A vigilantism bill has been laid before Ghana’s parliament. The purpose? -Simply to deal with the menace of political vigilantism that the country has witnessed.
What then, will be the outcome? Many Ghanaians wait to see.
In 1992, Ghana began its journey of constitutional democratic governance backed by the observance of the rule of law. This effort at democratic governance has been bedeviled with the rise of political vigilantism for some time now.
Originally, vigilantism doesn’t imply violence. However, in recent times, it has been associated with violence and threat to public security. Political vigilantism now includes a wide range of violent and unlawful acts perpetrated by a group of people known generally as vigilante groups who serve the interests of political parties both in power and in opposition.
Presently, Ghana can boast of various recognised political parties. Out of these the dominant New Patriotic Party(NPP) and the National Democratic Congress(NDC), are well known for their association with vigilante groups whose activities are widely noticed during election periods. An example is the violence that preceded the recent Ayawaso West Wuogon bye-election, one out of the many incidences that have occurred across the country. The NPP and NDC vigilante groups have span the various regions in Ghana. Talk about the Delta Force, Invincible Forces, and several others known as NPP or NDC Foot soldiers.
Several questions have been posed in relation to the operations of these vigilante groups- what calls for the formation of these groups? Are these groups of any benefit to political parties? How do their operations affect the country’s enjoyment of democratic governance?
A number of reasons behind the formation of these vigilante groups in Ghana have been identified. Political party vigilante groups are borne out of mistrust for the political operations- mistrust for state institutions particularly our security services and the Electoral Commission(EC). Others are provision of internal party security and the upsurge of unemployment in the country.
According to some of these political parties, these vigilante groups serve as agents who propagate party ideologies at the grassroots and solicit support for their various parties. They also serve as monitoring agents to promote fairness and transparency in elections.
However, these vigilantes have in recent times engaged in acts of vandalism, intimidation, violation of voting processes and total disregard for the law thereby disturbing the political environment, attacking and sacking government officials from their post and forcible seizure of public and private property plunging the country into a state of insecurity.
This has made many Ghanaians, including civil society groups and organisations register their displeasure at the menace and have called for a national effort to disband these groups to spell out the true meaning of the rule of law and democratic governance. Should these groups therefore be allowed to continue to opereate?
It is for this reason that president Nana Akufo-Addo charged the two dominant political parties, NPP and NDC to engage in talks to curb the issue as well as directing the Attorney-General to prepare and submit to Parliament a bill for consideration in relation to the disbandment of political vigilante groups.
The objective of the Vigilantism and Related Offences Bill, 2019 is to disband political party vigilante groups and prohibit acts of vigilantism in the country.The bill is yet to be passed into law. The bill has attracted varied opinions from the Majority and Minority in Parliament.
Is the country on the fence as regards the bill? How long can we wait to witness its fruition?
By Millicent Ayivor
Student, Ghana Institute of Journalism