Where are our clergy, the intelligentsia, lawyers, doctors, journalists, and other professionals as we head towards dictatorship in the land of our birth and country called Ghana?
We view with utmost trepidation the events unfolding in our beloved Ghana since the December 7, 2020 elections. As intellectuals in Ghana’s public universities, it is our duty to reach out to the Ghanaian public on issues of critical national importance to help us in our moments of reflection, especially when our national institutions appear to be fading out and shying away from their commitment to the letter and spirit of the Constitution of Ghana.
We consider it a national responsibility to speak up and let those who disagree engage us in a debate of ideas in the public sphere. For us it is better to speak now rather than be quiet. Our collective resolve is inspired by Edmund Burke’s admonition that, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing.” There is no doubt that as a country, we are moving into uncharted territory, a road never travelled since we ushered in the 4th Republic in 1992 – almost 30 years ago. We reminiscent those days when the then Chairman of the Electoral Commission (EC), the affable Dr. Kwadwo Afari Gyan would meticulously declare elections constituency by constituency and finally declare the winner of the Presidential election. Ghanaians were used to the structures, the Inter Party Advisory Committee (IPAC), Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO) and all the laid down procedures that were followed with outmost transparency. With the appointment of Mrs. Jean Adukwei Mensa as Chairperson, all these structures and consultations were thrown asunder. They were replaced with gross incompetence, arrogance, insolence, impudence, outright pomposity, outright condescending attitude and disregard for established protocols of consultation with IPAC and other key stakeholders in the democratic process. In place of consultation, Mrs. Jean Mensa chose the path of despotism pushing things down the throat of Ghanaians even in the face of a raging COVID 19 pandemic. Buoyed by the NPP parliamentary majority, legislative instruments relating to the 2020 elections were forced down the throat of Ghanaians without adequate consultation. Any wonder as a country we have never seen things like the following aberrations in our republic:
- The people of Santrokofi, Akpafu, Lolobi, and Likpe (SALL) which were parts of the Volta region before the creation of the Oti region were denied their fundamental human rights of exercising their right to vote for parliamentary representation.
- The process whereby elections were declared at the constituency level (where all the party representatives accepted the results) and then transmitted same to the EC headquarters (where the party representatives authenticate results) and the EC chair does his/her own confirmation was desecrated. This transparent process which has worked since 1992 was replaced by Regional collation centres by the Mrs. Jean Mensa led EC. The result was outright manipulation of figures from the Regional Centres with concomitant refusals by the party representatives.
- In a very manipulative way the EC Chair surreptitiously lured the two gentlemen representing the NDC to go and consult the NDC Flagbearer, former President John Mahama only for Mrs. Jean Mensa to switch off her phone and in minutes declared the incumbent as the winner of the 2020 Presidential election in a pre-recorded message. This action, we believe does not only denigrate the office of the EC, but has also created a deep chasm of distrust between the main opposition party, NDC and the NPP appointed EC. In 2008 election runoff in late December, a similar disagreement occurred and the then EC Chairman, Dr. Afari Gyan advised the NDC and NPP to go and consult their parties and return the next day. Dr. Afari Gyan true to his word did not sneak out to declare the result in favour of any political party.
- The glaring incompetence and sinister posturing of Mrs. Jean Mensa have resulted in untold hardships Ghanaians have never experienced after any election in the past 28 years. We mourn the loss of the eight Ghanaians who were murdered in cold blood by the security forces. It is really tragic to lose children as young as a 14 and 16 whose only crime was to observe something as basic as voting.
Before the 2020 elections, Ghana used to be considered an island of peace in a region plagued with electoral violence. With the high propensity to cheat for the incumbent and over-zealous desire to make the EC an appendage of the NPP, our enviable democratic credentials are likely to be thrown to the dogs and be replaced by election playbooks as can be found in Togo, Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea to mention but a few. We refuse to accept this scenario as the new normal should Mrs. Jean Mensah’s vote manipulation be allowed to stand.
We have noted with grave concern the path we are taking, fully cognizant that political and civil unrest and in worst cases civil wars in Africa reared their ugly heads in either election aftermaths or prior to elections. We had some happenings in the Ivory Coast, Togo, Sierra Leone, Liberia and recently in Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The African refugee experience has been brought about mainly as a result of political unrest before or after election or armed conflicts between armed groups and governments. In other words, the crises have been due to protracted civil unrest brought about by pre/post-election violence and coup d’états. Ghana has moved forward in our democratic dispensation but in conversations with our African neighbours they tell us that nothing is impossible in the sub-region. For example, there was a political unrest in Burundi in 2015 when the president announced seeking a 3rd term election which culminated in violent street protests and about 322,163 people fled to neighbouring countries for safety. In addition, since May 2017 fierce clashes between armed groups in the Central African Republic resulted in mayhem, destruction of life and property and death. This conflict led to 623,400 refugees and 684,004 internally displaced persons. Similar protests have occurred in Togo and the military establishment ruthlessly clamped down on protesters with scores losing their lives. There are currently 918,000 refugees from the DRC and asylum seekers being hosted by other African countries as of February 2020, and about five million internally displaced in the DRC between October 2017 and September 2019.
Democracy involves more than elections every four years. The Legislature should not be rubber stamping executive legislation by using the tyranny of the majority to pass some dubious and ignoble laws (PDS, Agyaapa, Public Universities Bill (PUB) which has since been withdrawn due to threats by university lecturers, CI 127 for the 2020 elections which has plunged us into the current mess). PUB, for instance, is anathema to intellectual development as it infringes on academic freedom.
To our judiciary, please be reminded that the courts are the places of last resort for the ordinary person to seek justice. We look with admiration and awe the way Supreme Courts in advanced democracies especially in the United States, demonstrate their independence and fidelity to the law through objectivity in their adjudications that often surprise even the presidents who appointed these judges. Ghana’s Supreme Court rulings for the government are becoming too predictable to even novices of jurisprudence. Can anyone imagine what would have happened in USA if the following had taken place?
- President Nixon refused the ruling of the US Supreme Court to turn over his tapes during the Watergate crisis or the US Supreme Court has ruled for the government in power?
- Bill Clinton refusing to be deposed in the Monica Lewinsky case and US Supreme Court ruling in his favour because he was the President of the United States.
- Al Gore and Democrats insisting for the Florida recount to continue because it favoured them and the government in power was a Democratic party president?
- President Trump’s attempt to throw out the Affordable Care Act (Obama Care) but lost the Supreme Court in a 5-4 ruling which ensured that the law was kept.
5.In the 2020 US Census, the outgoing President Trump wanted to include the citizenship question but the Supreme Court ruled against him and now, that question was not included.
- In 1954 in Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education the US Supreme Court ruled unanimously that segregation of children school was unconstitutional and violated the 14th amendment which overthrew the separate but equal precedent that provided legal basis for Jim Crowe rules.
Why all these references? Because we are getting very disappointed in our nation. African immigrants or students continue to benefit from Americans, Britons, Canadians, Norwegians, and Germans obeying their laws whether you are a President or Prime Minister or an ordinary citizen. It was less than 70 years when there were whites only and blacks’ only bathrooms in the USA. It is only a rule of law that maintains countries to remain civilized and we all enjoy freedom from discrimination because the courts in their wisdom realized that was not the way to go. In our land, democratic governance is getting despotic and our courts and legislatures are enabling it. The world is watching the Ghana Supreme Court and we hope they would remove their partisan lenses (if there are any) and follow what pertains in the US Supreme Courts where to a very large extent you cannot predict the ruling by the courts. Ghanaian voters demand justice NOT perennial games our justices have been playing under this government using their political prisms.
The African continent had a breath of fresh air when we had 2 annulments of presidential elections in 2017 (Kenya) and in 2020 (Malawi). The fearless Constitutional Court of Malawi heard evidence of how correction fluids were used in the 2019 election to change the vote tallies and the resulting widespread electoral fraud and massive irregularities and ordered a rerun of the election. It ordered that new elections should be held in 150 days because of the Malawi Electoral Commission’s (MEC) failure to address complaints but went ahead and declared the incumbent President the winner. The opposition leader, Lazarus Chakwera defeated the then sitting President Peter Mutharika in the fresh election of June 23, 2020. This was a clear-cut manifestation of resilience of democratic institutions and the role of the citizens to continue the forward match towards democratic ideals and governance. Can this happen in Ghana?
To our religious leaders especially the Catholic Bishops Conference this is the time to let the citizens of Ghana hear from you. We are reminded of your pastoral letters during the military regime of General Kutu Acheampong and the heroics by the late Justice Kobina Abban. We recall with admiration the significant roles played by the Latin American Bishops during the late 1970s and early 1980s. We draw on historical antecedents from Archbishop Romero and the Liberation Theology borne out of the Latin American experience as worthy of note in our own circumstances today. Latin America has been largely Christian yet has produced some of the most oppressive governments on that continent. The late Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador (now Saint Óscar Arnulfo Romero) then the Archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of San Salvador, was shot by an assassin as he celebrated mass in a hospital chapel, on March 24, 1980. His offence was speaking out against poverty, social injustice, assassinations, and torture in his country. The Church in Ghana has refused to speak and bear witness to the Freedom Creed of the gospel of Luke 4.
To the Ghanaian media we recall your role and that of others in ushering in the 4th Republic with the opening of the airwaves and proliferation of newspapers. However, we were disappointed to learn that the figures being presented to the Ghanaian populace in the 2020 election were not collected independently by you but provided by the NPP and the EC. It is not for nothing that Edmund Burke bestowed the enviable title on you as the 4th estate. In advanced countries, journalists were able to expose Presidents and abuse of power. The case of Watergate scandal in the U.S., the Cash for Questions and the Profumogate scandals in the U.K. – all come to mind. In Ghana, investigative journalists such as the venerated Kofi Badu, Kofi Coomson, Anas Aremeyaw Anas and Manasseh Azure Awuni and other patriots have shown fortitude and patriotism. The time has come for others in this noble profession to blaze the trail and fight democratic tyranny and despotic governance.
We wish to remind those who wield political power in Ghana today to remember that power is transient. They must be guided by a sense of history as we recall Augustus Pinochet of Chile, Pit Botha of apartheid South Africa and the Generals of Argentina. Need we remind you of the Nazis, Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia and Charles Taylor of Liberia? In the so called Dirty War of Argentina from 1976 – 1983 where the military dictators or the civic-military hunted down political opponents and killed between 9,000 and 30,000 thought to be the center left politically. The victims were students, militants, trade unionists, writers, journalists, artists and any citizens suspected to be ideologically, left wing. More than 12,000 were detained without trials in over 340 concentration camps. Many members of the military junta who perpetrated these despicable acts against humanity are now in prison for crimes and genocide.
Sure there are worldwide examples which tell us that sooner than later everyone has authority over them whether it is the International Criminal Court or the laws of your country. We can ask Ex-Liberian President Charles Taylor and he will confirm it. He is still alive but in jail in HM Frankland Prison in County Durham England serving 50 years term for war crimes which started since 15th October 2013. The Nazis who killed during World War II claiming they were merely taking orders were held responsible in Nuremberg and other trials.
Since 1992 when we ushered in the 4th Republic, we have had a smooth transition. Sure, Ayawaso West Wuogon was a rehearsal of things to happen in 2020. There has never been any election year with so many stresses, uncertainties about the winner and worse still, killing of innocent people as young as ages 14 and 18. For the very first time since 1992 eight of our citizens have been gunned down in election-related violence. We pray for repose of the souls of the defenceless innocent gunned down. Let us have hope for a return to a sense of true constitutionalism because all shall pass, and power we know, is temporary.
Our democracy was nearly dealt a blow when the new Parliament of 2021 saw a military detachment led by one Colonel Joe Punamane who until April 2020 was the Director of Port Security and who is now at Presidency Annex, Jubilee House, stormed the “Sanctum Sanctorium” of our legislature. We believe the sole objective was to settle partisan score just as they did in Techiman South few weeks earlier. Carrying arms to parliament house is sacrilegious. Who gave orders to Colonel Punamane to lead armed men to parliament house? At the time there was no President of the Republic of Ghana. It is sickening to politicize our police and military. They are supposed to protect the constitution of Ghana and not an individual or political party. People are not supposed to bring arms to the chamber. Let the police and the armed forces know that there are consequences to pay if they take unconstitutional orders. We are wondering why the Colonel should not be court martialed? They should remember that one day they would not be protected by “I was just taking orders”. We call on the Parliamentary Privileges Committee to call for a hearing and get to the bottom of this unwarranted invasion.
We conclude by condemning unequivocally the creeping dictatorship and gross violation of the fundamental human rights of the citizens by state sponsored terrorism whether it was at Ayawaso West Wuogon Bye election, killing of eight innocent people after the 2020 election, curtailing freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, and desecrating parliament with armed military detachment.
As Ghanaians let us be forever be guided and remember the words of the German Lutheran Church Minister and theologian Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) which was an act of cowardice par excellence in the midst of dictatorship during the Nazi era in Germany.
“First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me”
We conclude by quoting Lord Acton “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Let us all remember our various roles as we enable creeping dictatorship, “patapa”, murder for hire, propensity to use security forces to remain in power or cow the citizenry into submission, threat and intimidation to burn people’s houses or individuals alive into our body politics. Do we still have Ghana Bar Association? What about Ghana Medical Association? What sayeth thou?
God save and bless our homeland Ghana.