The Minority in Parliament has described as “tribal bigotry”, what it says is the government’s use of the military to exclude Voltarians and non-Akans from taking part in the ongoing voter registration exercise.
It follows a confrontation between the General Secretary of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Mr Johnson Asiedu Nketia and some soldiers at Banda in the Bono Region recently, over the prevention of Voltarian settlers from taking part in the exercise.
“The Voltarians in that region have lived there since the 1900s. In fact, they even have representation on the traditional council of the Banda area. So, how can you exclude these people from registering for purposes of voting in the upcoming elections?” Mr James Agalga of the Security Committee of Parliament told journalists on Monday, 3 August 2020.
“It is unacceptable”, Mr Agalga said, adding: “The exclusion of certain ethnic groups in this country can only pass for tribal bigotry and that must stop”.
Meanwhile, Defence Minister Dominic Nitiwul has denied allegations made by former President John Mahama that the Akufo-Addo government is using the Ghana Armed Forces to prevent Voltarians and non-Akans from taking part in the ongoing voter registration exercise.
“The government has not conceived of, the government did not plan, the government has no intention, the government will not plan and will never have an intention of suppressing any potential voter who is a Ghanaian, who is qualified and who is of sound mind and above 18 years from registering”, Mr Nitiwul told the parliamentary press corps on Monday, 3 July 2020.
“We have over 30,000 polling stations across the country. Of course, there’s been incidences in one or two polling stations but generally, this registration has been very peaceful and has been very orderly”, he said.
He explained that the presence of the army is to foil infiltration by aliens.
“As I stated before, we deployed the military to the borders to support the Immigration Service to ensure that the borders remain firmly closed and that no human goes into Ghana or outside Ghana”, he noted.
The Bimbilla MP said: “If there will be any movement, then it’s going to be cargo”.
“Cargo is allowed to come into the country, cargo is allowed to move out of the country. Of course, cargo vehicles are driven by human beings but for human traffic, whether by foot, by air, by sea, under the ground, or whichever means, the military was tasked to support the immigration and resisted all of them”, he added.
“And we know that people have tried and continue to try to come into this country”, he revealed.
According to him, “during the lockdown period, we had over 5,000 people try to cross into this country and these were arrested by the Immigration Service. You can imagine the numbers that were arrested”, he said.
“The former president is wrong and misled to think that the military is being used to suppress people. The Volta Region he cited, can anybody tell me that the figures in the Volta Region are lower than the national average? Obviously not. So, where is the voter suppression? Are the figures in the Northern Region lower than the national average? Obviously not. Are the figures in the Greater Accra Region also lower than the national average? It is also a no. So, where is the voter suppression here again? We also have over 30,000 registration centres, how many centres have we seen military personnel visit for anybody to conclude there is voter suppression? Of course, they have visited registration centres where there is trouble and they will continue to places where there is trouble but for anybody to conclude, especially a former president and Commander-in-Chief of the Ghana Armed Forces, to conclude there is voter suppression, he is misleading the people.”
Mr Mahama had said in a statement that: “This is not the Ghana our forebears toiled for and built!”
“Each and every successive President”, he noted, “left a peaceful, stable and united country”.
However, he observed, “The road President Akufo-Addo is taking our beautiful country through, using the military and party thugs to stop people from exercising their right to register and vote in the upcoming December elections, is dangerous and unacceptable”.
He alleged: ‘There have been many reports and video evidence, like the one in this post, of the President’s deployment and discriminatory use of soldiers to target our brothers and sisters in the Volta Region and wherever there are settlements of Voltarians and non-Akans”.
The flag bearer of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) said: “Executive power must not be used to foment ethnic discrimination and abuse as is happening under Nana Akufo-Addo”.
“These calculated acts of ‘dehumanisation, disenfranchising Ghanaians and stripping them of their citizenship’ must end”, he insisted.
He promised: “They will surely never happen under a new NDC administration because we will foster a spirit of peace and unity in our nation”.
As Commander-in-Chief, Mr Mahama pledged, “I will not use our military in such a partisan manner to terrorise our own people, and in matters that are purely civil and dwell in the very heart of our constitutional democracy”.
Meanwhile, the Electoral Commission of Ghana has said the exercise has entered its sixth and final phase starting today, Saturday, 1 August 2020.
The exercise ends on Thursday, 6 August 2020.
The election management body has, thus, urged eligible voters who have not yet registered to try and do so.
It said in a statement that it is ensuring strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols at the centres.
“The Commission assures members of the public that it will enforce all the safety protocols at all Registration Centres throughout the country,” it added.