British High Commissioner to Ghana Jon Benjamin delivered a speech at the launch of Ghana's 3rd edition of the Manual on Election Adjudication.
Your ladyship, the Chief Justice,
Justices of the Supreme Court,
Justices of the Lower Courts,
The Election Taskforce,
Judicial Staff, media, ladies and gentlemen.
As British High Commissioner to Ghana, I am pleased to be here this afternoon and very pleased that the UK is supporting the preparations for Ghana’s 2016 election.
The UK, one way or another, has supported each of the last 6 elections in Ghana, and we have all seen how the process has strengthened with each election. It is something of which Ghana is rightly proud.
Of course, there is always room for improvement – in the UK as well as in Ghana. And the UK government, as well as other development partners, sees providing support for this year’s election – and democratic processes more broadly – as an important part of our work here.
DFID has been working with a wide range of Ghanaian partners over the last 8 months to develop a programme aimed at supporting a successful election in December 2016, including for example with the Electoral Commission, Ghana Police Service and civil society. One key part of this includes over one million Ghana Cedi worth of support to the Judicial Service.
There are 3 strands to this support:
The first strand is to provide a standardised manual on the resolution of election-related disputes by the Judicial Service of Ghana. We are paying for 6,000 copies of the manual – called ‘the 3rd edition of the Manual on Election Adjudication in Ghana’ – to be printed and distributed to all election stakeholders.
The second strand is to provide some specific, tailored training so that electoral disputes can be resolved expeditiously. About 250 supreme, appeal, high, circuit and district court judges will be trained in election adjudication, and another 60 registrars, private bailiffs and court staff will be trained in their own supporting roles too.
The third strand will look at reforms for Election Adjudication. The Supreme Court Bench will have a high level retreat to discuss the lessons learnt from the adjudication of the 2012 Presidential Election Petition. This will afford the other Members of the Court who were not empaneled during the 2013 petition, as well as other stakeholders, to discuss the Supreme Court Rules, administrative lapses and other reforms that are required to make the Judicial Service better prepared for any such petition should it occur during the 2016 Presidential Elections.
Ghanaian citizens know that free and fair elections require the rule of law to prevail if the intent of the voters is to be accurately reflected. They look to the Judiciary to take action when there is an interference with this basic principle. When the fairness of elections is called into question, we need an effective process of complaints adjudication to sift the facts and determine whether proper election procedures were followed, as prescribed in laws and regulations. Respect for the law and the constitutional process is vital. Likewise, the Electoral Commission must be independent, unfaltering in its administration of the process, swift and resolute in dealing with political intimidation, and open to listening and responding to legitimate concerns voiced by political parties, the media and the public.
The whole purpose of this support is to help you, the Judiciary, to do this critically important job effectively – to equip and enable you to serve as an impartial last arbiter in election disputes. Ghana’s Judiciary already has an enviable reputation and I note that the 2nd edition of the Manual on Election Adjudication in Ghana that was produced in 2012 has received a lot of commendations, and was proposed as a model for Kenya and Togo. As I understand it, the manual aims to set out in plain English the various regulations and processes on election adjudication in one place and will be accessible to everyone, especially all election stakeholders. So we are pleased to be able to work with the Judicial Service to build on the success to date, to deliver what will – I am sure – be Ghana’s seventh free and fair and peaceful election.
The UK is a great supporter of Ghana’s democracy and its electoral record. But Ghana’s enviable reputation for free and fair elections must not be taken for granted. Whilst we admire the open and energetic nature of its campaigns, we also believe that violence has absolutely no place in the electoral process. Nor do provocation, intimidation and incitement, including through hate speech – we condemn all manifestations of those practices.
We therefore call on all of Ghana’s political actors to promote peace and to respect Ghana’s electoral and constitutional processes. All political parties should strongly urge their activists and supporters to refrain from, and, indeed, actively to condemn, any violence, incitement or intimidation which only serves to undermine democracy. Similarly, political parties should hold their own members, who undertake in such activities, to account.
Aside from our support to Ghana’s Judicial Service, we are providing assistance to the Electoral Commission, Civil Society, the Ghana Police and the media. All of this support is designed to ensure a strong process that provides a level playing field where all candidates have a fair chance to make their case for election, and those who the majority of voters choose are the ones that end up in office.
And the UK – always absolutely impartial and neutral between all of Ghana’s political parties – will always work happily with whatever government the people of Ghana vote for in free and fair elections.
Congratulations once again on the launch of the 3rd edition of the manual and I wish you all well up to and through the elections and during the months ahead.