As members of the Ghana Electoral Commission continue with the compilation of a new register of voters in anticipation of the December election, the Bishop of Konongo-Mampong Diocese has issued a number of guidelines to be observed where church facilities within his jurisdiction are used in the exercise.
“First, a formal request in the form of a letter must be made by the representatives of the Electoral Commission to the Parish Priest or Rector,” said Bishop Joseph Osei-Bonsu in a letter addressed to the Priests, Religious and lay faithful of the Diocese.
He continued, “This letter must state the beginning and end dates of the exercise in the location and if such a request is not made, the Parish Priest or Rector is not obliged to release the facility for the exercise.”
Secondly, the Local Ordinary of Konongo-Mampong said that the June 1 guidelines issued by the Ministry of Chieftaincy and Religious Affairs in relation to the reopening of public places for worship “should be applied to this exercise taking place inside our churches.”
“There should be the regular cleaning and disinfection of frequently used communal places (like toilet surfaces) and frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs/handles, preferably every 1-2 hours depending on the rate of utilization,” the Ghanaian Prelate said in reference to the guidelines issued by the government Ministry.
“There must be the regular disinfection of venues used by churches, preferably once every month,” Bishop Osei-Bonsu said and added, “In this connection, it will be necessary for the representatives of the Electoral Commission – perhaps with the assistance of the District or Municipal authorities – to fumigate the premises before they start using them and to fumigate them at the weekends so that they can safely be used by the congregation over the weekend.”
“It will also be necessary for them to regularly sanitize door knobs and handles as well as those pews or benches in churches on which people will sit for the registration,” the Prelate added in reference to the guidelines.
The Bishop further stated that the guidelines also apply where the Diocese’s schools will be used for the voter registration exercise failure to which, “If these conditions cannot be met, then we have no option but to refuse to permit the use of our facilities.”
According to Bishop Osei-Bonsu, his communication is based on previous experiences that “some of our churches and mission compounds are often used as centers.”
The voter registration exercise that kicked off Tuesday, June 30 and will end on August 6 targets between 16 million and 16.5 million voters.
A private citizen, Mark Takyi-Benson, and the opposition party, National Democratic Congress (NDC), had challenged the exercise in court wanting an order for the use of the existing voter ID card and the use of a birth certificate as source documents for eligibility to register as a voter.
In a ruling made Thursday, June 25, members of the Supreme Court unanimously agreed that Ghana’s Electoral Commission commences the compiling of a new voters’ register.