In the name of our dear country Ghana, I commend you, noble sons and daughters for this historic act today. In this Hall have gathered the symbols of the various branches of governance, the executive, the legislature, the judiciary as well as the two crucial institutions on whose shoulders rest the challenge of delivering a fair and free election and preserving law and order. Our pasts, our presents and our future have converged today in the presence of our distinguished former Heads of State, our sitting Head of State and all those aspiring to lead us into the future. And from this convergence has come one clear message: PEACE through FREE and FAIR elections.
Your Excellencies, My Lord, Honorable Ministers, this is a historic act born out of the lessons of our past and the environment in which we live today. We should never forget how we arrived where we are today. The fact that we have never descended into the horrors of civil war does not mean we have had no pain and no anguish in our past. Indeed it will be fair to suggest that we have been exposed to and tried practically every form of government in our 50 plus years as a sovereign nation. We have tried the one party state. We have been exposed to all shades of military rule. It is from this complex painful mix that we have drawn the experience that informed us to commit ourselves to multiparty democracy in 1992.
Democracy may have its own strains and stresses, but it was our irrevocable choice and each one of us has a binding duty to make it work, not only today but for all time.
Fundamental to the sustenance of democracy is the electoral process by which the people exercise their inalienable right to choose how they wish to be governed. Take away this right or by any means frustrate the people in the free and unfettered exercise of this right and the value of democracy drops to zero.
It is true that over the past 20 years, we have had cause to be thankful for an electoral process that has met the test of international best practices and given Ghana, the highest regard among democratic states in Africa. But that is no reason for complacency or for us to assume we are immune from any looming dangers. That is why what we have done today is of historic importance, not only for the pending elections a few short days hence, but indeed for the protection and the consolidation of the fundamental good practices that must continue to underpin our electoral process.
In a letter to the Daily Graphic by our own Busummuru Kofi Annan the former Secretary General of the United Nations in relation to the forthcoming elections titled, ‘THE BEST IS YET TO COME’, he wrote among other things “about a report of eminent persons organized by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance and the Kofi Annan Foundation that looked into how elections can better serve and strengthen the cause of Democracy.
Its key finding was that elections provide a peaceful mechanism for the expression of political differences and the resolution of conflicts only if they are conducted with integrity.
Elections with integrity mean that electoral contests both in their preparation and their conduct must be free and fair and not disfigured by politically motivated violence. They must take place on a level playing field with parties and candidates able to campaign to put their case across and electorate free to cast their votes without fear or intimidation.
He further wrote that flawed elections on the other hand, can create tensions and trigger unrest and violence, setting back development by decades. They give democracy a bad name, depriving a country of a tried- and- tested mechanism for expressing disagreement and changing course peacefully.
Concluding his letter he stated that elections conducted with integrity, can help us make full use of our countries abundant possibilities. Lets’ make the 2012 elections further proof that Ghana is a true African success story whose best days are yet to come.”
Our distinguished Electoral Commissioner, though he is not here, has pledged before us the faithfulness of his Commission to conduct the upcoming elections in a free and transparent manner. There is no reason to doubt his faithfulness and the commitment of the Commission. The assurances from the Inspector General of Police about the preparedness of the Police and other security agencies to ensure peace and security during the elections is also refreshing.
We have also heard, most importantly, the pledge of all our Presidential Candidates and here again, we have no reason to doubt anyone, indeed we commend and applaud them all.
But our task is not over until it is over. For it takes more than the faithfulness of the Electoral Commissioner and his top hierarchy to ensure the integrity of the electoral process. There is a myriad of officials whose conduct can impugn the integrity of the process and undermine the best efforts of the Commission. Similarly, we are aware that there are activists and supporters of various political parties who see their entire future as bound up in the victory of their candidate at the poll and who may consequently stop at nothing to facilitate their victory by all means fair or foul. To these misguided supporters, what we do here may be an exercise in futility.
So I address myself to the multitude beyond this Great Hall, to those thousands who have the opportunity to serve the great institution of the Electoral Commission and to the millions of party members and supporters whose votes and actions can make or mar the electoral process, as well as the law enforcement agencies and the Judiciary who have to enforce the law.
From today, let us make the KUMASI DECLARATION one of the pillars of our nascent democracy, committing us to the avoidance of any form of electoral violence, impunity and injustice. Anyone who has the privilege to serve with the Electoral Commission and who seeks to use his or her position to undermine the process in favour of any particular party or candidate violates the honour of our nation. Any member of the Security Agencies who allows himself or herself to be used to undermine the electoral process also undermines the integrity of this nation Ghana.
Similarly, anyone whether an official, an activist, a supporter of any political party or candidate who seeks or attempts to subvert the electoral process, or to inject any form of violence into the process, equally violates the honour of our nation and becomes the enemy of our democracy.
Let us all solemnly declare Ghana as a country of PEACE through the period of the elections and after. I ask all who are called upon to engage in the electoral process to conduct their affairs in consonance with the Kumasi Declaration and to eschew anything likely to jeopardise the peaceful conduct of the elections. I will ask the authorities to consider restraining the phenomenon of reckless motor cyclists during the elections to provide a more peaceful climate for voting.
It is our determination that Ghana shall enjoy peaceful, free and transparent elections on December 7, and it remains our hope also that the whole country will respond appropriately and at the end of it all, we shall reinforce the status of Ghana as a haven of peace and stability and a beacon of democracy in Africa.
Thank you and may the journey we have embarked upon today lead us, by the Grace of God to the goal of ensuring that this nation shall forever exercise the right to choose their government through free and fair elections in accordance with our constitution and as buttressed by the Kumasi Declaration.