The Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference (GCBC) has advised all political parties, the media and all Ghanaians to refrain from announcing any results of the December general election before they are declared by the Electoral Commission (EC).
These were contained in a communiqué issued by the GCBC at the end of its annual plenary assembly held in Tamale from October 7 to 14, 2016 on the theme: “Reconciliation with God, Humanity and Nature in the Year of Mercy”.
The communiqué, signed by the newly elected President of the GCBC and Catholic Archbishop of Tamale, the Most Reverend Philip Naameh, was read on behalf of the conference by the Archbishop of Accra, the Most Rev. Gabriel Palmer Buckle, at a Holy Mass held at Our Lady of Annunciation (OLA) Cathedral in Tamale to climax the conference.
“The integrity and success of the forthcoming election depended primarily on the Electoral Commission. It is the institution constitutionally mandated, among other duties, to compile the register of voters and revise it periodically, to demarcate the electoral boundaries for both national and local government elections, to conduct and supervise all public elections and to educate the people on the electoral process and its purpose,” it said.
The bishops commended the EC for all the measures it had put in place to ensure peaceful, free, fair, transparent and credible elections.
They said a decision on who should lead Ghanaians was a decision for the development of Ghana and, therefore, kicked against the use of political campaigns and platforms to trade insults and attack political figures.
“We are one people as Ghanaians and we cannot accept that elections should divide us. Let us, therefore, safeguard our unity, growth, development and destiny as one people,” they stated.
The communiqué appealed to politicians, members and supporters of the various political parties to avoid the temptation of making promises that they knew they could not fulfil, as that amounted to deceiving the people of Ghana.
“We also call on party leaders, parliamentary and presidential candidates to conduct themselves honourably and to respect their opponents, both in their utterances and actions. Politicians should realise that their political opponents are not their enemies but neighbours who share different views,” it stated.
It also expressed concern over the phenomenon of vote buying by politicians, stressing that “such practice is an insult to the intelligence and dignity of the unsuspecting voters. We encourage politicians to stop such acts and entreat the electorate from yielding to such needless enticements”.
It urged the security agencies to discharge their duties with despatch and without fear or favour and also demonstrate a high sense of professionalism by respecting the rights and dignity of all Ghanaians.
It said the culture of impunity which had been manifested in sections of the Ghanaian society by some individuals and groups contributed to high levels of lawlessness.
“We condemn, in no uncertain terms, the sycophancy and the operations of unauthorised vigilante groups. Consequently, we state that the prevalence of so-called “machomen” who prowl around intimidating and brutalising innocent Ghanaians should be dealt with. We have received information on the recent gruesome assault on two Catholic priests by a “machoman” at Adugyama in the Ahafo Ano South District in the Ashanti Region. We condemn this and other similar assaults. We plead with the security agencies and the Judiciary to deliver justice expeditiously in this and other cases,” it added.
The communiqué said that while an election could not guarantee good governance, it could facilitate or hinder development, depending on how it was managed.
It said participation in the political life, in the light of fundamental moral principles, was, therefore, an essential duty of every Christian and of all people of goodwill.
“We, therefore, encourage all registered voters to be vigilant as they exercise their franchise. To decide not to vote is to neglect your duty and run the risk of leaving others to decide your future for you. In the name of peace, parents and guardians are reminded that they have a God-given responsibility to discourage their underage children and wards from voting.
“In the same vein, we appeal to non-Ghanaians who registered, for one reason or the other, to refrain from voting. Let us all remember that we can have a peaceful election only if we ensure justice before during and after the election,” it said.
On the media, the communiqué advised media practitioners to uphold the highest journalistic values and ethics in their reportage on the electoral process and suggested that news about the election should not be based on hearsay or prejudice, adding: “Information must be verified and the truth professionally ascertained. News and stories should not be targeted at causing disgrace or embarrassment to personalities, especially, where it is clear that such reportage may trigger disaffection or incite violence.”
Politicians and traditional leadership
The communiqué appealed to traditional leaders to protect the integrity of their stools and skins by refraining from meddling in partisan politics to the displeasure of their subjects as if to say that the party they associated with or endorsed was representative of the choice of their subjects as well.
“Politicians and traditional leaders must work to foster peace and seek the integral development of Ghanaians rather than to divide them. Further, we strongly urge religious leaders to be circumspect in their pronouncements and predictions on the outcome of the election,” it said.