Vigilantism is taking the law into one’s own hands and attempting to effect justice according to one’s own understanding of right and wrong.
Political vigilante groups play a key role in securing electoral victory for their parties. But they are also key agents in pushing their parties to opposition.
They have become more or less a permanent feature in the Ghanaian politics, especially in the fourth republican dispensation.
Political party vigilantism, dates back to the first republic under President Kwame Nkrumah where the opposition, United Party (UP) had what was called ‘The Action Troopers’.
The then governing Convention People’s Party (CPP) had the “Veranda boys. The UP formed the action troopers, because there was rising political violence against its members and felt compelled to protect their loyalists against Nkrumah’s hoodlums.
Vigilante groups, particularly those belonging to the party that won elections have over the years, taken the laws of the country into their own hands, forcibly ejecting officials of past administration from their apartments and physically assaulting them, as well as engaging in seizures of public property and assets in the custody of public officials in an uncoordinated manner.
These acts have fuelled polarization in Ghana’s body politic and undermined the nation’s drive towards democratic maturity.
They are mainly desperate unemployed fanatics of politicians who are grouped to provide internal party security. They often have dreaded names and funny nicknames like Delta force, the Hawks, the Lions, Invincible forces etc. Most unemployed youth hide behind political parties to perpetrate heinous crimes because they do not having anything doing.
Because of the absence of jobs, they probably would want to be known as vigilante groups. It is part of a problem we have as a developing country where we have serious challenges with unemployment and I think the root cause is what we should be looking at.
In contemporary times, vigilantism started as boys who are loyal to influential political figures but has over time, been formalize and given recognition by the political parties to provide security.
During party events such as congress, press conference and demonstrations, these vigilante groups collaborate with the police to provide security.
But it is also largely due to the reluctance of the Ghana Police Service to investigate and prosecute crimes against opposition members or their properties.
Prior to coming into office in 2016, then opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) were very clear that they do not trust the police.
The mistrust followed a series of unresolved chaos and confusion at the party’s head office.
Another reason the for the formation of the vigilante groups is for the protection of ballot boxes during elections.
Both the NDC and NPP have, depending on who’s in power, accused the other of stealing ballot boxes.
These vigilante groups, therefore, provide the needed protection for the ballot boxes in the quest for political power. They were largely restrained and limited to party activities until in 2016 when hell broke loose with Delta force and invincible forces.
Equally worrying is the fact that their actions have become a threat to national security.
Impunities and lawlessness should not be seen to be given protection in our country because it is coming from a certain quarter. There are no set of laws for Party A or Party B, whether that party is in power or out of power. The neutrality of the law must be seen to be working in a country that is championing investments, foreign or local, that would create jobs for its unemployed youth.
Having said that, I want to use this medium to charge our security agencies, to be on top of such issues.
They must be proactive enough to be able to ward off some of these security threatening incidences. WE need peace to focus on the fruitful agenda to develop Ghana and move it to the level it deserves to be 60 years on. What we need now are positive and fruitful efforts that would help Ghana move on and not fruitless ventures and impunities that would undermine our peace and security. I would like to add to the many calls on political parties to seriously engage their vigilante groups to save the country from needless setbacks.
By; Priscilla Aniniwaa Ansah
Ghana Institute Of Journalism