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09.08.2021 Opinion

Impartial Judiciary Is A Mental And Physical Preparation For National/Global Peace, Learning From Ghana's 2020 Elections’ Petition

...Don’t Silence the Citizens with Contempt: Let Them Talk, Let Us Learn
By Benjamin Pulle Niriwa
Impartial Judiciary Is A Mental And Physical Preparation For National/Global Peace, Learning From Ghana's 2020 Elections’ Petition
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Introduction

The Judiciary of every nation globally is the last resort to solving serious critical national and some other personal issues that need serious national or global attention. One of the main reasons that would make group(s) or individuals send their cases to the law court instead of resorting to violence is because of “trust” (Niriwa a., 2021; Schnaudt et al., 2021; Mizrahi et al., 2021).

The judiciary is the most sacred and the most fearful institution of every nation; not because of anything, but because that is where every secret about any case are exposed through impartial investigation(s) for “impartial judgment” (Kempfle, 2020; Lo lacono, 2019; Duke.edu., 2019) or ruling for peace. A nation that has a weak or trustless judiciary is on the way to destruction! It is therefore the duty of every person globally, to ensure that the trust and integrity of our judicial systems are maintained! This is done by allowing citizens to share their opinions, but responsibly.

The Main Issues of the 2020 Elections’ Petition and Lesson Learnt

Time of Appointment of the Presiding Judge, Issues Before and After That: The first issues of mistrust in the Supreme Court’s hearing of 2020 Elections’ petition is the appointment of a Presiding Judge, the Chief Justice, like in the case of the Electoral Commission (EC) Chair (Ametor-Quarmyne, 2020; Kpodo, 2018), who the major opposition party, National Democratic Congress (NDC), already did not trust and has tagged him as being “bias” (Myjoyonline.com., 2013; OperaNews., 2021). This occurs years before his appointment.

He is not seen or heard refuting these claims; neither did he apologize and promise to change, if these accusations are true. Before his appointment too, he has already been tagged as not just being bias, but a New Patriotic Party (NPP) member (Gyamfi, 2013). Though being an NPP member is not a problem since any citizen that can be appointed by any government, institution, or individual that needs his/her services; he should have refuted these allegations to protect his name. This could have cleared doubt in some citizens whether he is really a bias judge? Though some people can belong to a political party but still maintain their neutrality, political belongingness is known to influence others to become bias (Kempfle, 2020; Papayannis, 2016).

This is a very important issue especially when he is the same person, the Chief Justice, and the Presiding Judge for the elections’ petition; a judge is supposed to be impartial irrespective of his/her social belongingness (Boudin, 2019; Papayannis, 2016). Like in most professions, judicial ethics demands that a judge be “independent, impartial”, and has “Integrity” (Boudin, 2019; Papayannis, 2016; Sharman, 1996).

This integrity is not because of how wealthy or rich he/she is, neither is it because of the family or tribe/race that he/she belongs to; it is not also because of his/her religion or the school(s) that he/she attends, it is all about how morally sound or the niche that he/she has carved for himself/herself in society. One of the reasons why “a good name is better than riches” (Regoli, 2020; Brian., 2019)!

Besides the “immunity” (Kempfle, 2020) that every judge has protects him/her from any harm from a person, group, institution, party or even a state; for giving a fair and an impartial judgment. This immunity is known to promote independence, fairness and impartial ruling/judgment of a judge (Kempfle, 2020). It is supposed to also contribute to the integrity of each judge! As humans, a judge can still be bias and partial due to his/her political affiliation (Kempfle, 2020; Papayannis, 2016). This could be a call for worry and a reason why his/her ruling might not be trusted!

To add salts to injuries, he is tagged again as being corrupt, he is alleged to have asked for $5milion bribery (Kwafo, 2021; Ibrahim, 2021). But, one would ask: why is he mostly accused by someone who is a renowned lawyer? This is what makes most of the allegations against him as serious, this one too is alleged by another popular Lawyer who gives reasons (KofiKnowledge, 2021).

Though he denies it and calls on the Criminal Investigative Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Services to investigate (Kwafo, 2021; Ibrahim, 2021), it did not there. What further raises eyes browses is that, the CID after their impartial investigation indicated in a press conference that, the said Lawyer “committed no crime by stating the truth” (Ibrahim, 2021).

These allegations are further worsen by bias comments that he allegedly made at a funeral that he attended in the Ashanti region, where he allegedly says, that: “those Ashantis who belong to the NDC are way off target” (Ackumey, 2021). If a referee who is going to officiate a match between two teams is found to be bias against one of them, is it possible that such a team would still trust his/her officiating (Devîs-Devîs et al., 2021; Erikstad & Johansen, 2020)?

He worsens his alleged divisive and bias statement by also allegedly adding that should the NDC wins that election, he would resign as a Supreme Court’s Judge! Why? Some of the statements (Offei-Akoto, 2021; Admin., 2021; Asubonteng, 2021) are what make some citizens conclude that NPP is a tribalistic party (Ocanta, 2020; 3news.com., 2018; Faanu & Graham, 2017; Agyemang, 2013). Some of his colleagues refuted claims made against them before the 2012 Elections Petition hearing (Ackumey, 2021), but he has not yet said anything on these allegations up to now. He only denied the bribery allegations, what about the above allegations levelled against him?

A Flash Back of 2012 Elections’ Petition: In the 2012 Elections’ Petition, though the then major opposition, NPP, did not have any serious issue(s) of mistrust with the Chief Justice; she is not appointed as the Presiding Judge, for the sake’s of neutrality. A Judge, Justice William Atuguba, who is not given any political appointment is chosen as the Presiding Judge. Before and after his appointment, there is no record of him being bias; yet after the Supreme Court’s ruling of the 2012 Elections Petition, he is tagged as giving bias ruling (Statesman, 2013; MyJoyOnline., 2018)!

This is even after he is said to have contest as an NPP (New Patriotic Party) Member of Parliament in 1992 (Joyonline., 2013) unlike the later. This is a revelation that there is already an issue of mistrust in our Judiciary that needed redress.

Meanwhile, in the 2012 elections petition there are instances where some judges vote in favor of the petitioners as in 7:2, 6:3, 5:4, and so on as President Akufo-Addo himself confirms (Guide a., 2021) unlike in the 2020 Elections Petition (Osei & Ackah-Blay, 2021). Besides these; the Former EC Chairman, Dr. Kwadwo Afari Gyan, never hesitated to be cross-examined. There are also no serious issue(s) before, during and after that election as compared to the latter where some EC officials falsely tagged the major opposition as a threat to Ghana’s “Democracy” (Lartey, 2019; Joyonline, 2019)! Even the insults, threats and false prophecies directed at the Former President; before and after the elections (Queenlina, 2021; Odoom a., 2020; Aklorbortu, 2020) are all issues that could contribute to mistrust, especially as the person is a Spiritual adviser to the President (MyJoyonline., 2019).

The issues of mistrust identified were statements that: “Any idiot can go to Court” allegedly made by Hon. Johnson Asiedu Nketiah, “Elections are won at the polling station and not in the Court room” allegedly made by the EC Chair, and “No African nation has overturned elections results before and Ghana cannot be the first” which is also allegedly uttered by the Presiding Judge (Hamokna., 2020).

Except these statements, the Court processes were all professionally followed without any form of bias or favor! All Ghanaians and the world have watched that Elections Petition Live on Television (TV) and have watched the recent one likewise. The 2012 Elections Petition could have been judged as the best if the statements above were not made.

A Flashback of Global Politics, Political Violence and Electoral Auditing: There have been cases of political-related violence in many Africans nations (Adamson, 2019; Kovacs & Bjarnesen, 2018), not only Kenya! Ivory Coast had peaceful General Elections that were suddenly marred with violence because of the issue of mistrust resulting in a failure to accept their 2010 elections’ result (Cook, 2011; Purefoy, 2011; Ogwang, 2011). The opposition candidate of this same Côte d’Ivoire, in the 2020 Presidential Elections, was threatening again to boycott the elections because of mistrust in their EC, as he calls for the EC to be dissolved (Duhem, 2020). This is a message that, mistrust in the EC or the judiciary is not only a problem of Ghana but a global problem!

Meanwhile Kenya is learning from her past mistake(s) by resorting to audit their EC because mistrust in the electoral system and the failure to use legal means of solving electoral problem(s) has led to ethnic-related electoral violence (Wambua, 2017; Kuo, 2017). Somalia’s 2016 General Elections is said to be incredible because it was fraudulent, full of vote buying, intimidation and violence (Maruf, 2016); a bit similar to Ghana’s 2020 General Elections.

In the United States (US), elections auditing are done in some states like California, that exposes duplications of almost 84, 000 in recording those who voted (Myers, 2019), Georgia is doing another elections’ auditing (Reimann, 2021), and Michigan’s elections auditing reveals integrity in the elections (Michigan.gov, 2021). The main reason that US gives for doing election audits starting with the 2000 General Elections and later enacting the “Help America Vote Act of 2002” is: “To promote voter confidence in the election administration process” (Montjoy & Chapin, 2005; USEAC., 2002).

Venezuela, a country in South America, also allows auditing of their elections (Jiménez & Hidalgo, 2014; NDI, 2013). Auditing of elections was used to confirm or introduce integrity of elections’ results in nations like Afghanistan (2009 and 2014), Haiti (2010), Kosovo (2009 & 2010), and Iraq-2005 (Darnolf et al., 2015). If one brings a thief to court and it looks as if the court is rather protecting him/her from providing evidence, definitely you would not expect the petitioner to trust the ruling(s) of that court!

Issues Before, during, and after the 2020 General Elections: There were so many questionable incidences that occur before (Ametor-Quarmyne, 2020; Wemakor, 2020; Nettey, 2019), during (Asaah, 2021; Bayar & Abu-bashal, 2020), and after (Guide, 2021; Asaah, 2021; 3News., 2021) the 2020 General Elections. All these issues can foil mistrust in the 2020 Elections’ petition unlike the 2012 one. The evidence-based tribal politics in the country also a reality that is seriously debated by both major political parties before the general in December, 2020.

What Does the Constitution of Ghana Says about Tribal Politics?

The 1992 Constitution of Ghana is strictly against tribal politics in the country, and it is punishable by law to be caught engaging in tribal politics (Asare, 2021; UNWomen, 2016; Essien, 2005). Unfortunately, ethnicity is a known secrete in the country for which both major political parties and most people are guilty (Sefa-Nyarko, 2021; Sefa-Nyarko a., 2021; Faanu & Graham, 2017). Evidence of this tribalism in Ghana’s politic can be seen in the results of most general elections (Asare, 2021; Sefa-Nyarko, 2021; ECG, 2020; ECG a., 2020).

Evidence of this tribal politics is also exposed by most political appointments in the country especially as seen in the first term the current President (Offei-Akoto a., 2020; BBC., 2019; Mornah, 2018). This has led to displeasing reactions where some patriots reminded the president that Ghana is not a family property (Savage, 2019). Both leaders of the major political parties have been accused of tribalism (Asubonteng a., 2020; Ankiilu, 2020). However, whilst of them like the Former President has openly condemned such behavior (Mogtari, 2018; Antwi a., 2018), the latter has is not seen or heard doing likewise though most of these are recorded under his tenure as flag bearer (Nettey a., 2017; Team, 2015; Emmanuel, 2015).

If we are always real with politics, what does it means if party’s leader describes his followers on a campaign platform as a particular tribe (Essel, 2014), when the party is made up of all tribes in the country? If you are of a different tribe, what could be running through your mind at that particular moment? These are some of the mistakes that allow opponents to take advantage of it and score political point; and it’s worth it because that is one of the ways we can shunt tribalism in politics.

There have been increased suspicions in most elections globally like in the case of Ghana (Quaye, 2020; LIoyd, 2019; Lopez, 2018; Ata, 2015), all because tribalism is deeply rooted in most national politics. Rigging of elections is an open secret in most nations (LIoyd, 2019; Lopez, 2018) around the globe; all these tribalism/racism in politics (Sefa-Nyarko, 2021; Michener, 2020) is also amongst the contributory factors that influence some politicians to rig elections!

Are there any Issues of the Current Supreme Court’s Ruling That Foil Mistrust?

Bribery allegations against a Supreme Judge (Cromwell, 2021) before the hearing of the 2020 Elections Petition is an issue of mistrust. As revealed by law experts, allegations against Judges whether it is true or false has the potential of reducing people “confidence/trust” (Cromwell, 2021) in the Judicial System, just like in the health care delivery (Niriwa et al., 2021). During the hearing too, President Akufo-Addo is alleged to have bribed the Supreme Court Judges (Odoom, 2021). Meanwhile, Anas has already exposed some judges of Ghana in 2015 for accepting different forms of bribes to favor others in Court’s rulings.

The 2012 Presiding Judge himself has also laments the attempts of some people trying to bribe judges (Aryee, 2018; Classfmonline.com., 2018). These issues of alleged briberies culminating with the already existing bias allegation against the Presiding Jude before (Apinga, 2020) and during the 2020 Elections Petition, are realities of already existing mistrust in the Judiciary. These issues of mistrusts were further aggravated by how certain critical decisions like allowing the EC Boss, Mrs. Jean Mensah, to be accountable to the electorates or citizens were ruled (Osei & Ackah-Blay, 2021; Guide a., 2021; Ghanaweb., 2021).

These issues of increasing mistrusts in Ghana’s Elections and the Judiciary are signs of serious impending doom; a losing party might not want to resort to legal process because of mistrust, as revealed by Hon. Dr. Hannah Bissiw (Eshun, 2021). Her comments, though violence in nature, show the possible reality ahead as she airs her displeasure just a day after the Supreme Court’s ruling, saying: “When they come at us with guns and bullets, we should face them guns and bullets” (Eshun, 2021). Her explanation to listeners: “The chaos that happened during elections that made them rob us will not happened again”, is a reality of what judicial mistrust can lead to.

The Persistent No Rulings for Some Critical Requests of Former President Mahama: With respect to the call by Former President Mahama to let the EC of Ghana be audited by neutral auditors (Adogla-Bessa, 2020; Gyesi, 2020; Boakye, 2020) too, South Africa and Kenya (Kuo, 2017) are examples of African Nations who have successfully done that. Yet none of the Supreme Court’s judges rules in favor of this important call (Osei & Ackah-Blay, 2021; Ghanaweb., 2021)! Some NPP members also ridiculing such an important call further raises questions about the integrity of the election.

From the examples that are given using some nations under “Flashback of Global Politics …” above, the court should be able to assist or facilitate provision of evidence for an impartial ruling or judgment. So, for every electoral process to be authentic and be accepted as credible, it must be supported by impartial judicial processes (Padmanabhan, 2002). So, a call for an audit only seeks to ensure or promote integrity in the elections as revealed by International Foundation for Electoral Systems and Democracy International (Darnolf, 2015)!

It is worrying that none of the Supreme Court Judge rules in favor of this call and the request to let the EC’s Chairperson be accountable to Ghanaians (Osei & Ackah-Blay, 2021)! Yet, they further aggravated these issues of mistrust by asking journalist to delete information which they claimed pose as contempt of court (Ghana b. , 2021; Myinfo.com.gh., 2021).

Unfortunately, none of the Supreme Court Judges hearing the 2020 Elections Petition, voted in favor of this ruling too (Kasapa, 2021)! Not even a single judge ruling in favor of such critical issues is questionable and a further introduction of mistrust into the judicial system! Journalists are intimidated by the Supreme Court (Ghana b. , 2021; Myinfo.com.gh., 2021) when they were already going through increasing attacks and deaths’ threats.

These are some of the reasons why some citizens, like Mr. Rojo Mettle-Nunoo, think that the Supreme Court ruling of the 2020 Elections Petition is a: “Recipe for Disaster” (Otchere, 2021; Kasapa, 2021). This is a very clear revelation of mistrust in the ruling! Statements like this are an evidence that people did not trust this current Supreme Court’s ruling as compared to the 2012 Elections Petition.

The Contempt and Selective Threat against Former Attorney General

The threat of contempt by the Presiding Judge for the 2020 Elections’ Petition who verbally threatens that Dr. Dominic Ayine (the Former Deputy Attorney General) should be disciplined for allegedly sharing his opinion on 2020 Elections’ ruling as a “contempt of court” (Antwi, 2021; Dyer, 2019) is an issue of mistrust.

Dr. Dominic Ayine is said to have made his statement only when he gives explanations “on a CDD-Ghana platform”, telling listeners the reason(s) why he is previously charged for a contempt of court; revealing that he is charged for accusing the Supreme Court of “Failing to apply the rules of procedures as well as the consistent and continuous dismissal of the petitioners’ applications or reliefs” (Yawps., 2021).

This has led to reactions from some members of the major opposition, NDC, where the Chief Justice, excuse me to say, is tagged as a “Hypocrite” (Yawps., 2021). These reactions from both the Chief Justice and Hon. Ibrahim, are signs of mistrust in our Judiciary! For the sakes of peace, the condition or situation at which he makes these statements should have also been considered. Trying to stop people from talking about it or expressing their views rather further creates mistrust about your ruling. If you know that you have done thing, you should not disturbed when citizens are talking about it.

It is not as if he has intentionally organized a press conference or says it at any ordinary place: he says it at a program that allows panelists to talk about such issues, the reason why he was not stopped. So, if the Chief Justice has a problem with what Dr. Dominic says, then his anger should have rather directed that towards the program that allows them to share their experiences on the recent Supreme Court’s Judgment. This is because, it is the duty of the program host/hostess to ensure that panelists do not talk about issues out of context!

Our lordship the Chief Justice should let this goes under the carpet, it is a harmless expression of opinions, without insult(s), that can help eliminate mistrust in our judiciary. If he has insulted or directly disrespected any of the Justices or Lawyers, your lordship will not even say a word before we start condemning it. If we do not learn from our past judicial experiences how can we help strengthen our Judicial System and re-build trust in our judiciary?

This can only happen when citizens are allowed to freely express their views without the fear of being charged with contempt, except for insults or blatant disrespect! Lawyers and Judges can learn from these past experiences to help them in how to approach other judicial cases, not only elections. The question that every Ghanaian needs to ask is whether those decisions of the Supreme Court were taken based on merit(s) or partisan basis?

Conclusion and Recommendations

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Figure 1: Independent and Impartial Judiciary Is Peace

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said: “Injustice Anywhere Is a Threat to Justice Everywhere.” (Hiet, 2021; Sullivan, 2017). Using his saying, I will also say that a Mistrust in the judicial services somewhere, is a mistrust in judicial services everywhere. Lying against a Judge or a Lawyer is like drinking poison, except if it is true; it creates judicial mistrust. Let us all promote judicial trust, whether in opposition or in power! Respect your judges and lawyers, if there is anything that you have identified about him/her, approach him/her first to advise him/her or find out details. Thank for Reading!

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