Ghanaians in diaspora to vote in general election after eleven years court battle
Accra, Ghana. Dec. 20, 2017 (AltAfrika)-Ghanaians in diaspora will now be allowed to vote in the next general election after the Human Rights Division of the Accra High Court, ruled in favour of a case in which five Ghanaians living abroad demanded the implementation of the Representation of the People Amendment Act (ROPAA).
The five had filed the case over the delayed implementation of the Act, but in the ruling, the Court on Monday morning also ordered the Electoral Commission to lay a constitutional instrument for consideration by Parliament within 12 months.
The applicants, Kofi A. Boateng, Nellie Kemevor, Obed Danquah, Christiana Sillim and Agyenim Boateng, all living in the United States of America through their lawyers had prayed the court to declare as violation of their human right with the non-implementation of the law, and a subsequently order for them to take part in general elections and national referendum while residing abroad.
The Applicants among others sought from the court a Declaration that Applicants have fundamental human rights under Articles 17(2), 42 and 33(5), of the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana, the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act 2006 [Act 699] Article 13 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, Article 25 of The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Protocol 1 (article 3) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Also, they wanted to a) be registered as voters, b) To be issued voters Identity Cards to enable them to vote in public elections and referenda and c) To vote in public elections and referenda particularly Presidential and Parliamentary elections while resident abroad while outside the jurisdiction of the Republic of Ghana at the time of such elections.
The ruling is of keen interest to political parties and political think tanks which have closely monitored concerns over technical issues raised since the ROPAA was passed about 11 years ago.
It is recalled that the John Agyekum Kufuor administration superintended the passage into law in 2006 of Act 699 to allow citizens, including dual nationals, to be registered abroad and to vote from abroad. The Applicants contend that a promise by former Electoral Commission Chairman, Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, in November 2007 of preparations to implement it “in stages” is yet to be fulfilled.
Delivering the judgement, Justice Anthony Yeboah said the EC had for the last ten years breached the rights of Ghanaians living abroad by failing to give them an opportunity to vote.
He thus condemned the EC’s failure to address challenges preventing Ghanaians living abroad from voting, and specifically asked them to ensure that arrangements are made for such people to vote in the 2020 elections.
He said the ROPAA law was passed by Parliament, and that the EC can cause the same Parliament to approve funding for them for the implementation.
The ROPAA law seeks to empower eligible Ghanaians abroad to vote in national elections. Successive governments have failed to ensure its implementation, since its passage in 2006.
The Electoral Commission at the last hearing prayed the court to allow it prove it was in the process of implementing the law, but failed to provide enough evidence to that effect.
The EC primarily argued that, it had plans to implement the law and should not be compelled to do so.
It also challenged the process by which the applicants invoked the court’s jurisdiction as wrong, while insisting that the right to vote is not a human right.
State Attorneys representing the 2nd Respondent in court had at the start of the case also told the court that they will associate themselves with arguments of lawyers of the 1st Respondent (EC), throughout the entire process.
The case was originally filed in 2016, but withdrawn ahead of the elections and refiled after the elections.