh hour, just before the long queues began to form at the 26,000 polling booths around the country, the National Democratic Congress administration of interim President John Dramani Mahama was distributing laptops to supposed students, paid for by the Ghanaian tax payer.

In any case, how did the CHRAJ come to be involved in the polling process, when it claims to be short on funding to carry out its core mandate of policing human rights abuses, and ensuring that justice works in the administration of this society?

An election, in which state money was visibly used to bribe voters, could be peaceful, but it certainly could not have been free and fair. The Chronicle could vouch that money, most of which could be traced to state largesse, was one of the commodities the NDC used extravagantly to attract votes. In a particular instance, two old women in Cape Coast told a television station that they had been given cloths by the NDC, and would vote for it.

In state-run public institutions of learning, students were bribed with huge monies to vote for the NDC. In a particular institution in Winneba, for instance, the school authorities hit on a bright idea of deducting academic and other user fees from the booty before passing the rest on to the beneficiary students.

The Chronicle intends to demand from the authorities at Bank of Ghana the real motive for changing the GH¢50 note. At the time the exercise was to be conducted, the Bank of Ghana authorities, led by current Vice-President Paa Kwesi Amissah-Arthur, who, as Bank of Ghana Governor, was presiding over the free fall of the cedi, told the nation that the old GH¢50 note was being withdrawn, because, in the opinion of the bank, counterfeit printers were perfecting the art of reproducing that denomination on the black market.

It emerged in the run-up to the vote that the ruling party especially, relied on the new GH¢50 to grease the palms of potential voters before they headed to the 26,000 polling centres.

The vote certainly, was not free and fair. Manipulation and money-crazy are threatening to undermine our voting process.

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