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16.07.2020 Feature Article

Photo Citizenship

Photo Citizenship
LISTEN JUL 16, 2020

The Supreme Court of Ghana has finally delivered the reasons for the dismissal of the suits filed by the NDC and a private citizen. A better understanding of the judgment supplied some days ago can be made.

The ruling on the exclusion of the birth certificate by the Electoral Commission in the registration of voters is very difficult to fathom. The birth certificate, in the opinion of the ordinary man, serves as the most appropriate proof of citizenship.

But the Court rules that the birth certificate is not a form of identification and that it does not establish the identity of the bearer. Nor does it link the holder with the information on the certificate. It finally concludes that it provides no evidence of citizenship.

The problem many people will have, in an attempt to apprehend the ruling and the judgment of the court with regard to the birth certificate, is its (birth certificate’s) inability to provide evidence of citizenship. The birth certificate gives information about the date of birth of the holder and the nationality of the parents. That alone should prove the citizenship of the holder.

The laws that concern citizenship by birth indicates the most important requirements that form the basis for qualifying to be considered in this category. The birth certificate, to a greater extent, gives evidence to citizenship by birth. This is because the holder’s date of birth and place of birth are clearly embossed on the certificate. Equally important to prove this type of citizenship is the nationality of the parents of the applicant or holder.

It is true the date and place of birth of the applicant or the holder do not alone provide evidence of citizenship by birth. The laws outline the date to be born and the nationality of the parents of the applicant or holder to qualify as a citizen. So, many people believe and think the indication of the date of birth and the nationality of the parents of the holder, clearly provide evidence of citizenship and not necessarily a photo identification.

Ordinarily, the name of a person, the place of birth and names of the parents as well as grandparents are basic form of identity in Ghana. Issues of identity and citizenship in Ghana are very difficult to prove. At any point in time, people can acquire names of Ghanaian origin. Tenants name their children after their landlords and landladies. Names can also be changed. But the birth certificate gives information about the nationality of the parents of the holder. The law says one of the parents or grandparents of a person needs to be a Ghanaian for the individual to qualify to as a Ghanaian.

The fact is, any individual who wishes to acquire a document such as the birth certificate, can use fraudulent data and have it. The name of the person can be changed to reflect a Ghanaian identity. The nationality of the parents of the applicant can equally be changed. The identification of people with a Ghanaian descent is a big challenge.

Name and face only will give foreigners the opportunity to change their names to Ghanaian ones and have their faces on the birth certificate or any document to qualify as Ghanaians. If the purpose of such a ruling is for the registration of voters, to easily identify them, then it should not be a permanent case to reject the birth certificate as a document that serves as proof of citizenship. The birth certificate does not capture the face of the holder but gives other important pieces of information that make someone qualify as a Ghanaian.

The court remarks that “it is little wonder that the birth certificate has never been included as one of the documents to be used as evidence of identification by a person who applies to be registered as a voter”. The exclusion of this document in other regulations of public elections, C.Is, should not make such a document irrelevant as proof of citizenship. Maybe, the reason for reaching such a conclusion is electoral and does not apply to other uses.

In 1974, citizen identity cards were issued to all Ghanaians with photos attached to them. If without a photo, the birth certificate does not provide clear evidence of citizenship, then it is time to really consider a move for the initiation of it. The photo identity cards issued in 1974 do not also clearly serve the purpose of proof of citizenship but only the purposes of identification.

The name, date and place of birth of holders are the important features on those cards. The acquisition of citizenship, presumably indicated on the birth certificate due to the nationality of the parents of the holder, is not clear on those cards issued in 1974. The holders of those cards then, cannot be assumed to be Ghanaians because of the photo embossed on the cards.

Authorities should deliberate on the need for proper identification and the issuance of birth certificates that have photos on them, for they provide much clearer proof of citizenship on the strength of their provision of the nationality of the parents of the holder.

The nationality of the parents of the holders of documents that give evidence of citizenship is key; the other means of acquiring citizenship are clearer. The demand is a photo and name on a document for identification purposes.

Emmanuel Kwabena Wucharey

Economics Tutor, A growing Activist and Religious Enthusiast.

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