By: Foga Nukunu |OPINION |
The Electoral Commission (EC) of Ghana on June 02 began the pilot voter registration across Ghana to test the potency of the registration kits.
This piloting exercise is happening just months into the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections Obviously, time is not the friend of the EC.
The widespread reports of breakdown of some machines and the duration it took for a prospective voter to register should be a warning to the EC. But there is even more.
As the electoral body prepares to embark on the nationwide voter registration five months into the 2020 general elections, some misguided or misinformed Ghanaians have started pointing figures at some Ghanaians calling them foreigners.
For instance, a cousin to the President of Ghana, Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko, a lawyer did not understand why Ketu South should record the highest voter population in Ghana.
You would agree with me that Ketu South (Volta Region) has always been the target of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) as Bantama (Ashanti Region) used to be the target of the National Democratic Congress (NDC).
When the target of a constituency intends to make citizens of Ghana look foreign, we must all rise up and defend ourselves.
Sadly, for political expediency, many supporters and sympathizers of NPP believe that Ketu South voter’s roll is populated by non-Ghanaians, thus, accept this unwarranted and unjustified attack on Ketu South.
Who is a Ghanaian?
Every Ghanaian citizen must know that s/he is a Ghanaian because the Constitution of Ghana says so. It is never by the word of a fellow Ghanaian. I will produce Article 6 of the 1992 Constitution:
Article 6(1) Every person who, on the coming into force of this Constitution, is a citizen of Ghana by law shall continue to be a citizen of Ghana.
(2) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, a person born in or outside Ghana after the coming into force of this Constitution shall become a citizen of Ghana at the date of his birth if either of his parents or grandparents is or was a citizen of Ghana.
(3) A child of not more than seven years of age found in Ghana whose parents are not know shall be presumed to be a citizen of Ghana by birth.
(4) A child of not more than sixteen years of age neither of whose parents is a citizen of Ghana who is adopted by a citizen of Ghana shall, be virtue of the adoption, be a citizen of Ghana.”
The Citizenship Act, 2000 (Act 597) re-echoed what the Constitution says about who a Ghanaian is. I will produce the relevant portion of the ACT.
Section 1 of the Act provides that “Every person who on the coming into force of the Constitution was a citizen of Ghana by law shall continue to be a citizen of Ghana.”
Section 3 of the Act provides that a person born before 6th March 1957 is a citizen of Ghana by birth if—
(a) He was born in Ghana and at least one of his parents or grandparents was born in Ghana; or
(b) He was born outside Ghana and one of his parents was born in Ghana.
Section 4 of the same Act provides as follows:
(1) A person born on or after 6th March 1957 and before 22nd August 1969 is a citizen of Ghana by birth if—
(a) he was born in or outside Ghana and either of his parents, and also one at least of his grandparents or great-grandparents, was born in Ghana; or
(b) In the case of a person born in Ghana neither of whose parents was born in Ghana, at least one of his grandparents was born in Ghana.
(2) A person is not a citizen of Ghana for the purposes of subsection (1) of this section if at the time of his birth the parent, grandparent or great-grandparent through whom the citizenship is claimed has lost his citizenship of Ghana.
(3) A person born on or after 6th March 1957 and before 22nd August 1969 is a citizen of Ghana by birth if—
(a) He was born in Ghana and at the time of his birth either of his parents was a citizen of Ghana by registration or naturalisation; or
(b) He was born outside Ghana and at the time of his birth both of his parents were citizens of Ghana by registration or naturalisation.
Section 5— Persons Born on or after 22/8/69—Constitution 1969
A person is a citizen of Ghana by birth if he was born in or outside Ghana on or after 22nd August 1969 and before 24th September 1979 and at the date of his birth either of his parents was a citizen of Ghana.
Section 6—Persons Born on or after 24/9/79—Constitution 1979
A person born on or after 24th September 1979 and before 7th January 1993 is a citizen of Ghana by birth if—
(a) He was born in Ghana and at the date of his birth either of his parents or one grandparent was a citizen of Ghana; or
(b) He was born outside Ghana and at the date of his birth either of his parents was a citizen of Ghana.
Section 7—Persons Born on or after 7/1/93—Constitution 1992
A person is a citizen of Ghana by birth if he was born on 7th January 1993 or born after that date in or outside Ghana and at the date of his birth either of his parents or one grandparent was or is a citizen of Ghana.
A child of not more than seven years of age found in Ghana whose parents are not known shall be presumed to be a citizen of Ghana by birth.
From the above provisions, it is lucidly clear that if one of your parents or grandparents is or was a Ghanaian, you are also a Ghanaian. It is immaterial whether one is born outside or inside Ghana.
Can a Mother Transmit Citizenship to the Children?
Though our 1992 Constitution is explicit on this issue, some mischievous Ghanaians have deliberately set out to deprive some Ghanaians whose mothers come from Ghana of their citizenship.
This is exactly what happened to Bonito Olympio, one of the children of Sylvanus Epiphanio Olympio in Ghana.
The case went before an Accra High Court presided over by the then His Lordship Justice Wiredu who later became the Chief Justice of Ghana.
In that case, Mr Olympio received a letter from the Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Interior stating that his permission to remain in Ghana had been withdrawn and that he must leave within 48 hours.
Consequently, he brought an action seeking a declaration that he was Ghanaian citizen by descent, that he could not therefore be deported from Ghana and that he required no permission from the defendant in order to remain in Ghana.
The plaintiff presented evidence that: his father was born in Kpandu, his paternal Grand-Mother was born and baptised in Keta, his mother was born and baptised in Keta, his maternal grandmother was born in Keta, and he was born in Lome on April 01, 1933.
The evidence as to the Keta births and baptisms was presented by ancient documents. The plaintiff based his claim on paragraph 2(1)(b) of N.L.C.D.191. The defense called no evidence and relied solely on the evidence as presented by the plaintiff as a Ghanaian citizen by descent.
Justice Edward Wiredu held that: the plaintiff’s mother, grandmother and great grandmother were all born in Keta and were British and Ghanaian citizens by virtue of N.L.C.D. 191 para. 1(a) No.1 of 1957, s.4(1) and British Nationality Act, 1948 Of (N.L.C.D)191, the plaintiff was a Ghanaian citizen by descent. (Read Olympio vrs Commissioner of Interior, HC, 30th July, 1969)
What happened to Bonito Olympio is happening to so many Ghanaians especially Ghanaians who live along border communities. These sections of Ghanaians have been subjected to abuses and unjust accusations of being foreigners because they live in border communities and that their mothers come from Ghana and their fathers come from Togo.
Permit me to bore you with these life experiences:
Experience One: This happened to a close friend. His mother is a Ghanaian, his father, a Togolese. He was born in Ghana and has a birth certificate. He applied for a Ghanaian passport. He travelled all the way from Aflao to have his form processed in Accra. In the process, he was arrested and locked up. The reason for his arrest was that he was not able to speak a typical Aflao Ewe or Twi. Yes, my friend could not speak a typical Aflao Ewe. He used to speak it but because of his trade in Lomé (Asigame) and his frequent social intercourse with the people of Lome, he acquired their Ewe called Mina or Genyigbe or Mbesina.
A full blooded Ghanaian by birth was detained because he could not speak Ewe. Sadly, a native of Aflao was the national security operative stationed at the passport office. The fact is an average native of Aflao should be able to speak Mina or genyige or Mbesina. But this national security operative could not speak for my friend.
My friend’s mother had to travel from Aflao to Accra before he was released. Many of our people go through this unjust treatment every day.
Experience Two: It happened to my own cousin. She was born in the Republic of Togo. Her father comes from Togo. Her mother, a Ghanaian by birth is my paternal aunt from Aflao. My cousin had her education in Ghana and Togo. She is a bilingual. She turned 18 and was qualified to register to vote. She went to the registration centre in my electoral area to register. Whilst she was undergoing the registration process, a known NPP man came to challenge her. The man who knew my cousin’s mother was a Ghanaian challenged my cousin on the sole ground that my cousin’s father was a Togolese.
That was what our people went through at various voter registration centres. The fact is that many of our people living along border communities have one of their parents coming from the other country and so, are citizens of both Ghana and Togo. They are dual nationals by birth.
It must be made very clear to those Ghanaians who have difficulty comprehending how a Ghanaian mother could transmit citizenship to her children that our supreme law, the 1992 Constitution says so. The 1992 Constitution is not discriminatory. It stands for equality. Therefore, if a Ghanaian father can transmit citizenship to his children, a mother can do same.
Does One Need a Special Card to be a Dual Citizen?
The answer is emphatic NO as our Constitution frowned upon dual citizenship until December 16, 1997. The Article 8 of the Constitution has been amended to pave way for dual citizenship.
Now, Article 8 (1) of the Constitution and section 16 (1) of the Citizenship Act, 2000 (Act 591) provide that “A citizen of Ghana may hold the citizenship of any other country in addition to his citizenship of Ghana.”
Both the Constitution and the Citizenship Act did not provide that a dual citizen should acquire any special card before s/he can be a dual citizen. The law is plain and unambiguous.
This is what the then His Lordship Justice Dr. Date-Baah said in ASARE VRS ATTORNEY – GENERAL, WRIT NO. J1 / 6 / 2011 22ND MAY, 2012:
“This, to my mind, is the most powerful contention in the plaintiff’s case. It is important to stress that the rights of citizenship of dual nationals are unconditional. It is true that dual nationals are lawfully excluded from particular offices, but that does not derogate from the proposition that the citizenship rights of dual nationals are unconditional.
Accordingly, any administrative procedures or practices or subsidiary legislation which seek to impose fetters or conditions on the exercise by dual nationals of their rights as citizens are unconstitutional. The authority for this view of the law is article 8(1) of the 1992 Constitution. The plain language of that article makes it quite clear that a Ghanaian may hold the citizenship of any other country in addition to the citizenship of Ghana. No conditions are attached to this primary constitutional provision. The fact that article 8(2) then imposes certain exclusions from office on dual nationals does not make their rights conditional.”
Dr. Date-Baah continued, “To the extent that the administrative requirement referred to above is mandatory and conditions the exercise of the rights of dual citizens on it, I would regard it as unconstitutional. If the card is intended to be optional and to ease the exercise by dual nationals of their rights, then it would be constitutional. In other words, dual nationals are citizens by operation of the Constitution and do not need any mandatory documents before exercising their rights of citizenship, in the same way as sole citizens do not need any mandatory documents before exercising their rights as citizens. However, if the State wishes to assist dual nationals in the enjoyment of their rights by providing them with evidence of their dual nationality, this would be permissible. What is not lawful or constitutional is for the State to prescribe that, without possession of a dual nationality card, a dual national may not exercise his or her rights granted under the Constitution.”
It is therefore wrong to think that children of Ghanaian mothers need a special card to be a dual citizen or prove their citizenship. The Supreme Court of Ghana spoke and it is final.
Rights of Dual Citizens
The Supreme Court of Ghana in Asare vrs Attorney – General (supra) speaking through His Lordship Justice Dr. Date-Baah made it clear that dual citizens are entitled to enjoy all rights except few high profile positions in the country including ambassadorial, Secretary to the Cabinet and head of security agencies.
He said in ASARE VRS ATTORNEY – GENERAL (supra) that the disqualification of dual citizens for this top positions “does not constitute such a denudation of their political rights as to infringe their right, pursuant to article 55(10), to participate in political activity intended to influence the composition and policies of the Government.”
Who Qualifies to Register and Vote in Ghana?
This is settled. A citizen of Ghana of eighteen years 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 (See Article 42 of the 1992 Constitution).
Dual citizens have the same right. Even prisoners have the same right (SEE IN AHUMAH-OCANSEY V ELECTORAL COMMISSION  SCGLR 575).
This was emphasised in TEHN-ADDY V ELECTORAL COMMISSION [1996-97] SCGLR by the then Justice George Kingsley Acquah and I quote:
“Whatever be the philosophical thought on the right to vote, article 42 of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana makes the right to vote a constitutional right conferred on every sane Ghanaian citizen of eighteen years and above. … as a constitutional right therefore, no qualified citizen can be denied of it, since the Constitution is the supreme law of the land.”
On Wednesday May 27, 2020, the EC met the political parties regarding the voter registration exercise scheduled to commence from the last week of June to the end of July, 2020.
One thing is clear. The registration is bound to happen unless the Supreme Court stops them. The EC must abide by the Constitution and the authority in Tehn-Addy case where the court held that no qualified citizen should be denied the right to vote.
Action of the EC
Ghana’s EC has deliberately set out to disenfranchise a lot of qualified Ghanaians from registering to vote. This, it is doing by using the one-sided rubber stamp Parliament led by the ruling party to achieve. In Parliament, Majority carries the day no matter what Minority says.
The EC has placed before the Parliament of Ghana a Constitutional Instrument (CI) 126. In the CI, the EC made Ghanaian Passport and Ghana Card as the only documents that could be used as proof of identity as a Ghanaian.
The CI excluded birth certificate, driver’s license and the current Voter ID Card. It however, made a provision for a vouching for process where two registered voters could guarantee for a qualified Ghanaian without either Ghanaian Passport or Ghana Card.
The exclusion of some documents especially the current Voters’ ID card and the birth certificate beats my mind.
Is it not strange that the Voter’s ID card which was used to conduct a referendum to create six more regions and the recent local assembly election is being excluded by the EC from the list of documents as proof of identity to register to acquire a new Voter’s ID card?
You have to be a Ghanaian. You must have a birth certificate. So in today’s Ghana, without birth certificate, no Ghanaian can obtain a passport (see the Passport Form on their website).
The staff of the EC, lawyers at Attorney-General’s Department acquired their passports using the birth certificate and Members of Parliament (MPs) also acquired their passports, service or diplomatic passports using their birth certificate. So the questions bothering my mind are:
- What would make all these people (excluding minority MPs) to think that the birth certificate which is the sole source document used to prove citizenship to procure the passport is being excluded from the CI?
- Does it not occur to us that it will be illogical, unreasonable and absurd to exclude birth certificate from the list?
Acquiring a Ghana Card
The only two documents required by Ghanaians to acquire Ghana Card are birth certificate and Ghanaian Passport. As already stated, birth certificate is the only document needed to acquire passports. So logically, birth certificate is the only document needed to register for Ghana card.
Yet, the EC included Ghana Card and rejected the birth certificate. Does this make sense to you as a reasonable Ghanaian? Yet we are quiet.
Plot to Disenfranchise some Ghanaians
Let me give you some scenarios and you will understand why EC of Ghana is deliberately attempting to disenfranchise so many Ghanaians.
You will agree with me that only few Ghanaians have passport and that not all of those with passport were able to register to acquire the Ghana Card.
When National Identification Authority (NIA) was doing the mass registration for Ghana Card, they told us the Card would not be used as a source document to prove citizenship to register to vote. As a result, a lot of Ghanaians did not bother to register.
Yet the EC surreptitiously ‘smuggled’ the Ghana Card into the CI. So without Ghana Card, you cannot register.
His name is Professor Kenneth Atafuah, a distinguished criminologist and lawyer. He is a card-bearing member of the ruling NPP. He may not be a disinterested party in the upcoming elections and so, one may not be entirely wrong to assume that the inclusion of Ghana Card is political.
Professor Atafuah knew that NIA had not completed its work and that millions of cards were not released to Ghanaians. Yet, his sister, Jean Mensa of EC cleverly included the Ghana Card in the CI.
Ghana Card registration in Ketu South
The officer who coordinated NIA registration in Ketu South is a known party activist in Ketu South who once told the whole world that most of the voters in Ketu South were Togolese.
At my registration centre and at almost all the centres in the Constituency, officers in charge were known NPP operatives.
It is imperative to note that many of our people did not register for Ghana Card and the few who registered could not get their cards as till now.
Fellow Ghanaians, it was not a coincidence that the workstation machines brought to Ketu South for the Ghana Card registration exercise were few and that some of these machines developed faults frequently compelling eligible applicants who went to the registration centres to abandon the exercise out of frustration.
I have reasons to believe that it was a deliberate and a well-thought out plan to disenfranchise people. Few Ghanaians registered for the Card, and many of them are yet to have theirs, the Ghana Card registration exercise is still work in progress and additionally, just few Ghanaians have Ghanaian passport.
Vouching for process
One of the lame justifications being given by the EC is that those qualified Ghanaians who do not have passport or Ghana Card to prove their citizenship could get two registered voters to vouch for or guarantee for them.
The vouching for process can only work when there are already registered voters to act as guarantors or vouchers. These registered voters would have to get a passport or Ghana Card to register first before they could vouch for qualified Ghanaians who have no passport or Ghana Card.
As stated earlier, only few Ghanaians have Ghana Card or passport. It is doubtless that there are so many communities in Ghana where not a single adult Ghanaian has Ghana Card or passport. In these communities, not a single person will be able to register to acquire the Voter’s ID card.
The effect is that there will not be any registered voter to vouch for qualified Ghanaians who have no Ghana Card or Passport meaning many qualified Ghanaians will be disenfranchised. This flies in the face of the authority in Tehn-Addy case (supra) that no qualified citizen can be denied the right to vote provided in Article 42 of the Constitution.
The way forward
It is about time Ghanaians who think they are more Ghanaian than others stopped their unjustified and misguided attacks on Ghanaians living in border communities and those Ghanaians who acquired their citizenship by virtue of their Ghanaians mothers.
The electoral body must halt its plan to compile a new voter’s register or alternatively, withdraw the CI in Parliament and re-lay a fresh one which will include the current Voter’s ID card and the birth certificate if it wants to proceed with the compilation.
To Ghana’s Parliament, reject the new CI if the EC refuses to withdraw it. Also, I expect the citizenry to drag the EC before court to uphold the Constitution.
It is regrettably disappointing that majority of well-meaning Ghanaians have not spoken against the unjustified attack on some fellow Ghanaians being considered as foreigners and the attempt by the EC to disenfranchise them.
Do we still have National Union of Ghana Students, the Ghana Bar Association, Ghana Bishops Conference, Ghana Charismatic Council, Musicians Union of Ghana and the Eminent Advisory Committee? They must add their voice.
It is however consoling that Mr Abraham Koomson, the Executive Secretary of Ghana Federation of Labour and the National House of Chiefs have spoken to alert the country that electoral conflict has the tendency of bringing undesirable consequences.
A word to the wise is enough.
Source: Foga Nukunu
Former Assembly Member, Duta Electoral Area, Ketu South Municipality