President Akufo-Addo addressing Ghanaians ahead of the new voter registration exercise.
Fellow Ghanaians, good evening.
Tomorrow, 30th June, 2020, the Electoral Commission will begin the process of compiling a new register of voters, which the Commission will use for the 7th December, 2020, presidential and parliamentary elections.
The compilation of a voters’ register is one of the most important tasks in the effective functioning of any democracy, because if an eligible citizen’s name is not on the register, that citizen cannot exercise the right to vote, and cannot, therefore, participate in the determination of the choice of the government of the day.
It is, thus, vitally important that all eligible voters register, so, on the designated day of 7th December, they can vote to choose the President of the nation, and the Member of Parliament of their area. In effect, our vote, our thumb, is the expression of our individual sovereign power as a citizen, which we should cherish and guard at all times.
Our country, Ghana, is regularly cited as the shining example of the place in Africa where the electoral process works, and where it is always being improved upon. We have had seven (7) consecutive presidential and parliamentary elections, which has given us five (5) Presidents in the twenty-seven (27) year history of the 4th Republic, with peaceful transfers of power from a governing to an opposition party on three (3) separate occasions. It is a record, virtually without parallel on the African continent, which we should all treasure.
All of these did not threaten the foundations of the State, and, even when there was disagreement with the result of an election, it was the Supreme Court, rather than the streets, that determined its outcome.
From tomorrow, in thirty-three thousand, three hundred and sixty-seven (33,367) polling stations across the country, we embark on, yet, another journey to deepen further our nation’s democratic credentials, as the exercise to compile a new voters’ register, to be used for the December 7general elections, commences.
The hurdle, which stood in the way of the new voters’ register, was surmounted last Thursday, 25th June, when a seven-member panel of the Supreme Court, presided over by the Chief Justice, in a unanimous decision, settled all the issues surrounding the voters’ register. The decision affirmed the right of the Electoral Commission to proceed with the compilation of a new register, in accordance with the provisions of C.I 126.
It reiterated the widely held belief that a credible electoral register, and, indeed, a credible election, are important ingredients to securing the future well-being of any democratic nation. I am proud to be a citizen of a nation whose independent institutions, like the Judiciary and the Electoral Commission, continue to operate without fear or favour, ill will or malice, and without regard to the political, religious or ethnic affiliations of any citizen or group of citizens.
There are some who have argued, and continue to argue that, in the midst of a pandemic, the compilation of a new register, and, indeed, the conduct of the presidential and parliamentary elections should be put on hold, and scheduled for a later date, perhaps, when the pandemic ends. That is not possible.
The Constitution of our Republic makes no provision for the extension of the mandate of the President, who wields executive power, beyond four (4) years. To exercise executive power in the Ghanaian state, you must be duly elected by the Ghanaian people. You must have their freely-expressed consent. On 7th January, 2021, when my mandate as the current President expires, a duly elected person must be ready to be sworn in as President of the Republic. There is no other way, and, in order to forestall any needless constitutional controversy, which could throw our nation into jeopardy, we must vote on 7th December 2020. The same applies to Parliament. We should not fear or be alarmed. Despite the COVID pandemic, elections are being properly conducted in many nations across the globe. In Asia, we have witnessed the conduct of the successful elections of South Korea in April, at the height of the pandemic in that country. In Europe, last week, we have seen those of Poland; and, in our own continent of Africa, both Mali and Malawi have preceded us in organising successful, national elections. Surely, it is not beyond Ghana to join these nations in organising a successful general election, even in the midst of the pandemic.
Fellow Ghanaians, we have chosen to govern our country according to the tenets of multiparty democracy and the principles of democratic accountability, and we dare not trade them off, more so, during times of crisis. To guarantee the safety of all eligible Ghanaians, at the thirty-three thousand, three hundred and twenty-seven (33,327) polling stations across the country, the Electoral Commission has put in place the necessary, elaborate protocols, as outlined earlier in the day by the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission, Jean Mensa. All these protocols should be adhered to strictly. Additionally, I want to remind all Ghanaians that all the other protocols and restrictions, especially those dealing with large gatherings, must be adhered to and enforced at the polling stations at all times. So, let us all abide by them, and conduct ourselves in a manner befitting the image and status of Ghana.
So, I urge all eligible Ghanaians, I repeat all eligible citizens, that is Ghanaians of eighteen (18) years of age or above, and of sound mind, no matter what party they belong to, if any, to go out and register, so that they can exercise their civic responsibilities on 7th December, 2020, to elect a government of their choice in a free, fair, peaceful and transparent election. Using your God-given and constitutional rights costs nothing, but staying home can come at a very steep price. The pandemic, notwithstanding, we have to strengthen Ghanaian democracy.
It must be our collective duty to ensure that we have a register that is fit for purpose in December, and we must all make sure that persons who do not meet the requirements, as set out clearly in the Constitution, do not find their names into the register. If you aid the registration of an ineligible person, and you are caught, you will face the full rigours of the law. The election on 7th December must be a Ghanaian election, not a West African election, conducted with a voter register of Ghanaians. That is the only way the true will of the Ghanaian people can manifest.
It is crucial that both the registration exercise and the electoral process itself be conducted in an atmosphere of peace and security, devoid of intimidation and violence. The Ghanaian people must go about the exercise of their civic duties in peace and in freedom. The security agencies have assured me that they have made adequate preparations for this, and to guarantee the sanctity of the process. They have assured me of their determination to carry out their duties without fear or favour. Improper behaviour by any citizen, no matter their political colour, will not be tolerated, and I am encouraged by the recent reassurance by the Inspector General of Police that Police have been instructed to be even-handed in their response to issues. That is the only way the rule of law can be upheld.
The longstanding deployment of security personnel, especially the military, along our borders is another dimension of this process of guaranteeing the peace of the nation. Fellow Ghanaians, it is no secret that our neighbour to the north, Burkina Faso, has, in recent times, been at the receiving end of a number of terrorist attacks, as has another neighbour, Cote d’ivoire. To shore up our borders against such attacks, and to defend our nation’s territorial integrity, the Armed Forces, at least since I came into office, have been very proactive in engaging in operations to secure our borders, and foil any potential terror attacks on our soil. Operations such as ‘Conquered Fist’ and ‘Koudangou’ have been going along for some time, since 21st February 2019, to meet this objective. Deployments of soldiers in areas along our borders have been regular, and residents living in border towns will bear testimony to this.
Again, in the fight against COVID-19, I took the decision, on Saturday, 21st March, to close all our borders by land, air and sea. To ensure substantial compliance with this directive, and to assist personnel of the Immigration Service, our eastern, western and northern borders were shored up by some personnel from the military. This development, for example, during the period of the three-week lockdown of Accra, Tema, Kasoa and Kumasi, led to the arrest of some five thousand (5,000) persons along our borders, who had entered our country illegally. Indeed, the first six (6) recorded cases of COVID-19 in the Volta Region, for example, were those of West African nationals, who entered the country illegally.
In total, two hundred and seven (207) soldiers have been deployed along the borders of the Upper East Region; one hundred and ten soldiers (110) in the Northern Region; one hundred and two (102) in the North East Region; ninety eight (98) in the Volta Region; seventy two (72) in the Oti Region; sixty-nine (69) in Upper West; sixty-four (64) in Bono Region; twenty-one (21) in Savannah Region; and fourteen (14) in the Western Region.
Let me state, without any form of equivocation, that these deployments are not in any way intended to intimidate or prevent eligible Ghanaians from registering to vote in December. They are there for their express purpose, which is to guard our borders. That is the limit of their remit, and they will not be permitted to stray beyond that remit.
I am fully aware, like the military commanders, of the sensitivity of their deployments at this point in our history, and I am confident that that sensitivity will be fully respected. I have no interest in disenfranchising any eligible Ghanaian from registering in tomorrow’s exercise, nor am I interested in any improper machinations to win any election. I have spent my life fighting for free, democratic institutions in our country, and I will continue in that fight for the rest of my life. The idea of being a President, who emerges from a rigged election, is abhorrent to every fibre of my being. I want to continue to be the President of a Ghanaian people who have given me their free consent, with the blessing of the Almighty.
So please, once again, if you are eighteen years of age and above, and are of sound mind, from tomorrow, or the appointed time, go to your polling station and register. If you do not register now, you cannot vote in December. Present your Ghana card or passport, which are the only two forms of valid identification. In the absence of any of these valid IDs, an applicant can submit one completed Identification Guarantee Form, endorsed by two registered voters, to be registered and issued with a voter ID card. By these procedures, all eligible voters will be registered. No disenfranchisement of voters is contemplated by them.
Together, and adhering to the safety protocols at the polling stations, let us demonstrate that, even during a pandemic, we, in Ghana, continue to be a beacon of democracy on the continent.
Our democracy requires not a unity of ideas or political allegiances, but a unity of commitment to the Ghana project: the free, democratic, open, prosperous and united nation, respectful of human rights and the rule of law, that animated our forebears to make the sacrifices for the liberation of our nation from foreign rule, that has bequeathed to us our beloved Ghana.
May God bless us all, and our homeland Ghana, and make her great and strong.
I thank you for your attention, and have a good night.