Sunday, June 30, 2013
Ghana's democracy scores firsts (June 13, 2013 - Page 36/37)
Ghana experienced its first coup d’etat on February 24, 1966 when its first President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, was overthrown by military officers led by then Col. E. K. Kotoka. Lt. Gen. Joseph Arthur Ankrah, then on retirement was recalled to head the National Liberation Council administration.
After that, the country reeled under four different military coups d’etat — General Ignatius Kutu Acheampong’s overthrow of Dr Kofi Abrefa Busia’s Progress Party government on January 13, 1972; General F.W.K. Akuffo’s overthrow of General Acheampong on July 5, 1978; Flt Lt Jerry John Rawlings’s overthrow of Gen Akuffo on June 4, 1979 and Flt Lt Rawlings’s overthrow of Dr Hilla Limann’s People’s National Party government on December 31, 1981.
After undergoing 11 years of military rule from 1981, Ghana fully embraced constitutional rule in 1992 and has since gone through six elections.
Although Ghanaians and their businesses have undergone turbulent moments through coup d’etats, Ghana has emerged stronger with its democracy and is currently touted as the gateway to West Africa.
Former President Rawlings, former President John Agyekum Kufuor and the late Professor John Evans Atta Mills were all elected under the 1992 Constitution.
Ghana has grown in leaps and bounds in the realms of democracy so much so that for the first time in the history of this country, a sitting President’s legitimacy is being challenged through the constitutional system.
The beauty of it all is that both the challenger, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, and the challenged, President John Dramani Mahama, have publicly stated that they will respect the outcome of the presidential election petition which is currently ongoing at the Supreme Court.
Perhaps what most people have not observed is that the election and subsequent petition has set some very interesting precedents.
For the first time in Ghana’s electoral history, biometric registers and biometric verification devices (BVDs) were used in 26,002 polling stations across the country.
The second precedent was when on December 7, 2012, as a result of the malfunctioning of some biometric verification machines, the Electoral Commission (EC) extended voting to December 8. Voting continued in 412 polling station across the country on that day. That was the beginning, and it was to be followed by a challenge of the presidential election results declared by the EC and many others.
Facts Recorded So Far
December 9, 2012 – The EC Chairman, Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, declared President Mahama winner of the December 7 and 8, 2012 presidential poll with 50.70 per cent of the valid votes cast, while it declared the presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Nana Akufo-Addo, as placing second with 47.7 per cent.
On December 28, 2012, Nana Akufo-Addo; his running mate, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, and the NPP National Chairman, Mr Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey, filed a petition at the Supreme Court challenging the declaration of Mr Mahama as the winner of the poll, claiming that President Mahama benefitted from gross and widespread irregularities of over-voting, polling stations with the same serial numbers, persons voting without undergoing biometric verification and presiding officers not signing some pink sheets (statement of poll and declaration of results form).
The petitioners are asserting that Nana Akufo-Addo won the elections by 59.69 per cent, while President Mahama polled 39.1 per cent, and for that reason the court should annul 4.3 million votes and declare Nana Akufo-Addo President.
Three days after the filing of the petition, the NDC applied to join the petition, and after a fierce legal battle between lawyers for the NDC and those for the petitioners, who saw the move by the NDC as a ploy to delay the petition, the court, in a 6-3 majority decision on January 22, 2013, allowed the NDC to join as the third respondent.
327 Booted out
On March 14, 2013, 327 people who applied to join the petition to maintain the status quo were thrown out. The court held that their presence was neither necessary nor convenient.
The Supreme Court, on April 16, 2013, broke the convention of cameras not being allowed into courtrooms by endorsing the live telecast of its proceedings via television and radio to allow viewers to listen to and watch proceedings live.
Article 125 (1) of the 1992 Constitution states: “Justice emanates from the people and shall be administered in the name of the Republic by the Judiciary, which shall be independent and subject only to this Constitution.”
Article 125 (2) states: “Citizens may exercise popular participation in the administration of justice through the institutions of public and customary tribunals and the jury and assessor systems.”
These underpinnings, the powers of the highest court of the land, coupled with the permission of the Chief Justice, Mrs Justice Georgina Wood, made it possible for Ghanaians to have firsthand knowledge of this historical presidential petition.
Interestingly, Ghanaians are so engrossed in the hearing that hardly any interaction ends without the introduction of one legalese or another.
Voluminous Documents Filed
Volumes and volumes of documents have been field at the Supreme Court Registry by parties in the case.
There are currently more than 407,000 different documents in the possession of the registry.
They include pink sheets from 11,842 polling stations in contention (the petitioners are now relying on 11,115 polling stations), 7,200 sworn affidavits from witnesses for the President and the NDC, affidavit evidence from the EC, pleadings, counter pleadings and other documents relevant in assisting the Supreme Court to arrive at its decision.
The documents are so voluminous that the court was, at the beginning of the hearing of the substantive petition, inundated with heaps of boxes of documents which took days to be stamped, filed and served on parties in the case.
Court clerks from other courts at a point had to step in to assist their colleagues at the Supreme Court Registry to file affidavits sworn to by witnesses for the NDC and President Mahama.
As it stands now, lead counsel for the petitioners, Mr Philip Addison, has stated in court that his side has received less than 5,000 out of the 7,200 affidavits sworn to by witnesses of the President and the NDC.
A substantial amount of money has been dispensed with by the parties in the case following the filing of thousands of documents.
Accreditation and Security
The Supreme Court was an open place for the public in the past until the hearing of the petition began. The inner perimeter of the court is restricted and only accredited persons are allowed entry.
Security stretches from the streets facing the Supreme Court right through to the courtroom on days the court sits on the petition. A scanner has been mounted at the entrance of the courtroom to scan persons before they are allowed entry.
Journalists, who had, in the past, been allowed to enter courtrooms with their cellular phones, laptops and other electronic gadgets, are now required to leave behind these gadgets before entering the courtroom.
Only pens and notebooks are allowed in.
Party Big Wigs
The petition is so decisive it pulls executives of the NPP and the NDC, former ministers of state, past and current Members of Parliament (MPs) and a host of accredited observers to the courtroom on a daily basis.
It is a daily feature to find photojournalists pitching camp outside the courtroom waiting for proceedings to end, so that they can take pictures of lawyers, party executives and observers.
The situation is so stressful for some photojournalists, they are sometimes found napping under a tent mounted for them in front of the Supreme Court building.
“Hijack” of Supreme Court and Long Hours of Sitting
To meet demands spelt out by by the Supreme Court Amendment Rules, 2012, (CI 74) for an expeditious hearing, the court sits on a daily basis for four consecutive days. Sittings have mostly lasted between four and six hours.
Thus all other cases drawn from other parts of the country and billed for hearing at the Supreme Court have been shifted to Fridays.
Most Prejudiced Case
This petition can also go down in history as the most discussed court case on radio, television, in the newspapers, new media and social media.
It has suffered prejudice from the onset and not even numerous warnings from the bench have deterred some lawyers and members of the public from dissecting it from all angles.
Legal Brains Clash
Perhaps this petition can claim credit for being the only case that has managed to pull the highest number of legal brains together on a daily basis.
Aside the team of lawyers who are representing the parties in the case, it is common to find lawyers filling the gallery of the Supreme Court simply to observe proceedings on a daily basis.
The petitioners, for instance, are being represented by 12 lawyers, namely, Mr Addison, a former Deputy Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Ms Gloria Akuffo; Mr Stephen Dapaah-Addo, Mr Frank Davies, Mr Alex Quaynor, Mr Akoto Ampaw, Nana Asante Bediatuo, Mr Kwame Akuffo, Mr Kwaku Asirifi, Mr Godfred Yeboah Dame, Mr Egbert Faibille and Professor Ken Attafuah.
Members of the petitioners’ communication and legal team include Mr Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko, Mr Mike Oquaye Junior and Mr Yaw Buabeng Asamoah.
President Mahama is being represented by Mr Tony Lithur and Dr Abdul Baasit Aziz-Bamba, while the NDC’s interest is being protected by Mr Tsatsu Tsikata and Mr Samuel Codjoe.
Members of the NDC Legal and Communication team are Nana Ato Dadzie, Mr Victor K. Adawudu, Mr Abraham Amaliba and Mr Chris Ackumey.
The EC is being represented by Mr James Quashie-Idun, Mr Stanley Amarteyfio, Ms Freda Bruce-Appiah and Ms Stephannie Amarteyfio.
Daily Press Briefings
It may look weird in legal language, but as far as the presidential petition is concerned, it is normal to find lawyers representing the petitioners and the NDC organising daily press briefings to walk journalists through what transpired in court.
Social commentators and sympathisers of the two main parties also grant interviews to radio stations and give account of court proceedings from their “political spectacles”.
The Chairman of the EC, Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, declared President Mahama winner of the December 2012 polls. The current challenge to the declaration, therefore, means that the Supreme Court is the final arbiter.
For that reason, the nine-member panel, presided over by Mr Justice William Atuguba, with Mr Justice Julius Ansah, Mrs Justice Sophia Adinyira, Ms Justice Rose Owusu, Mr Justice Jones Dotse, Mr Justice Annin Yeboah, Mr Justice Paul Baffoe-Bonnie, Mr Justice N. S. Gbadegbe and Mrs Justice Vida Akoto-Bamfo as members, has set out two issues for determination.
They are whether or not there were statutory violations, omissions, irregularities and malpractices in the conduct of the elections held on December 7 and 8, 2012.
It will also ascertain whether or not the said violations, omissions, irregularities and malpractices (if any) affected the outcome of the results of the elections.
Judgement and Declaration of Results
After taking evidence from all the parties in the case, the court will fix a date for judgement. It will then forward its order to the EC for implementation.
It is important to note that the EC will be expected to declare the results again, irrespective of the outcome of the court’s decision.
Rule 71 of CI 74 says: “The court shall, at the conclusion of the hearing of the petition, deliver its judgement and the registrar shall, within seven days of the delivery of the judgement, forward a copy of the judgement to the Electoral Commission.’’
Rule 69 C (5) of the Supreme Court (Amendment) Rules, 2012 (CI 74), which provides in part that "the court shall sit from day to day, including public holidays, when hearing a presidential election petition”, was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court on April 30, 2013.
In a unanimous decision, the court also held that a review of its decisions was a right created by Article 133 (1) of the 1992 Constitution and consequently declared the aspect of CI 74 which said the court’s final decision on the petition could not be reviewed a nullity.
Article 133 (1) of the Constitution states: “The Supreme Court may review any decision made or given by it on such grounds and subject to such conditions as may be prescribed by rules of court.”
The decision relates to a suit filed at the court by the General Secretary of the People’s National Convention (PNC), Mr Bernard Anbataayela Mornah, seeking “a declaration that on a true and proper interpretation of articles 133, 157, 93(2) and 11 of the 1992 Constitution, Rule 71B and a part of Rule 69C (5) of the Supreme Court (Amendment) Rules, 2012 (CI 74) are unconstitutional and must be declared null and void and of no effect”.
Political tolerance is Key to promoting peace
It is understandable for Ghanaians to have dissenting opinions because of their political beliefs.
But they must note that Ghana is the only country available for Ghanaians to be called “home”, for which reason it is pertinent for everyone to be tolerant.
Politics is not about life or death. The world is looking up to Ghana and it will be most unfortunate for any person or group of persons to take the law into their hands and cause mayhem after the declaration.
Any society that does not have law and order cannot survive. Ghanaians are blessed and envied the world over because of the prevailing peace and tranquillity.
No one should take that away. It is imperative for Ghanaians to prove to the world that our democracy has matured to such a level that never again will Ghana go through political turmoil.