Election Security In Ghana
In less than a month, precisely on December 7, Ghanaians will once again go to the poll to elect a President and 275 Members for the Parliament. Candidates are jostling all over the country to send their messages across. They are leaving no stone unturned to catch the attention of the voting population. Unlike the advanced democracies such as the UK, the United States, Norway, and Sweden where this exercise passes without any serious violent incidents, ours is not exactly the case. In recent times there has not been any single election on the continent that has gone without acts of rancour, acrimony, intimidation, threats, brutalities and arsons among others. Some even degenerate into full blown civil disturbances or wars. In most cases election violence occur during the campaign period, voting or when results are declared and thereafter. That is why security is key to the success of every nation’s electoral process.
Election security encompasses protection of electoral stakeholders such as voters, candidates, polls workers, the media and observers, electoral information such as vote results, registration data and campaign materials, electoral facilities such as polling stations, counting and collation centers. It is worthy of note that no election can take place in a situation of uncertainty, lawlessness, intimidation and violence. This therefore calls for a stronger and well-structured security for a country’s electoral process. For any election to be credible and its outcome acceptable to contesting parties, there is the need for a comprehensive security arrangement.
The 1992 constitution provides for a Police Service which is the lead agency in terms of providing internal security for Ghanaians and all those residing in the country. The Ghana Police Service also has the onerous responsibility of providing security for all activities that falls under election management. This notwithstanding, sister security agencies such as the Military, the Ghana Prisons Service, Ghana Immigration Service, the Ghana National Fire Service and the Customs assist the police to carry out this responsibility. A lot has gone into providing adequate security coverage in order to ensure that nothing untoward happens to mar the relative peace the country is enjoying.
The police have identified many hotspots and have put in place measures to ensure that those potential hot beds do not degenerate into violence. For instance the Inspector-General of Police, in collaboration with his management team has initiated the IGP’s dialogue series and has so far engaged Youth Leadership of the various Political Parties, Executives of Political Parties, the Electoral Commission, Faith Based Organizations and other interest groups including the media. These engagements are aimed at addressing issues likely to provoke violence or breach the peace. It was also meant to clear all doubts and suspicions that characterize elections in this country. The Police service has also stated its position on the activities of vigilante groups. The IGP has on several platforms made it clear that it is illegal for such security appendages in the parties to arrogate to themselves the powers of state security apparatus. To ensure that all the parties enjoy the needed protection, the Police administration has assigned Police guards to presidential candidates contesting the December Polls. It is also refreshing to note that the Police Administration has assured Ghanaians that henceforth any act of criminality that occurs in the arena of election would be treated separately from electoral offences and would no longer fall on the directive of the Electoral Commission or the Attorney-General before action is taken.
In order to ensure that personnel of the service are well positioned to carry out their task of election security coverage, various capacity-building training sessions have been held for all ranks. As part of the sensitization drive, the service will soon launch election manuals for personnel, the electorate on the dos and don’ts before, during and after the polls. The Ghana Police Service has demonstrated its fairness and neutrality in the handling of election related conflicts. The neutrality and fairness of the Service should not be in doubt. All these will go a long way to enhance the confidence of various parties and the public at large in the Police Service. With a clearly laid out election security infrastructure, Ghanaians would go to the Poll confident that their security is assured. Stakeholders particularly candidates and their supporters should also abide by the rules so that the election will not only be peaceful but also successful and an improved one.
The Ghana police service will continue to team up with sister agencies and the election management body to conduct a very peaceful and credible election.
BY DSP FREEMEN TETTEY OF THE PUBLIC AFFAIRS DEPARTMENT OF THE GHANA POLICE SERVICE.