ACCRA, Ghana – Police and soldiers have raided an office where the opposition party is re-tabulating votes in their preparation to contest the results of last week's presidential poll, which handed a slim victory to the incumbent.
African statesmen have urged opposition leader Nana Akufo-Addo to concede defeat to President John Dramani Mahama in order to preserve Ghana's reputation for peace following the Dec. 7 poll. Ghana, a nation of 25 million on Africa's western seaboard, remains one of the few established and stable democracies in the region.
Jake Obetsebi Lamptey, the New Patriotic Party chairman, said at least 16 men armed with M-16s and AK-47s raided an office Tuesday night where a vote recount was underway, and took laptops and documentation.
"They brushed aside the security people who were assembled there, charged in on our workers, forced everybody who was there to lie flat on the floor face down, put their mobile phones away from them. And then they started to ransack the offices," Lamptey said.
Ghana police spokesman Arthur Cephas said the police were acting on a tip that the party was stashing guns in the office and did not take anything from the site.
"The police had a hint that some 20 macho men were stashing guns at the place. We needed to take action," Cephas said. "It turned out there weren't any arms."
"It's regrettable that we're beginning to see the emergence of police methods for dealing with political disputes," said Akufo-Addo. "That's taking us back to bad old days of our history and I don't believe there is any support in Ghana for these kinds of actions," he told The Associated Press at his home late Tuesday night.
John Dramani Mahama won last week's election with 50.7 percent of the vote, according to the country's electoral body. He was catapulted into office in July after the unexpected death of former President John Atta Mills.
Opposition leader Akufo-Addo came in second with 47.7 percent of the vote. He lost the 2008 presidential election by less than 1 percent, making his loss in this month's election ever more painful.
Analysts say that this was the last chance for the 68-year-old career politician, the son of a former president of Ghana. But the opposition says it will use the paper trail to prove in court there was fraud.
"We will not taking to the streets. We will go and pursue the matter in the Supreme Court," Lamptey said.
Still, thousands of protesters gathered at a roundabout in Accra on Tuesday.
"We were able to calm them down...and let them know they should support the leadership in its quest to find a peaceful resolution through the court," Lamptey said. But he said hardline supporters are ready to cause mayhem.
"If we wanted violence, really and truly, it would be one word," Lamptey said. "All we have to do is say one word and then who knows what is going to happen in this country ... But we won't want violence. So that word is never going to be uttered by us."