The High Court has ordered the Electoral Commission (EC) to produce evidence of concrete steps it is taking to implement the Representation of the People Amendment Act (ROPAA),
Justice Anthony Yeboah gave the order after the EC stated in its defence in a case before the court that it was already in the process of implementing the law. Ghana’s Parliament passed ROPAA (Act 699) in 2006 to enable Ghanaians living abroad to vote in national elections.
EC’s defence relates to a case brought by five Ghanaians living abroad who insist that their rights to register and vote in local elections while abroad continues to be violated by the non-implementation of the law.
Just before the trial was to commence on Wednesday morning at the Human Right Division of the High Court, the EC made the request through its lawyers to be allowed to prove it was taking steps to implement the law.
Presiding judge, Justice Anthony Yeboah, acceded to the request.
The Judge pointed out that the EC’s major piece of evidence filed as proof of its claim was a 2011 document and there was no evidence of actual implementation.
Lawyer for the Plaintiffs, Samson Lardy Anyenini, said he was ready to grant the two-week request even though it was obvious the EC had “gone to sleep since the passage of the law and always resorted to the rhetoric of ‘we are implementing’ it”.
The Plaintiffs, who belong to the US-based Diaspora group Progressive Alliance Movement (PAM), took up the case last year, withdrew and returned this year.
The basis of their suit is Article 42 of the 1992 Constitution, which states: “Every citizen of Ghana of eighteen years of age or above and of sound mind has the right to vote and is entitled to be registered as a voter for the purposes of public elections and referenda.”
Among the other reliefs being sought, the plaintiffs are seeking “a declaration that each of the applicants’ right to vote and entitlement to be registered as a voter for the purposes of public elections and referenda in light of the Act 699 and said various and legal instruments is not subject to any condition precedent aside the article 42 citizenship, age and sanity of mind criteria.”
They also want a declaration that “it is discriminatory for respondents, [particularly the Electoral Commission] to continue to register abroad and ensure that a category of citizens studying abroad or working in Ghana’s Missions/Embassies abroad vote in public elections and referenda while living abroad to the exclusion of the applicants.”
Name of applicants
The applicants, all Ghanaian residents in the USA, are: Kofi A. Boateng, PhD, Agyenim Boateng, SJD – both from Ashanti Region; Nellie Kemevor (from Eastern Region), Obed Danquah (from Volta Region), and Christiana Sillim (from Upper East Region).
Petition EC to implement ROPAA
The suit comes three years after President John Mahama urged Ghanaians in the diaspora to make a strong case to the EC for the implementation of the law.
The applicants are seeking the immediate implementation ROPAA to enable them to cast their ballots in future elections.
According to them, “this is the law that permits hundreds of thousands of Ghanaians Living Abroad (GLAs) to register and to vote as per Article 42 of Ghana’s 1992 Constitution that states that: Every citizen of Ghana of eighteen years of age or above and of sound mind has the right to vote and is entitled to be registered as a voter for the purposes of public elections and referenda”.
They are accordingly seeking a declaration that they (applicants) have fundamental human rights under Articles 17 (2) 42 and 33 (5) of the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana, the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act 2006 (Act 699), Article 13 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Protocol 1 (Article 3) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The applicants want the court to order the EC to allow them to be registered as voters while they are resident abroad and being outside the jurisdiction of the Republic of Ghana, and doing so from/at their places of residence abroad and designed centres close to their places of residence abroad or from/at the Ghana Mission/Embassy within their jurisdiction.
They also want to be issued voters identity cards to enable them to vote in public elections and referenda while they are resident abroad and outside the jurisdiction of the Republic of Ghana at the time of such elections and doing so from/ at their places of residence abroad or designated centres close to their places of residence abroad or from/at the Ghana Mission/Embassy within their jurisdiction abroad.
The applicants also want to be given the right to vote in public elections, particularly, presidential and parliamentary elections, while they are resident abroad.
Breach of fundamental human rights
The applicants also want the court to declare that the non-compliance of the EC to operationalise Act 699 since it became law on February 24, 2006, was a breach of the fundamental human rights of the applicants under various laws and legal instruments.
They also want the court to declare that it is discriminatory for the respondents, particularly the EC, to continue to register abroad to ensure that a category of citizens studying abroad or working in Ghana’s Mission/Embassies abroad vote in public elections and referenda while living abroad, to the exclusion of applicants.
Ex-President Mahama backs ROPAA
While speaking at a meeting with the Ghanaian community in Worcester, Massachusetts, in the United States of America in 2014, the then President Mahama, said the directive issued by the Supreme Court in its ruling on the 2012 Presidential Election Petition for the EC to make reforms in its operations, provided a good opportunity for Ghanaians living abroad to forcefully put their case before the commission to extend voting rights to them.
President Nana Akufo-Addo backs ROPAA
President Nana Akufo-Addo while interacting with the Ghanaian community in Lome, Togo as part of his two-day working visit in May this year assured Ghanaians living abroad of his commitment to ensure the full ROPAL to give them the opportunity to exercise their franchise in local elections.
He said the law was passed to make it possible for Ghanaians abroad to cast their votes and wondered why, since the passage of the law, it had remained dormant on the statute books.
In October and November 2005, two delegations of Ghanaians Living Abroad, in the USA, Europe, Southern Africa, West Africa and Canada, led by the first applicant, Dr Kofi A. Boateng, arrived in Ghana to add their voices to the then raging parliamentary debate on amending Ghana’s Representation of the People Law (PNDCL 284).
The intended amendment was to, among other issues, change Section 8 of PNDCL 284, which restricted overseas voting to only Ghanaian employees of the Republic, the United Nations, and other international organisations.
It also aimed at removing the requirement in Section 7 of PNDCL 284 that locally, in order to register to vote, one must have continuously inhabited an area for six months leading to the date of qualification.
This eventually led to the passage of Act 699, which gives the right to Ghanaians living abroad other than foreign mission workers and students to partake in electoral processes in Ghana, irrespective of their destination.
The EC cites cost as one of the logistics of ROPAA implementation that they needed time to study.
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