State-sponsored killings? Here’s how the victims of election 2020 died

When Ghana concluded voting in its presidential and parliamentary elections held on December 7, 2020, it did not only count the votes cast at the polls. It also counted casualties from violence and gunfire during the process that was supposed to ensure a peaceful election of its next crop of leaders.

The disturbances that resulted in the loss of lives and injuries were widely condemned with many calls on the state to investigate and prosecute perpetrators.

For the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) and its flagbearer for the 2020 Elections, John Dramani Mahama, the violent occurrences dented the country’s democracy and reinforced their claim that the elections were not free, fair and peaceful.

John Dramani Mahama blamed the NPP government led by Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo for the incidents.

The former leader claimed the Akufo-Addo government, in its quest to hold onto power, unleashed armed men to perpetrate violence against civilians and has, consistently, described the deaths that resulted from the incidents as state-sponsored (See here and here).

In a statement to commemorate the 31st Anniversary of the Fourth Republican Constitution on January 7, 2024, Mr. Mahama said “The use of thugs and rogue elements within the security agencies to disrupt elections in some parts of the country as occurred in the 2020 elections, leading to the loss of eight (8) lives, will forever be remembered as Ghana’s day of infamy and an indelible blemish on our democratic credentials established over the last 31 years of constitutional rule.”

In a recent post raising concern over the president’s utterances and posture towards traditional leaders, the former leader, again, described the deaths in the 2020 elections as state-sponsored (See here).

 But were all these election 2020 casualties state-sponsored as claimed by the former president?

In this report, Fact-check Ghana details the circumstances that led to the loss of lives in the 2020 presidential and parliamentary elections.

Incidents of violence recorded

On December 9, 2020, the National Election Security Taskforce (NESTF) instituted to oversee security during the process, reported that 61 cases of violence had been recorded between the morning of December 7 and the forenoon of December 9, 2020.

Out of the number, the Taskforce said twenty-one (21) were “true cases of electoral violence, six of which involve gunshots resulting in the death of five”.

These fatal cases were recorded in 5 constituencies including Ablekuma Central and Odododiodio in the Greater Accra Region, Techiman South in the Bono East Region, Savelugu in the Northern Region and Awutu Senya East in the Central Region.

Later reports, however, established that three more people had died, taking the death toll to eight.

Also, CDD Ghana’s validation of the election-related violence reported that indeed eight people died in the 2020 polls.

NPP, NDC supporters clash in Odododiodio claimed 3 lives

Rita Otoo Teki, 15, Botwe Tackie, 16, and Emmanuel Dompreh, 36, died after they were shot in a clash between NPP and NDC supporters in Odododiodio Constituency

The incident occurred when supporters of the New Patriotic Party took to the streets to jubilate, claiming victory in the polls in the constituency.

Their jubilation sparked counter-reaction from the supporters of the National Democratic Congress and led to a violent clash between the two groups.

In the course of the melee, gunshots were reportedly fired from a distance, injuring 8 people.

However, 16-year-old Botwe Tackie and 36-year-old Emmanuel Dompreh, who was an NDC agent in the elections and a post office attendant, were both pronounced dead on their arrival at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital for medical treatment, according to official reports.

Fifteen-year-old Rita Otoo Teki was also reportedly pronounced dead at a facility she was rushed to for medical care. Although her death was widely reported in the media, her name was missing from the Ghana Police Service’s list of those who lost their lives in election-related violence. (See here and here. Also check page 5 of CODEO’s preliminary report on Ghana’s December 7, 2020 Elections).

The police, at a public address on December 18, 2020, said its investigation had led to the retrieval of weapons from where the shots were fired and the arrest of 5 persons suspected to be behind the shooting.

In a June 30, 2021 press briefing, Director-General of the Criminal Investigation Department COP Isaac Ken Yeboah said the 5 suspects were standing trial for charges of murder and possession of firearms without lawful authority. (See 31 mins 20 secs to 33 mins 20 secs of the press briefing).

But not much has been heard of the case since the last update almost 3 years ago.

30-year-old activist died from gun wounds in Ablekuma Central shooting incident

Abass Ibrahim, an NDC activist, was shot on December 8, 2020, while the election results were being collated at Odorkor Police Church, which served as a collation centre for the Ablekuma Central Constituency.

According to Police account, tempers flared at the centre when an officer of the Electoral Commission, in charge of the collation, left the designated centre with a result sheet.

The crowd of observers, who had suspected a foul play, pounced on him and subjected him to beating upon his return. Security personnel, manning the centre, were said to have attempted to disperse the crowd in a bid to rescue him. But the action of the security infuriated the mob, who the police claimed, pelted objects at the personnel.

The security, in return, opened fire at them, resulting in the injury of two persons.

Abass Ibrahim, one of the injured persons, died later on December 16, 2020, at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital where he was receiving treatment, according to police report.

The police CID later identified his assailant as a soldier but said investigation was ongoing to establish the particular military officer who shot him. (See 34 mins to 35 mins 40 secs of the police press briefing on June 30, 2021)

However, media reports have it that Abass was shot by a National Security operative by the name Collins Quarcoo, alias Kola, who worked at the operations department at the Office of the President. (See here, here and here).

Quarcoo reportedly arrived at the Odorkor Police Church collation centre during the collation of results on December 8, and after having a brief conversation with the then Member of Parliament for the Ablekuma Central Constituency, Ebenezer Nii Narh Nartey proceeded to indiscriminately shoot at the crowd, who were agitating over the election results.

His action resulted in, at least, 4 persons including a police officer, a journalist and an NDC unit chairman sustaining varying degrees of injuries.

The police CID, however, counted this incident as separate from the one that claimed the life of Ibrahim Abass though they both occurred at the same collation centre.

But the CDD, in its validation report, corroborated the media reports, implicating Quarcoo as allegedly being behind the shooting that claimed the life of the activist.

Quarcoo was subsequently arraigned before an Accra Circuit Court on charges of causing harm, possession of a firearm without lawful authority and using an offensive weapon without legal authority.

Not much has been heard of the case since it was adjourned on February 15, 2021, to March 15, 2021. (See here).

Two shot dead by military personnel at Techiman

Thirty-six-year-old Tajudeen Alhassan, a trader, and 18-year-old Abdallah Ayaric, an electrician were shot dead by military personnel at Brokyepem Hall.

Video footage of the incident shows men in military uniform firing directly into the crowd who were fleeing for safety. (See here)

The people were said to have massed up at the Brokyepem Hall collation centre to protest what they believed was an attempt to rig the Techiman South Constituency election results.

The joint security taskforce present, however, opened fire at them, killing Abdallah Ayaric and Tajudeen Alhassan and causing injuries to 7 other persons.

Savelugu shooting: Two minors killed

Two minors, 14-year-old Samira Zakaria and 15-year-old Fuseini Musah were sent to their early graves from gunshots fired at supporters of the NDC. The supporters were out jubilating their party’s victory in the Savelugu Constituency.

The police claimed the shooting emanated from the office of the NDC parliamentary candidate in the elections and MP-elect for the area Alhaji Iddris Yakubu. They (Police) added that the weapon involved was an AK-47.

They, therefore, apprehended the MP-elect then together with the chief of Duko Naa Mohammed Ahmed and announced that they had retrieved 2 AK-47 rifles at the residence of the MP and the NDC party office.

The two were subsequently charged with unlawfully possessing firearms. However, the police CID, in their June 30, 2021 press briefing, said that an examination carried out on the weapons retrieved revealed that “the weapons do not match with the spent ammunition found on the ground. So, it couldn’t have been fired from that AK47 riffles so investigation is ongoing”. (See 36 mins 15 secs to 38 mins of June 30, 2021 press briefing of the police here).

In conclusion, the above accounts of events show that three of the 2020 election-related deaths were caused by shootings by state security personnel while the remaining five deaths resulted from violence that broke out among civilians. Therefore, Former President John Mahama’s claim that casualties from the 202 elections were state-sponsored is false.

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