Ghana has had her fair share of vigilantism over the years.
Curiously, some Ghanaians are in favour of it, but others also strongly disagree with the whole idea of vigilantism.
But, what does the 1992 constitution of the Republic of Ghana say about vigilantism?
Before this question is answered, let us look at what Vigilantism and Rule of law is?
Vigilantism is the act of taking the law into one’s own hands and attempting to enact justice according to one’s own understanding of right and wrong, an action taken by persons who organize themselves for the purpose of protecting a common interest.
Rule of law is the principle in which all persons, including the state itself are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated and which are consistent with international human rights norms.
Many scholars, attribute the proliferation of vigilante groups in Africa and Ghana to the failure of the security services. The vigilante groups in Ghana are mostly for political purposes.
We have seen the likes of Azorka Boys, Bolga Bull Dogs, Invincible Forces, Bamba Boys and the Kandahar Boys.
Other groups identified included; Aluta Boys, Nima Boys, Salifu Eleven, Zongo Caucus, Veranda Boys, Supreme, Mahama Boys, Delta Force, Badariba, Basuka Boys and Bindiriba.
During the 2016 election, we saw the rise of most of these groups from both the National Democratic Party (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) mainly out of mistrust for the security services and the Electoral Commission (EC).
The NPP ahead of the 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections, brought in professionals from South Africa to train their “men” in combat and defence operation.
The groups provided protection for leading members of the party and the ballot. After the NPP won the election, we have seen some of the groups taking actions that they are not supposed to take, making it difficult for the President to put them in check.
The By-elections in Atiwa, Akwaatia, Chereponi, Talensi, Amenfi West and Ayawaso West Wuogon constituencies, have all had their share of violence perpetuated by these vigilate groups.
The most recent one that broke the Camel’s back is the January 31, Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election, where masked men invaded some polling stations to cause mayhem and scare away voters.
Specifically, the La Bawaleshie polling station, where eighteen people were shot, with others sustaining various degrees of injury.
An election which was supposed to be peaceful, turned out to be violent. If we are seeing masked and gun wielding men in police vehicles during a by-election, what are we going to see in the 2020 general elections?
Under article 21 of the 1992 constitution, there is the freedom of association. However, the activities of such groups, have to be monitored to ensure they do not violate our laws.
Violence drives away investors and create insecurity. If this happens, Ghana will suffer and not just one political party.
Are our leaders willing to risk the 2020 elections to do the right thing or let the citizens of the country pay for their mistakes?
The Vigilante and Related Offensive Bill, seeks to disband political vigilante groups and forbid such acts in the country. The bill is set to be passed under certificate of urgency, which means it needs not to be gazetted before it will be laid before parliament. The vigilante bill ,may be passed into law on April 29, when parliament is recalled.
However, do our leaders have to always wait till the worst happens before taking an action?
How many of our working population do we have to lose for the right thing to be done?
Now that a step has been taken, let us hope our officials, will enforce it when it is passed.
Ghana Institute of Journalism