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Concerns over national ID card requirements for upcoming polls in Malawi, South Sudan

Police now involved in the matter of Ghana's missing biometric verification devices
Concerns over national ID card requirements for upcoming polls in Malawi, South Sudan

Malawi and South Sudan are set to hold general elections soon and national ID cards could prove to be a key factor in the process. As South Sudan prepares to organize its first-ever elections since it became an independent country in 2011, there are fears that citizens without national ID cards may not be able to take part in the all-important exercise in the life of the country. In Malawi, a recent legislative amendment by the government which makes the national ID card the only proof of ID for voter registration has met with criticisms from various quarters including from the country’s Law Society. In an election-related development, some officials of the Electoral Commission of Ghana, suspected to be behind the loss of a biometric verification device, have been handed to the justice department for a probe.

Malawi lawyers reject ID as sole credential for voter registration

The Malawi Law Society (MLS) has kicked against a recently amended law that only national ID cards will be accepted as proof of identity for voter registration ahead of the country’s general elections.

Nyasa Times narrates that the MLS is worried many Malawians will be locked out of the process. It says that the move violates Section 77 of the country’s constitution which gives every citizen the right to vote in any election.

“While this guarantees electoral integrity on one hand, it has the potential to disenfranchise constitutionally qualified voters on the other hand, due to possible capacity or operational challenges that may emerge at NRB,” the MSL is quoted as saying in a communiqué.

These concerns notwithstanding, Malawi is said to have a high rate of ID issuance, at about 94 percent as of 2022.

Lack of ID cards could be a headache in South Sudan elections

Some South Sudanese have been expressing their ordeal in obtaining a national ID card, which they fear, could keep them away from participating in the country’s elections at the end of this year, according to VOA.

The outlet quotes one citizen who only gave his name as Alex as saying he has made several unsuccessful attempts to obtain his ID card, with many trips to the immigration office based in the country’s capital.

Without an ID card, Alex is worried that it may be impossible for him to register and vote during the elections coming up in December.

The Executive Director of the Center for Peace in Juba, Ter Manyang Gatwech, is also quoted as emphasizing the importance of a national ID card, which he says, is a requirement for voter participation in the country. To the official, it would make sense if the government even launches a campaign to issue ID cards free of charge in order to encourage stronger involvement in the electoral process.

South Sudan’s laws put the legal voting age at 18, and potential voters must be in possession of a national ID card or passport.

The elections are set for December 22, where eligible citizens will show up at polling stations to vote for a president, members of parliament and leaders of other local government institutions.

South Sudan recently announced the implementation of World Bank-supported biometric government payroll project.

Ghana identifies officials roped in alleged election devices theft

In Ghana, news that some biometric verification devices (BVDs) went missing has continued to shake the country’s polity, and five officials of the electoral agency have now been identified and handed to the police for justice to take its course.

According to GhanaWeb, an official of the Electoral Commission of Ghana (EC) admitted that one BVD went missing in North Tongu, and the suspects will be arraigned before a court.

In the wake of these news, the EC had rejected the claims saying no biometric verification devices were stolen. Rather, it said only five laptops were missing from some registration kits.

Now, with information emerging that a biometric device was indeed missing, the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) has slammed the EC, casting doubts on the agency’s credibility. In a press briefing, the NDC General Secretary, Fifi Fiavi Kwetey said the EC’s attitude on the matter is “unacceptable” and an insult on the intelligence of all Ghanaians.

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