Who: President of Ghana, John Dramani Mahama;
Inspector General of Police (IGP), John Kudalor; Electoral
Commission of Ghana; International relations and security analyst,
What: President John Dramani Mahama has assured
all Ghanaians that contrary to the proposal made by John Kudalor,
the Inspector General of Police, social media will not be blocked
before, during or after the 2016 elections1. He also
stated that political parties would soon be meeting with the
Electoral Commission to decide on how the election results will be
declared and transmitted.
When: The president made this assurance on
Sunday 14th August, 2016 at the campaign launch of the ruling
party, National Democratic Congress (NDC)2.
Why: The IGP suggested the shutdown of social
media in a bid to make the elections violence free. According to
him, social media is a platform used by individuals to cite half
truths and propagate lies which could undermine Ghana's
political stability during the elections. This suggestion was
criticised by many civil society organisations who described the
direction as violating the fundamental human right of free speech.
In the midst of the criticism, security analyst, Irbard Ibrahim,
backed the call by the IGP stating that security concerns had to be
considered over legal concerns3. The president stated
social media would not be banned because he does not believe it
would be used by Ghanaians to incite violence. He also added that
the meeting between political parties and the electoral commission
is critical since it would determine the credible means by which
the election results would be declared.
Outlook: According to Internet World
Statistics, 6% of Ghana's population is on Facebook, which
could be indicative of wider social media usage4,
including Whatsapp, Instagram and others. While social media does
carry with it risks such as cyberbullying, sexting and the
incitement of radical political or religious ideologies which
promote violence, there is little publicly available information to
suggest that social media activity in Ghana has led to or runs the
risk of inciting a security risk ahead of the polls. That said, in
the build up to what is likely to be very closely-contested
elections, it is important that security agencies like the police
do not relent in their efforts to detect and combat any threat to
national security and political stability caused by social media,
though questions have been raised regarding the police's
preparedness in doing so. However, there is a fine balance between
ensuring security and also guaranteeing fundamental freedoms, a
topic of very recent debate in Ghana in relation to the 'Spy
Bill5', which would accord powers to security
agencies to intercept various forms of communication in the
interest of national security.
Many were surprised to see a Minister of Regional Re-organisation & Development' included amongst the second batch of ministerial appointees announced by Ghana's new President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.
He was the first law graduate of a free Congo in 1961 and was for a
long time, a loyalist of President Mobutu Sese Seko (1965-1997),
holding the roles of Minster of Interior and Minister of
Justice for example.
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