Conventionalising Logos of State Insitutions

Constitutional convention is certainty and predictability. An unwritten constitution is as good as a written constitution. The posture and actions of the current chair of the Electoral Commission (EC) of Ghana and her supporters are worrisome. To put things in proper perspective, the commission has no business spending resources in a rebranding exercise which is neither in the national interest nor public interest as Bright Simons would like to differentiate between the two concepts.

A few examples around the world show that constitutional conventions are at the heart of stable democracies. The monarch in Britain retains the ability to deny giving a bill Royal Assent. In modern times this is more unlikely as it would cause constitutional crisis. Queen Anne was the last monarch to veto parliament’s decision which she did on 11 March 1708 with regard to a bill “for the settling of Militia in Scotland”.

The same British monarch has the power to choose any British citizen to be the Prime Minister and could call and dissolve Parliament whenever he or she wished. However, in accordance with the current ‘unwritten constitution’, the Prime Minister is the leader of the largest party in the House of Commons and Parliament is dissolved at the time suggested by him or her. The monarch will show clear disregard for the wishes of the people at the polls if she chooses a Prime Minister from the minority party.

Madam Charlotte Osei, respectfully what symbol has the EC used since its establishment? To suggest that the independence of the EC can best be exercised when the coat of arms is jettisoned is questionable. In Apaloo v Electoral Commission [2001-2002] 2 GLR 372 the Supreme Court held that independence of the EC is guaranteed by the Constitution, 1992. Thus, the EC in the performance of its function is not subject to the control and direction of any person. Furthermore, the EC cannot delegate its authority and functions conferred on it by law to another agency or person.

The functions of the commission are spelt out in Article 45 of the 1992 Constitution and repeated verbatim in the Electoral Commission Act, 1993 Act 451. The functions are:

  1. to compile the register of voters and revise it at such periods as may be determined by law;
  2. to demarcate the electoral boundaries for both national and local government elections;
  3. to conduct and supervise all public elections and referenda;
  4. to educate the people on the electoral process and its purpose;
  5. to undertake programmes for the expansion of the registration of voters; and
  6. to perform such other functions as may be prescribed by law.

How does a ballot box embossed in the Coat of Arms impede the functions of the commission? As a commission, its focus must be the delivery of credible elections to the people of this country. Anything short of that will be an abdication of its core functions. This will further affect the image of the commission which Madam Osei will have to rebrand through another logo in future.

Madam Chair, respectfully your mandate is not logos and rebranding. There are critical issues such as pruning the voters register and verification of voters that the commission and Inter Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) have to deal with. Can the commission tell us how many of the recommendations spelt out in the election petition case they have implemented.

We love our coat of arms and ballot box. We identify with a national symbol more than a cluster of triangles in blue.

Na Who Cause Am

On days like this, our leftist friends will have us to believe all was well. It is was a tragedy in overthrowing Nkrumah. On days like this I always go back to the judgment of Smith J in Balogun v Edusei delivered on 24th December 1958, 22 months after Ghana gained independence.

What was the essence in passing Deportation (Indemnity) Act~ (No. 47 of 1958) ?

Read carefully the concluding words of his Lordship.

“Persis­tent indulgence in such a practice could not have any other than the most serious ill-effect on the well-being of the country (emphasis is mine). Decisions of a court are as binding upon the Executive as the laws which Parliament passes are binding upon the ordinary citizen, and it is the court that enforces upon the people obedience to these laws, thereby aiding Parlia­ment in the ordering of the country.”

Now na who cause am!!!! Ghanaians have always abhorred anarchy and cherished liberty. Civil and political rights cannot be jettisoned at the expense of economic rights. It is the task of leaders to find a fine balance between the two.

Our leaders must take note.

Towards Tangible Rights In Ghana: With Painful Steps And Slow

As far back as 1993, in the first year of her Fourth Republic, Ghana’s Supreme Court ruled that the Public Order Decree of 1972—which made any crowd without a police permit unlawful —was incompatible with the freedoms of assembly and movement in article 21 of Ghana’s Constitution. This ended an era when water cannons, tear gas and cudgels were the standard means by which the police dispersed Ghanaian demonstrators. Nevertheless, the long history of state suppression of these freedoms has left its mark on Ghana’s public life. To date, security agencies interact with citizens in a markedly highhanded way. Citizens too, instinctively defer to authority generally and security agencies particularly. As a result, the scope of the freedoms of assembly and movement, which should have been long settled, remain contested and are yet to become indelible in Ghana’s political and public culture.

In July 2014, OccupyGhana, a citizens’ activist group, organised a march against the increasing economic hardship and government corruption. The police locked the gate of the park in which the protestors had gathered until the size of the crowd forced them to open it. Even then, the police formed a thick wall to prevent them from reaching the seat of government, allowing only three of their leaders to carry on to flagstaff house to present their petition. The public censure of the police action was so strong it was thought they would never try it again. But then in September 2015, a group called Let My Vote Count marched to the Electoral Commissioner to present a petition for a new and more accurate voters’ register – an opposition-championed call considered unnecessary by the ruling party. Again, the police came out to block it; this time, not only in massive numbers, but also dressed in riot gear complete with masks, shields and Tasers, and cordoned off the Electoral Commission’s office, labelling it a ‘security zone’. Although there were some who criticised the protestors for refusing to adhere to the ‘permitted route’, the dominant reaction was a vociferous and angry condemnation of the Police action.

By entrenching a Bill of Rights in the Constitution, Ghana has taken the right first step in battling state abusiveness among a people sensitised to endure it. But it is clearly not enough. Old habits die hard and both society and state institutions revert easily to historical postures. Twenty some years on, the state still has difficulty living within constitutional limits and there remains the need for continuous exertion to tackle the vestiges of institutional disregard of citizens’ rights.

On the positive side, both incidents were met with public disapproval, albeit not universal. It is reassuring to see a people who bear the scars of five military governments, one authoritarian republic, and over fifty years of colonial rule, begin to believe that they are entitled to respectful treatment by their state and begin to demand it. Ghana is still a long way from the ideal where the state is the foremost enforcer, respecter and upholder of citizens’ rights. Yet the distance she has run from the dark place of unfettered state abuse deserves acknowledgement.

The tangibility of the freedoms of assembly and movement are particularly important to a democratic order, being manifestations of the freedoms of thought and conscience, speech and association. The right to life, too, cannot be real unless people are confident that exercising any of the above-mentioned rights will not diminish or endanger their lives. A culture of respecting rights therefore seems impossible absent the first two.

As the people grow to believe in and insist on their public rights, Ghana is compelled to respect both these rights and its own constitutional limits. In the process, the state is beginning to acquire moral legitimacy in the eyes of its citizenry and also its peers. The emergent trends of assertiveness in the Ghanaian citizenry, spurs hope that constitutionally guaranteed rights will flourish undisturbed here, if not now, soon.

Author profile

Maame A.S. Mensa-Bonsu is a barrister and lecturer of Constitutional and Criminal Law, at Lancaster University Ghana in Accra. She completed the BCL with distinction at the University of Oxford in 2014.



Constitutionalising the unconstitutional 31st December Coup

I was stunned this morning when I saw a police officer in uniform lighting the perpetual flame at Mr. Rawlings’ annual 31st December Coup celebrations in the January 4, edition of the Daily Graphic.  The case of New Patriotic Party v Attorney General (NPP v AG) came to mind. After over two decades of democratic rule, I thought our love for constitutional rule has been entrenched to a 100 degrees celsius. Alas!!! an officer of the law had a different idea.

I posted the picture of the participants at this year’s 31 December Coup celebration on Facebook and asked: “So if it is unconstitutional to use public funds to celebrate the anniversary of a coup d’etat; Isn’t the use of public places unconstitutional as well? Or Is it constitutional for a police officer on duty to be engaged in such acts?” Some learned seniors of mine were of the opinion that judgment in NPP v AG did not oust the celebration of the coup. However the court restricted itself and held that celebrating the coup with public funds is unconstitutional. Rightly so.

However I am of the firm belief that we must not be oblivious of the general constitutional principles, philosophies and aspirations underpinning our constitution.

In NPP v AG, the plaintiffs claimed that “public celebration of the coup d’etat of 31 December out of public funds was inconsistent with or in contravention of the letter and spirit of the Constitution, 1992 particularly articles 3(3)-(7), 35(1) and 41(f). They further claimed an order compelling the government to cancel the preparations for the celebration and refrain from carrying out the celebration with public funds. Archer CJ surprisingly said he could not find the Spirit of the Constitution. He said “Wherein lies the spirit of a Constitution? Is it embedded in the whole document? Or in parts of the document?” He continues “I have found it unnecessary to dive and delve further into what is meant by the spirit of the Constitution because I am convinced that it is a cliche used in certain foreign countries when interpreting their own constitutions which were drafted to suit their own circumstances and political thought. Whether the word “spirit” is a metaphysical or transcendental concept, I wish to refrain from relying on it as it may lead me to Kantian obfuscation. I would rather rely on the letter and intendment of the Constitution, 1992.” It is on this basis and the concept of separation of powers that he went ahead and held that the court would be  a laughingstock if it goes ahead and grants the order of the plaintiffs especially if the PNDC and its allies decide to celebrate 31st December privately.

Justice Adade and Justice Francois both clearly identified the Spirit of the constitution. Adade JSC said “The celebration of 31 December with carnivals, route marches, etc having a tendency to glorify the coup d’etat of 31 December, will weaken the people’s resolve to enforce this right, or perform this duty, ie their resolve to frown upon, and/or reject coups, a result which will have the effect of undermining and subverting the Constitution, 1992. It is an insidious and surreptitious way, of undermining the Constitution, 1992. The celebration may not be a violent means of subverting the Constitution, 1992; but surely it is an unlawful means under article 3(3)(a) of the Constitution, 1992, if only because its result is a subversion of the Constitution, 1992.” He further quotes Mohmmed Mumuni to the effect that when we reject a principle, we should reject it entirely – “We are saying that at this stage of our political development, we must come out positively and assuredly against any form of political adventurism.” We cannot as a country approbate and reprobate. The underlying philosophy of this constitution is that it abhors coup d’etat and the state must not be the agent which perpetuates this unconstitutional act of public celebration.

In fact Francois JSC says “….The will of the people, in the present context, if understood properly, is a solemn and incontrovertible declaration that however benevolent the resultant effect of the assault on constitutionalism, 31 December 1981 may be, it could not earn the distinction of constitutional propriety.” Now it is important to reflect on what is private and what is public. I believe Justice Dotse in Ghana Telecom v Nii Olai Amentia as well as Nii Kpobi Tetteh Tsuru II v AG has distinguished between what is “public use” & “private interest”.

How is it that a Police Officer on duty is the one lighting the “perpetual flame”? Is he there in his personal capacity, or on behalf of the state of which public funds have been used to maintain his welfare. It is my view that if an act is unconstitutional, everything that flows from it is unconstitutional. Both Adade and Francois JSC foresaw some private citizens especially the PNDC and its allies engaging in this subtle act of subverting the will of the people of Ghana by nicodemusly coming under the guise of private citizens. The state must see through this smoke screen. State facilities and resources must not be part of this exercise.


Boys & Girls at Legon

In a typical university in Ghana like the University of Ghana, this is what you may find:


1. If you are given a roommate from the Brong-Ahafo Region, I swear your balcony will be full of sacks of yam. Yam today, yam tomorrow. They like cooking papa…

2. The boys from Prempeh & OWASS keep fighting about which school is better. All the noise is a reflection of one thing. They are being narrowed by a Bleoo or Botwe boy.

3. When it’s time for Matriculation, you won’t find Adisco or Bleoo boys. They will be at Tyme-Out. The St. Peter’s and Presec boys still think it is “kring!!!! kring!!!! kring!!! Assembly Time please”. They will be there in their numbers.

4. The Achimota boys will be driving their father’s car on campus until they crash it at a Volta Hall week. That’s when you see the real dada bee’s

5. The Chief Vandal and his kinsmen are likely to come from Kumasi High, Bleoo, ADISCO, GSTS or WASSS…

6. A Presecan or Motown boy will be punished by his fellow level 100 roommate. That roommate is likely to be AMASS student.

7. The guys who never speak English for the entire four years are likely to be any of the Kumasi schools. I believe you know them. Even pidgin is a problem. Twi is the world cup. They even have the temerity to answer a question at lectures with “jack”


1. The ladies from Wesley Girls will cross their legs and be doing p3ts333 things, till they realize they are in level 400. The scoreline is 4 nil. Then a boy from Akuafo Hall breaks their heart and then they realize they have to be feminist..😁

2. Site girls are the best. They will let you see top. In everything I mean. Then by the time you complete school you realize charlie the chick be someway… You know what I mean. 

3. Roses girls still do morning devotion, but charlie it is all ‘format’. Try your luck everything will fall into places!!!

4. Merries dierr if you date them, you have to teach them everything. You know what I mean. The pollution from the korley is more.. 😁😁 But ACASMA still rules.

5. AGISS and Motown, “not not”. One corrupted by Nima boys the other by Dada Bee boys. When they land on campus, scatter everywhere. Volta they spoil there, Legon Hall they spoil there, Pent they ‘blast’ the place.

Note: This is a satirical Piece. No Malice Intended.

20 Things You May Find In Law School

In a typical law class in Ghana this is what you will find:

1. That student who you all know will win the Bentsi-Enchill or Mensah Sarbah Award. Sharp student. Devotes more hours than everyone.

2. That student who devotes less hours to his/her books, yet is among the shattas in the class. You wonder if he/she has some voodoo powers from Benin.

3. That student who always ask the silly questions. Has a poor understanding of the law , yet manages to scrape through the course without any hitch. As some say, you need these in the system to win your cases, else the profession will be too difficult. 🙂

4. That student who reads all the cases, knows the law somehow yet can’t seem to pass the exams. It is very disheartening.

5. That student who will always be last in class. Natural isn’t it.!!!!! Someone has to be the last.

6. That student who dresses more than Lawyer Kwame Akuffo. Sharp dressing be what. Wants to be Lawyer quick….

7. That student you wonder how he/she passed the entrance exams to study the LLB or PLC. NOT NOT!!!!!

8. That student who all the girls have a crash on. Sharp guy!!! Don’t ask me how many he has “put in the family way”.

9. That student who never speaks in class; has never asked a question; very quiet. That student is also among the shattas.

10. That student who everyone likes. If he/she is not in the class, things are quite slow.

11. That student who misses 90% of lectures yet, manages to finish the course without any referrals. You know the chap is disciplined.

12. That student who you all know will not suffer to get a firm to practice pupillage or will work in the top firm in the country. The person is well connected in every aspect of the Law. ‪#‎Forming_Relationships_Is_Key‬

13. The gossips. You can’t do away with them.

14. That student who is a prayer warrior, yet fails the exams. You then begin to wonder whether there is a correlation between passing exams and prayers.

15. That group of friends who are noise makers. Will just not sleep. Worry everyone. Make things happen. You know they will end up setting up a firm one day.

16. That study group everyone wants to join. They will give you pressure.

17. That student who when he/she speaks the class goes shhhhhh!!!!! deep student. When he asks a question you know your real size in the class. His appreciation of the law is deep. He usually does not care about being the top graduating student. Sometimes the lecturer cannot answer his/her question.

18. The walking Law Report/ Law Encylopaedia. Ask him anything when he is intoxicated with Jaegermeister and he will give you the case/ law.

19. The pretty girl every guy wants to hit on.

20. That student…………….

Do We Still Have A ‘Dance-hall King

Over the weekend Stonebwoy made Ghana proud in far away America by winning the Best International Act, Africa at this year’s BET awards. Following in the footsteps of Sarkodie, Stonebwoy has established himself as a force to reckon with when it comes to Ghanaian music.

From hits like Baafira, Ghetto Love, Bhim Nation and Pull Up, Stonebwoy has lifted the dancehall genre. If may ask, where is the self acclaimed “Dance Hall King ina the whole Ghana”? I am sure we should be preparing our ears to listen to abusive songs, half baked in the bedroom of an artiste directed at the organisers of BET awards.

Lesson: Hard work pays. Good music pays.  I am off to listen to “Not Again”.