British High Commissioner's speech at the launch of election communication materials

British High Commissioner to Ghana Jon Benjamin delivered a speech at the launch of election communication materials in Accra.

Police Head Quarters -Accra

Inspector General of Police,

Commissioners of Police,

Regional Commanders,

Media, ladies and gentlemen all protocol observed.

I am delighted to be here this morning as a representative of the British Government, and very pleased that the UK, through DFID and other parts of the British High Commission, is supporting the preparations for Ghana’s 2016 election – always of course in a neutral and impartial way.

In that regard, I believe it doesn’t really need to be said again, but I’ll say it anyway: the UK has no favoured party and no favoured candidate in this election. What we want to see is a peaceful, credible, free and fair election, after which, as we always have, we will work very happily with whoever the people of Ghana vote into power.

The UK, one way or another, has supported each of the last six 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, as our election observers noted. And the UK government, as well as other development partners, see providing support for this year’s election – and democratic processes more broadly – as an important part of our work here in Ghana.

DFID has been working with a wide range of Ghanaian partners over the last eight months to develop a programme aimed at supporting a successful election in December 2016. Part of this support will involve 400,000 pounds of support to the Ghana Police Service.

There are four elements to this support 1. The first strand is the design and development of a standardized manual on Incident and Public Order Management Guidance and Best Practice. This will bring together policy and best practice, and will be the key reference document for incident management ensuring common understanding of roles and responsibilities. It will also collate tactical options and other key information. We are paying for 700 copies of the manual called the ‘Incident and Public Order Management Manual (IPOMM) – to be printed and distributed to all Regional commands throughout the 10 regions.

  1. The second part is to provide training to public order units and trainers to help ensure the GPS can act professionally and within the law and relevant guidelines. 144 Commanders from across the Regions have undergone Command Band training at the Police Academy here in Accra. These trained commanders will also cascade the training to other police personnel across the 10 regions. In addition, 60 training school trainers from across the country have also undergone an intensive course in preparation for the new intake of recruits. These new recruits are currently being trained in election duties.

  2. The third strand has to do with public awareness and sensitisation. The public also have a duty and responsibility to ensure they behave properly during the election period - partnership between the Police and the public is so important in that respect. So, DFID has supported the GPS to design an outreach programme that builds on all the efforts at local level to educate communities on the need for peace. A series of posters and flyers have been designed and printed. Some 60,000 posters and 200,000 flyers have been produced to be distributed to the public. These are expected to remind people of a number of important messages about the need for peace, not to resort to violence and conform to the law of the land.

  3. The forth strand is message handling and information flow. The availability of good information and intelligence is crucial to the proper management of calls and incidents. The proper recording of messages, together with action taken, is also key to accountability. DFID has supported the GPS to review their system to make it contemporary and ready for the 2016 elections.

The GPS plays a crucial role in delivering free, fair and peaceful elections. They have primacy in the maintenance of order, preventing and investigating crimes. Their role covers public order management and responding to incidents, and also softer duties such as awareness and sensitisation of the public, in helping them to feel safe and secure.

And that can’t be stressed enough. We support Ghana’s policemen and women. We believe that public security is their job, and theirs alone. There should be no role for so-called party vigilante groups. Indeed, we think that such groups are wholly incompatible with democracy in the 21st Century. We have said, and I repeat here, that we will consider visa bans on anyone either behind violence by such groups, or who otherwise heightens tensions unnecessarily through intimidation, incitement or hate speech.

The whole purpose of our support is to help you, the Ghana Police Service, to do this critically important job at this particularly critical time as effectively as possible, by helping to equip and enable you to play your role as a key election management body. The strategies employed by security sector personnel in 2012 achieved the overall intended goal, evidenced by minimal incidences of shooting, ballot box snatching, vandalism of property and other acts of violence. DFID’s inputs for the 2012 elections appear generally to have been successful, enhancing GPS’ ability to respond professionally, and adhering to good standards of behaviour to incidents. So we are pleased to be able to work with the Ghana Police Service to build on the success to date, to deliver what will – we so sincerely hope – be Ghana’s seventh free, fair and peaceful election.

This support is just one part of the UK’s support to the elections. The UK is providing assistance to the Electoral Commission, Civil Society, the Judicial Service and the media. It is all in support of ensuring a strong process that result in a level playing field where all candidates have a fair chance to make their case for election, and those who the voters choose are the ones that end up in office.

So congratulations on the launch of your ‘Elections Communication Materials for Peaceful 2016’ elections, I wish you well in the months ahead and I thank the Ghana Police Service for all their valuable collaboration with the UK, not just during this election season but always.

Thank you.

Published 17 November 2016