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Bishops in Ghana Concerned about “recent spate of violence” in Voter Registration Exercise

Some Ghanaians going through formalities during the Electoral Commission’s Pilot Voters Registration Exercise which took place in all 16 Regions across the Country.

Members of the Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference (GCBC) have expressed their concerns about the recent cases of violence in the ongoing voter registration exercise in the West African nation and have urged political parties to abide by the law.

“We, the Catholic Bishops of Ghana have observed with dismay the spate of violence during the current Voter Registration Exercise being conducted by the Electoral Commission of Ghana (EC),” the members of GCBC say in a collective statement issued Wednesday, July 22.

They add in relation to the violence, “It is an indictment, to say the least, that after 27 years of democratic governance under our Fourth Republic Constitution, Ghana is still experiencing political party-related violence whenever polls are conducted to elect leaders and, in this case, the compilation of a voters' register.”

Citing some of the cases of violence, the Prelates “note with great concern the acts of politically orchestrated violence in the Ejura-Sekyere Odumase Constituency in the Ashanti Region, Kasoa in the Central Region, Asutifi South and Tano South Constituencies in the Ahafo Region, the Dormaa West Constituency in the Bono Region, Ho West in the Volta Region and Fadama and New Town in the Greater Accra region.”

“The latest action on Monday, July 20, 2020 of the Special Development Initiatives Minister and Member of Parliament for Awutu-Senya East Constituency in the Central Region, Mrs. Mavis Hawa Koomson, is very disturbing,” the Bishop point out in their collective statement and add, “While the police take action on this matter we hope that the appropriate sanctions will be taken against her by the Executive and the Legislature.”

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They continue in the collective statement signed by GCBC President, Archbishop Philip Naameh, “These sparks of violence have sadly claimed the life of an innocent Ghanaian at Banda Ahenkro in the Bono region with many others injured.”

They remind the leadership of all Political Parties in the West African country, particularly the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) of “the agreement they signed against vigilantism and restrain their members from engaging in acts of violence in the name of politics.”

“If care is not taken, these acts of violence by political vigilante groups will draw back the nation's democratic and socio-economic gains,” the Prelates caution.

They add, “The acts of violence engulfing the country constitute a breach of the Vigilante and Related Offenses Act 2019 (Act 999) which was passed by Parliament with the aim of disbanding armed partisan hooligans from carrying out violent activities and its contravention making political vigilantism an offence punishable by a prison term.”

“Political Parties should show their commitment to the agreement by handing over to the Police any member of their group who misconduct themselves or act in ways that will disrupt the registration exercise,” the Bishops appeal.

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They also urge the government to “have the courage to implement the Emile Short Commission's recommendations on the Ayawaso West Wuogon By-Election violence, especially the sections that refer to instances of criminality.”

The Justice Emile Short Commission was established by President Nana Akufo-Addo under Article 278 of the 1992 Constitution, to enquire into the events and associated violence that occurred during the Ayawaso-West-Wuogon by-election on 31 January 2019, GhanaWeb reported.

The Commission presented its report to President Akufo-Addo on 14 March 2019.

In their July 22 statement, GCBC members argue that the implementation of the recommendations from the commission will “serve as a deterrent to these criminals, who otherwise will continue to act with impunity.”

They urge political parties “to stay away from acts that cause violence to enable us to have a peaceful environment for both the current Voters' Registration Exercise and the Presidential and Parliamentary elections in December.”

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The Catholic Church leaders reach out to young people, advising them not to allow themselves “to be lured into violence by selfish and greedy politicians for their personal interests.” 

As a way forward, the Bishops invite officials of political parties to channel their grievances to the Electoral Commission that has put in place a “mechanism for all political party agents or any person who wishes to challenge an applicant based on ineligibility to fill a challenge form for the necessary action to be taken.”

“Please let us all be civil in our actions and adhere to this directive,” the Bishops implore and referencing St. Paul, they advise the leadership of political parties in Ghana, “Agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.”