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Opinions of Thursday, 5 November 2015

Columnist: thefinderonline.com

Identity crisis: Lest we forget the Ivorian war

Ethnic identity and disputes over who should be considered Ivorian were at the root of a decade of political turmoil that ended in 2011 with a brief post-election civil war.

More than 3,000 people were killed during months of violence sparked by the refusal of Gbagbo - then the incumbent president - to accept his defeat to Ouattara in an election in late 2010.

The northern half of the country was then occupied by rebels who claimed to be fighting discrimination against northerners and foreigners.

Currently, there are fears that the identity crisis facing the country due to the lack of a credible register of all Ghanaians to serve as the singular reference source is a recipe for chaos, especially election-related violence.

The admission by stakeholders that the Electoral Commission’s voters’ register is not credible due to the lack of a credible register of all Ghanaians has thrown the country into fear, as Ghanaians are apprehensive about how political parties will react to results of Election 2016 if the country’s differences are not resolved to the satisfaction of all.

The situation poses serious threats to peace because no one has the right to resort to emotive definition to tell who is a Ghanaian or not, as one can be identified as a Ghanaian through marriage, adoption or by birth, among others.

As a result, skin colour or accent or peculiar looks cannot be used as basis to deny a person's citizenship.

The increasing demand for identity verification in everyday life demands the immediate creation of a credible register of all Ghanaians to serve as the singular reference source for all government offices, programmes and the nation as a whole, to prevent people from providing false information.

The need for Ghana to reliably identify members of the population is, among other things, to ensure public safety, after services, issue welfare benefits and control immigration, and also help with national planning.

Currently, Ghana has no uniform system of identifying residents. The absence of reliable means of identification has created problems for the administration and management of resources in the country.

A credible register will help address national security matters, credit information, revenue collection, acquisition of passport and driving licence, and registration of voters.

Other public service, delivery and human development activities such as registration of births, deaths and marriages, social security and the national health insurance system will be addressed by NIS.

Data for planning is another area that can bring enormous impact into the economy in this jubilee year.

It is strongly believed that the National Identification Authority (NIA) will provide up-to-date data that will form a sound base for policy formulation and implementation, which will put people's rights and responsibilities at the care of the nation's development.

If disputes over who should be considered Ivorian fuelled war in neighbouring Ivory Coast, all stakeholders must work round the clock to create the credible register of Ghanaians to prevent the Ivorian experience.