An Accra High Court presided over by His Lordship Justice Anthony K. Yeboah has ordered the Electoral Commission to implement the Representation of the People Amendment Act (ROPAA law, 2006 Act 699. If implemented, the law will empower eligible Ghanaians abroad to vote in national elections.
The practice of democracy confers responsibility on nations to accommodate their citizens living in the Diaspora, in all electoral processes. What readily comes to mind at the mention of ROPAA or diaspora voting is enfranchising Ghanaian citizens in United Kingdom, the United States of America and other civilized nations in Europe, not African countries like Nigeria, Togo, Benin, Gambia etc.
We have millions of Ghanaians living in these African countries and that important fact must be noted. So many factors have worked against the implementation of this important practice including unnecessary suspicions, lack of commitment on the part of our governments, fear of shoddy implementation and red-tapism etc.
Part from Nigeria,there are more Ghanaians in every suburb in Nigeria and other African countries than any other nationals from the continent. In recent years, Mali, Niger, Gambia and Equatorial Guinea have become destinations for younger Ghanaians for work, study and transit points.
The question is how can these Ghanaians participate in our elections. We cannot and should not downplay the contributions of our brothers and sisters living outside the country towards national development.
It is pertinent to note moneys Ghanaians in Diaspora transfer to Ghana. They have their relatives and businesses here [Ghana] hence the need for them to cast their votes for the emergence of good leaders who can secure the future for their relatives, children,grandchildren, properties and businesses.
In implementing this democratic policy, we must look at the universality of our rights as citizens. The policy must cover every eligible Ghanaian from Cuba to Papua New Guinea and the state must design a strategy to make this possible.
We must make sure Ghanaians in the various countries are offered the necessary assistance to register in our embassies and high commissions to enable them exercise their franchise. Once we are truthful, honest and transparent and prepared to do it the way it is done in other countries, I see no reason why we can’t allow diaspora voting.
We have still not been able to cure few irregularities that are manifest in elections we conduct in the country. It will be in the interest of our democracy to cure the few irregularities before venturing into diaspora voting.
The electoral commission and its agents must make sure that all votes are counted and that the parties will be sure that the process will not be manipulated. The level of civility of our nation should also be looked at, the commitment and the patriotic nature of the voter. We have engaged in several voting exercises since 1992 but still have few issues to address. Does the EC and ts agents have the capacity to conduct a diaspora poll? We must look at all the intrigues and possible challenges.
The issue of resources and expertise and the capacity to deploy personnel to countries of the world, must also be looked at. If such elections are left in the hands of the embassies and high commissions, it could be rigged easily in favour of any ruling party. We saw what happened recently at Ada how the Delta Forces stormed the Assembly and seized ballot boxes, we heard what Ghana’s high commissioner to South Africa Mr Ayisi Boateng said ( some Ghanaians are more Ghanaians than others).
All these are actions and pronouncements give one a picture of what would happen we hastily implement the policy. The challenge of problems associated with electronic voting and what happened at the supreme court during the election petition with regard to rejecting or accepting votes cast manually when our electronic system develop challenges, are other issues we must put on the discussion table.
Most Ghanaian politicians want to remain in power and will do anything to subvert the will of the masses hence the need to critically evaluate and scrutinize the issues.
Let’s get the first step right before we begin to talk about taking the second step and the fragility of our democracy and its sustainability should always come feature prominently in our assessments and discussions. I fully support the implementation of the law but Ghana should be ripe enough for diaspora voting. This is an era of Information and communication technology and I think we should key that into it.