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Opinions of Friday, 30 October 2015

Columnist: Boateng, Kofi A.

ROPAA and the EC’s Forum on the Electoral Register – Where are GLAs?

By Dr. Kofi A. Boateng
October 29, 2015 New York City

Ghana’s Electoral Commissioner, Mrs. Charlotte Osei, is cleverly buying time and dimming public tension by resorting to a true and tried Ghana government approach to burning issues - put together a commission, hold hearings of selectively invited people for two days and do what you always wanted to do. One thing that the Electoral Commission is not even thinking about doing is to include Ghanaians Living Abroad (GLAs) in any discussion about registration of voters for the 2016 elections, or any other year’s elections in the future. How do I know this? As Chairman of the New York based Progressive Alliance Movement (PAM), I sent a letter dated August 7, 2015 to Mrs. Kesson-Smith Osei, Chairperson of the EC and her six commissioners to inquire about their plans for the implementation of ROPAA for the upcoming 2016 national elections. PAM’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Kofi Koranteng, followed up with a personal visit to the EC’s office in Accra- all to no avail. He was simply told that Madam had received the letter but not given the courtesy of hardly a one-minute face-to-face on two visits. After the end of August we published the letter in the media when no response was forthcoming.

All the arguments for and against the passage and implementation of the Representation of the People Amendment Act -699 have been made. ROPAA is the law. It was passed in February 2006. It simply amends PNDC Law 284 to state that Ghanaians Living Abroad in their large and increasing numbers, can also register to vote from where they live. They do not have to travel to Ghana to register, then travel again to vote. That money would be better spent as remittances to our country that finds itself borrowing millions by the hour. It expands the right to vote from abroad beyond the few hundreds working for the Ghana Government. The implementation will make ROPAA consistent with Article 42 of the 1992 Constitution that states eloquently that Ghanaians who are at least 18 years of age and of sound mind have the right to register to vote, with no requirement of abode.

Two national elections have been held in 2008 and 2012 and not a whiff of ROPAA implementation was on the EC’s radar. Should a third in 2016 suffer the same fate? What country makes laws that it simply ignores? What country’s leaders blatantly ignore the billions of dollars of contributions from its ever rising numbers of citizens abroad, but comes to them every four years to collect election contributions? Ghana loves to be seen externally as Africa’s poster child for democracy and respect for law and human rights, but internally it tramples on the constitutional rights of its own citizens whose only sin is that they are economic refugees sacrificing life and personal comfort so their kindred back home can live through the insufficiencies of government. No Vote, No Money - Is that what we want to drive ourselves to? Then what will happen to the Ghanaian families who cannot support their children’s education, pay for health care, provide accommodations, etc.; and to businesses that come to Ghana on the influence of GLAs (remember Kosmos, Tullow Oil, Holiday Inn, and Western Union as well-known examples). I have not even mentioned the foreign currencies that sock the FOREX Bureaus and Banks. Ghana is borrowing itself out of existence, but I dare say that properly harnessed, GLAs will be more than willing, able, and ready to contribute additional billions to our dear country with forbearance on repayment.

In September 2014 I asked President Mahama in New York City about the implementation of ROPAA. He acknowledged the law, and added that it is up to the EC to come up with the required constitutional instrument for implementation. He is right. Later our President said to the Ghanaian community in Worcester that money will not be a problem for the implementation of ROPAA- right again. Mrs. Kesson-Smith Osei, as we say, “oyiwa!” (Here you go). Time is on no one’s side and Ghana is the bigger loser as ROPAA is not implemented to deepen the bond between GLAs and their country. Nation should be ahead of party, and rights above politics.

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