Defining Citizenship On Ethnic Affiliation Or Language: The Nonsense Must Stop!
Who Is A Ghanaian:
According to the Citizenship Act 2000 (section 7):
“A person is a citizen of Ghana by birth if he was born on 7th January 1993 or born after that date in or outside Ghana and at the date of his birth either of his parents or one grandparent was or is a citizen of Ghana.”
Per this legal definition, every Ghanaian who attained 21 years on after January 7th, 2022, is a Ghanaian by birth. It does not matter the ethnic affiliation, ability to speak or understand any acclaimed Ghanaian dialect.
With such simple, straightforward and concise definition of who is a Ghanaian, yet, some of us, Muslims Right Activist, have recorded a series and continuous observations and complains made with grave concerns at which some state officials and individuals are abusing the legal and civic right of citizenship verification of some Ghanaians.
It is sad and an act of highest level of ignorance for a ‘supposed’ trained state official to verify the nationality of a person based on ethnic affiliation or ability to speak a known local language or dialect.
It has been observed that, these acts of human right and identity abuse are commonly perpetuated by state officials during national identification registration exercise and passport acquisition at the Passport Office, National Identification Authority, Electoral Commission, Birth and Death Department who are supposed to be well trained and well versed in definition and use of best approach to ascertain to verify nationality of some suspicious persons. Their officials commonly ask the registrant, who mostly Muslims, of their hometown or tribe or the Ghanaian language they can speak before approving or disapproving their nationality.
Mostly, these officials harass, intimidate, abuse physically and sexually some targeted group of persons, especially Muslims and those whose ethnic affiliation is not from Ghana.
Muslims in Ghana, especially our women, have suffered more than enough of continuous and deliberate religious discrimination, harassment and oppression either at the school, workplace, Ghana card registration centers, passport acquisition offices and sometimes in public places such as in ‘trotro’ and intercity buses where pastors Christianised every passenger in the bus.
In spite of several attempts Muslims in the country have used diplomatic means to draw attention of human right institutions on the increasing violation of Muslims right in the country, we still on daily basis receives complaints of Muslims being treated like aliens in Ghana by supposed religious leaders among whom are elders, pastors, Reverend Fathers, priests and members of one religious denomination to the other. Contrary to what the biblical scriptures expect the genuine believers in the Scriptures must act and behave towards all mankinds and animals.
Tema Passport Office Assault Case On A Muslim Lady:
The recent sad event of a Muslim’s right violation happened at the Tema Passport Acquisition office where a Ghanaian Muslim lady was subjected to a humiliating abuse and assault by an immigration service officer paid by the taxes of the same lady he and other accomplices treated and assaulted like how some cruel people will attack a goat that eats his or her last available food.
The innocent victim, Maryam who has her great grandparents being Ghanaians was subjected to sexual harassment, beatings, kicking, dragged on the floor, her hair cover and footwears removed and seized in the full glare of black Ghanaians and no much attempt were made to save her including a police officer on duty. (Her narration is attached)
Why is there so high prejudice among passport office and NIA officials that most Muslims are not Ghanaians?
Cases of Allegations of Sexual Abuse:
There has been some cases where these unscrupulous and unprofessional officials at passport office had told another officer who was a Muslim, after he questioned him why he was intimidating a Muslim lady, the interviewing official replied that, the Muslim ladies are beautiful and neat so he just want the lady to meet him later outside office before he will approve her for the passport.
Mostly, some Muslim ladies of other ethnic group not listed as one of the main Ghanaian ethnic group have been subjected to public humiliation, intimidation and harassment, so they feel vulnerable and succumb to all kind of demands from the official who ‘unscrupulously and criminally’ use their position to demand sexual favors from the innocent Ghanaians who are victims of institutionally-created biasness towards their citizenship right.
The Case of Fulanis, Hausas, Zabrama’s and Songhai’s
Mostly, people in Ghana from these West African ethnic group but have their grandparents even born or migrated to Ghana during their youth age married and gave birth in Ghana and now having grandchildren in Ghana, have had their children and grandchildren’s citizenship as Ghanaians denied or challenged wrongfully.
They are deliberately and wholesomely labeled as foreigners. They mostly will have to go through a lot of frustrations and humiliating approach of proving and defending their citizenship.
Questions begging for answers:
Why must a Ghanaian be intimidated and assaulted, by a ‘supposed trained and educated officer’, before his or her nationality can be ascertained.
Do the Immigration Service officers at the passport office and NIA registration centers have a different definition or approach to ascertain the nationality of who is a Ghanaian contrary to the laws of Ghana?
Is the Immigration Service having a challenge of training their officers adequately before posting them? If so, then that institutional challenge must be addressed immediately to avoid bringing embarrassment to the Immigration Service.
Where are the ‘people of conscience’? Why is it a crime to be a Muslim in Ghana? Is it a crime to want to dress and appear modest in a hijab dressing? What is the crime of the Muslim woman?
The way forward:
It is about time we are publicly made aware, if Passport Office and Immigration Service officials have a different definition or approach of determining who is a citizen of Ghana, if so, then they should let us all know that immediately.
It will be prudently and judiciously right for the whole world to know, if citizenship is in anyway determined by just being able to only speak a local dialect or belonging to the few listed tribes in Ghana?
The prejudice that, every Muslim is a suspected foreigner in the minds of Passport Office and Immigration Service officials must be completely erased from their memory.
We Muslims and non-affiliated Ghanaian ethnic groups do not want to hear any issue of harassment, abuse or intimidation by any state official against a Muslim on issue of nationality. Inasmuch as we do not stop any official from performing their duties of ascertaining a nationality of any Muslim in a diplomatic and humble manner.
Adnan Adams Mohammed
Executive Director, MUYAD Social Services