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Hundreds protest against new voters register

BY: Timothy Ngnenbe & Joshua Bediako Koomson
Some of the demonstrators against a new voters register. Paa Kwesi Grant
Some of the demonstrators against a new voters register. Paa Kwesi Grant

The Inter-Party Resistance Against the New Voters Register (IPRAN) yesterday staged a demonstration in Accra to protest the decision of the Electoral Commission (EC) to compile a new register for the December 7, 2020 general election and, in the process, took their case to the Jubilee House to petition the President.

From the Jubilee House, the demonstrators went to the EC, where they submitted another petition.

The petition to the President was received by a Minister of State at the Presidency, Dr Kwaku Afriyie.

There was heavy security presence, as the police and the military were deployed at strategic locations along the approved protest route to ensure proper conduct by the demonstrators in the six-hour march.

A number of police vehicles, including water cannons and armoured cars, were positioned at vantage points, while some sensitive areas, such as the Jubilee House and the premises of the EC, were barricaded and manned by armed security men to ensure that those places were inaccessible to the demonstrators.

The demonstrators moved from the Kawukudi Park through the 37 Military Hospital to the Lands Commission Head Office, from where they moved to the Christ the King Church and then the Jubilee House, where a petition was presented to the Presidency.

From the Jubilee House, the demonstrators marched to the Ridge Roundabout and ended on the premises of the EC, where another petition was presented to the commission.

The police described the demonstration as one of the most peaceful in recent times, even though there was gridlock in that part of the city.

The protest march was spearheaded by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and included the People’s National Convention (PNC), the All People’s Congress (APC) and three other opposition parties.

Build up

As early as 7 a.m., the Kawukudi Park was a beehive of activities as hundreds of people gathered for a warm-up exercise as a prelude to the march.

The crowd grew thicker by the minute as people poured out of buses and massed up at the area, amid singing and dancing.

As the action gathered momentum, the demonstrators, dressed predominantly in red and black attire, flooded the road linking Dzorwulu to the 37 Military Hospital, determined to stop the EC from going ahead with the planned registration exercise.

Notable faces among the demonstrators were the national executives of the NDC, such as the Chairman, Mr Samuel Ofosu Ampofo; the General Secretary, Mr Johnson Asiedu Nketia; the National Organiser, Mr Joshua Akamba, and some Members of Parliament of the party.

Others were the National Chairman of the PNC, Mr Bernard Mornah, and the Founder and Leader of the APC, Mr Hassan Ayariga.

Atmosphere

They carried placards, some of which read: "Drop the new register", "We reject new voters register”, “Jean Mensa, don’t cause mayhem in this country”, "Jean Mensa, respect the CSOs", and “We need change in our living condition, not a new register”.

Some of the demonstrators carried mats and pillows, symbolising that they were ready to sleep on the premises of the EC until their demands were met.

Petition presented to EC

When the demonstrators got to the EC about 2 p.m., the road leading to the commission had been barricaded and about 50 policemen and some soldiers stood guard to ensure no one got inside.

The leadership of IPRAN was, however, allowed onto the premises to present a petition to officials of the EC.

The acting Director of Administration at the EC, Mr Lawrence Sarpong, received the petition from Mr Mornah.

IPRAN’s resolve

Mr Mornah said IPRAN was resolute in its call on the EC to back down on its decision to compile a new voters register because there was no compelling evidence to show that Ghana needed a new register. going into the elections later in the year.

“All the reasons adduced by the EC so far — technical, administrative and economic — do not add up and cannot justify creating a new register,” he said.

He maintained that the timetable given by the EC indicating that the final register would be ready by November 8, this year was not tenable.

“The compilation of a register for our security personnel, the media and other special groups to cast their votes ahead of time cannot be possible because it has to be done with 42 days to spare, by law,” he said.

He said the parties would not accept the situation where the filing of nominations for the presidential and parliamentary elections would be done based on an incomplete register.

Dialogue

For his part, Mr Sarpong said the commission would examine the petition and act on it based on its merit.

He said the EC was open to dialogue and would continue to engage all stakeholders in the electoral process to ensure that the 2020 general election was credible and peaceful.

The Director of Operations at the Accra Regional Police Command, Assistant Commissioner of Police Mr Kwasi Ofori, described the demonstration as peaceful.