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General News of Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Source: Class FM

Group marches over calls for new electoral roll

Charlotte Osei, EC Chair Charlotte Osei, EC Chair

A pro-Government group Coalition for Defense for Equal Citizenship (CODEC) has gone on a demonstration to correct what its leaders say is false information peddled by pro-opposition group Let My Vote Count Alliance (LMVCA) and the main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), based on which the latter two are calling for a new voter roll ahead of next year’s election.

CODEC’s spokesperson, Mr Edudzi Kudzo Tameklo told journalists that the peaceful march through some streets in the national capital, Accra, was to set the records straight.

“…The Flagbearer of the NPP,” he said, “had indicated, when he addressed the Heritage Foundation that the whole country is clamouring for a new voters register; we think that that position is not entirely correct.”

CODEC intends replicating the demonstration in the Northern and Volta regions of Ghana.

A similar manifestation (picketing the Electoral Commission) by LMVCA got botched twice by the Police about two months ago. The group and the NPP’s 2016 Running Mate to Nana Akufo-Addo, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, claim there are 76,000 Togolese on Ghana’s voter roll. Mr Akufo-Addo himself has alleged the roll is bloated by more than two million names.

On the LMVCA’s first picketing attempt, the Police fired tear gas and water cannons at the marchers, as well as beat some of them up with truncheons and cudgels, for, allegedly, veering off agreed routes for the protest activity.

The second attempt was thwarted by a restraining order from the court.

Apart from insisting that the EC was a security installation, which cannot accommodate picketing, the Police Service said it gathered intelligence that robbers and criminals posed a threat to the country’s security, and, therefore, could not spare any officers to safeguard a picket.

Leaders of the group accused the Police of trumping up excuses to frustrate their protest.

When she spoke on the issue for the first time, the Chair of the EC, Charlotte Osei told Journalists at a press conference at the Commission on Wednesday, September 30, 2015, after a discussion with the various political parties about some proposed electoral reforms that the EC “is a security installation to the extent that at least, for nothing else, we have a data centre here, which carries very sensitive information and biometric details of 14 million Ghanaians.”

She demanded clarity on what the Alliance meant by picketing. “It depends on what you call picketing, and they will have to define that,” she said.

“You have to recognise that we have lives here; work is ongoing. [In]asmuch as people have the right to demonstrate, others have the right to go about their duties normally,” Mrs Osei said.

“There are also people, who come to our premises to transact business with us, they should have the right to go about that business properly, and we also have assets here, which were bought with taxpayers’ money, which need to be also protected, so if the picketing is going to be disruptive to all that then I will have a problem with that personally… so I will have a problem with picketing to the extent that I don’t know how disruptive it would be to business and to safeguarding the lives of my staff and the Commission's properties, otherwise if you are going to picket…a park, why not?” she added.

Later, the Alliance filed a petition at the Human Rights Council of the United Nations General Assembly against the Government of Ghana and the country’s Police Chief, for “human rights violations.”

The petition, filed by Kwame Agyeman-Budu, Ibrahim Sanni, Issah Ballah and Mujeeb Mogtaari was dated September 30, 2015.

In the petition, the group accused the Government of Ghana of “violating the international human rights of the country and the people,” by “deliberating using their control of state institutions to turn the country into a police totalitarian state.”

In the view of the petitioners, the Police’s use of force and the court to prevent the group from picketing the country’s Electoral Commission on two separate occasions, as part of their demand for a new electoral roll ahead of the 2016 general elections, is a breach of: UN Charter, chapter 1, article 1 (3); the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Right.

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