The Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO), has criticised the security arrangements for the Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election, which was marred by a violent incident.
CODEO urged a review of the security protocols, which it described as uncoordinated, excessive and intimidating.
“It is imperative that all security agencies immediately review the security arrangement put in place for the election, in a bid to understand what happened today (Thursday) as far as personnel deployment is concerned and to enhance security planning for similar exercises in the future.”
CODEO observers witnessed the shooting incident which took place in a La Bawaleshie polling centre in at East Legon, near the home of National Democratic Congress (NDC) candidate, Delali Kwesi Bempong, though it said it could not confirm the exact cause of the violent incident.
The Member of Parliament for Ningo Prampram, Samuel Nartey George, who was serving as an observer in another area of the constituency was also assaulted by some security personnel.
He is seen in a video being a struck in the face by two security personnel as he made allegations that someone had been killed in the area.
The New Patriotic Party’s parliamentary candidate, Lydia Seyram Alhassan, eventually won the poll with 12, 041 votes, representing 68.30%.
The observers were concerned with the heavy security presence, noting that “many polling stations had not less than five uniformed security personnel, and in some cases, as high as 15.”
“At the Dzorwulu JHS, for instance, two adjoining polling stations had a total of 13 uniformed security personnel as well as a number of non-uniformed security personnel. At the Christian Book Centre at East Legon, nine uniformed security personnel and other non-uniformed security personnel could be seen at the two adjoining polling stations,” the statement noted.
CODEO is unhappy about the intimidating presence of the security personnel, especially masked security persons, at the various polling stations. CODEO further calls on the Ghana Police Service, the National Security Minister, Interior Minister, and the entire security set-up of the country to expeditiously conduct investigations into the violence that broke out earlier in the day at La Bawaleshie, and to take subsequent appropriate action.
Many polling stations also had security agents in plain cloth, some of whom claimed to be National Security operatives, CODEO added.
Some polling stations also had separate security teams from the Police, the Immigration Service and National Security.
Polling stations were also frequented by mobile patrol teams of security personnel “sometimes at short intervals of less than thirty minutes.”
“Even more worrying was the presence of masked security operatives at polling stations, who could not easily be identified and thus could not be held accountable for any misconduct,” CODEO said.
Beyond this, CODEO also remarked that some non-uniformed security operatives displayed a lack of understanding of the electoral rules.
“At the Prisons JHS at Roman Ridge, for instance, security operatives who claimed to be National Security operatives positioned themselves next to polling officials and when a stationed uniformed police officer alerted them to move away from poll officials, a pick-up full of many more of the so-called security operatives descended on the police officer and attacked him for doing legitimate work.”
Aside from the security concerns, CODEO said the voting exercise was commendable, “including the smooth performance of biometric devices.”
Confusion at La Bawaleshi
One person sustained serious injuries after the confusion at the La Bawaleshie Presby School polling centre.
Police said six total casualties were recorded and has said investigations into the shooting incident are ongoing.
The NDC withdrew from the Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election following the shooting incident and ordered its polling agents and observers from the area after consulting with its parliamentary candidate.
“In the circumstances, I have conferred with the parliamentary candidate and the leadership of the NDC. We have no option than to withdraw from the ongoing exercise,” the National Chairman of the NDC, Samuel Ofosu Ampofo, said to the press.
“As a party, we believe in rule of law. We’ve been in by-elections before and we don’t that we are in a war zone. But this by-election has been turned into a war zone. We cannot subject any of our members to danger because of the election.”
CODEO urged the Electoral Commission and the security agencies to give hearing to the NDC regarding their concerns about the electoral process which resulted in their boycott.
NDC to blame
The New Patriotic Party (NPP) has responded to the development blaming the NDC for the chaos.
The party said the confusion was orchestrated by the opposition party.
The NPP’s Director of Communications, Yaw Buabeng Asamoah, said: “this is a hugely orchestrated attempt by the NDC because they knew from the beginning that they were going to lose.”
The party’s General Secretary, John Boadu, also said the NDC was trying to scare people from voting.
“This is the impression our opponents want to create in order to scare people from going to vote. Other than that what is the problem? Our sisters and brothers on the other side always will want to create confusion. When they are in government, it is worse, and when they are in opposition, they are more dangerous.”