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Opinions of Monday, 25 May 2020

Columnist: Dr. Ayaarim Nawum Baa

New voters' register confusion: A bellwether to civil unrest in Ghana

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Conflict is something that no one has to dream of. The effects of it are devastating and shattering. Its ramifications are enormous and worrisome: loss of human life and property, displacement of people, the destruction of the environment, just to name a few.

According to the Economist Magazine, more than 100,000 people died worldwide in 2016 as a result of armed conflicts.

In many conflict zones children account for the majority of the casualties. Most die not from the weapons themselves, but from preventable diseases that aren’t prevented or treated because the health systems and infrastructure have been destroyed. More than 2.7 million children died in D.R. Congo as a result of the conflict there.

Even after a war, post traumatic stress disorder is one of the most common and serious psychological conditions diagnosed amongst post-war victims: the wounded, the tortured, the raped, the maimed, the beaten, or the shocked person experiencing or witnessing the worst horrors that human beings can perpetrate.

During the war in Sierra Leone for example, a young man from that country escaped the atrocities that went on in his country, and found his way in Ghana, but not without a problem. He was maimed.

His story was sad – a group of men had approached him and his brother in his country during the war, and asked them to choose between a long sleeve and a short sleeve. The young man thought they were going to be given shirts as gifts, and opted for a long sleeve. His brother chose a short sleeve. The men cut his hand from his wrist, and severed his brother’s from the elbow; then, they understood what was meant by long and short sleeves.

Given the consequences of conflicts, it is exceedingly apt for me to say that improper handling of the electoral register brouhaha could cost thousands of human lives and an ocean of human suffering. Unfortunately, the unnecessary intransigent posture of the EC is not helping matters. The EC has become like a bad coin; always popping up for the unpleasant reasons.

The action of the government regarding issues of the Electoral Commission could be likened to a football match. In the course of the match, the Match Commissioner (GoG) changed the referee (Charlotte Osei) the spectators (the electorate) protested but it didn't listen. Few minutes later, it changed the linesmen (Charlotte Osei's deputies), the spectators (the electorate) objected, but it wouldn't care. Close to the end of the match, the Match Commissioner (GoG) through the EC wants to change the ball (Voters' Register) and the spectators (the electorate) are angry.

The above is a perfect analogy of the situation in Ghana today. The idea of a new voters' register is pathetically unpopular, and I will prove it.

On May 20, 2020, the Ghanaweb news portal conducted a poll on whether the EC should go ahead with a new voters' register; the result was alarming. Out of a total of 69,526 votes, 17,802 representing 25.60% voted YES. While a whopping 51,239 representing 73.70% voted NO. 485 votes representing 0.70% were indifferent. The kind of comments that went with the YES votes are very disturbing; a clear indication that the patience of Ghanaians is wearing thin, and our country is on the precipice of explosion.

Even more bizarre is the fact that the EC refused to honour the invitation of the National House of Chiefs to throw more light on the December 7, elections and the intended new voters' register.

A Ghanaweb article dated March 14, 2020, reported that the National House of Chiefs planned to meet the EC to provide them updates on its preparedness for the December 7 polls as well as provide the necessary justification for its insistence to compile a new register barely 9 months to the polls, but the EC shockingly had the effrontery to snub the revered traditional rulers.

This is what the President of the House said, "With the requests, we made to them on the 5th February, 2020, they said they didn't have any time to meet us, so our Standing Committee requested a registrar to go to them so that they will come early in this month, so we can assemble to meet them, as of today, we have not heard from them."

One worry stands out, and I don't want to use the word arrogant to describe the actions of the EC. Discourteous, maybe. Shameless.

I'm much frightened to think that the silence of our great chiefs since the incident is not a good signal. All. Is. Not. Well. They must have been traumatised by this disrespectful behaviour of the EC.

The conduct of the EC, especially its boss, is sending the annoyance of the people of Ghana toward anger. And I would like to implore religious leaders, civil society groups, traditional rulers and well- meaning citizens of our beloved country to speak up for the EC to change its ways. Anything other than this could have an obliterative outcome on our country.