No hard-line stance in vigilantism talks

BY: Daily Graphic

Political thuggery, often referred to as vigilantism in the country, which has been on the ascendancy in the past years, has, indeed, become a worrying phenomenon in our democratic dispensation.

Since we ushered in the Fourth Republic in 1992, the activities of political vigilante groups have become an albatross around our neck and in some cases marred the beauty of democratic governance.

The vigilante groups, usually made up of well-built (macho) men, often cause mayhem and disrupt the electoral process, under the guise of “protecting the ballot box” for their parties.

Bearing names such as Invisible Forces, Delta Force, Azorka Boys, Kandahar Boys, Eastern Mambas and The Hawks, the groups have resorted to the use of violence and deadly and offensive weapons to cause mayhem.

Following the rise in the activities of the thugs, which have sadly been sanctioned by political parties, there have been numerous calls by security experts, civil society organisations (CSOs) and members of the public for their disbandment, but this has often fallen on dear ears.

The calls peaked in the aftermath of the Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election, which led to the injury of about 16 people, and the shooting incident at the Ashanti Regional Office of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) in Kumasi which led to the death of one person.

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo added his voice to the calls for a cessation of the activities of the groups when he delivered his State of the Nation Address to Parliament on February 21, this year.

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His was an emphatic call on the two leading political parties — NDC and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) — to meet within one week and begin talks to disband the groups.

"I want to make a passionate and sincere appeal to the leaders of the two main political parties in our country — the NPP and the NDC — to come together as soon as possible, preferably next week, to agree on appropriate measures to bring an end to this worrying and unacceptable phenomenon of vigilantism in our body politic . . . the security services of the country will be on standby to assist this meeting.

If voluntarily disbandment by the parties is not feasible, then I will initiate legislation in the matter," he said.

Finally, after much talk and back-and-forth movement, the NPP and the NDC began a series of meetings, moderated by the National Peace Council, on the vexed issue of vigilantism.

It is the hope of the Daily Graphic that yesterday’s meeting will be the beginning of the process to disband the groups of macho men put together by either political party to champion its cause, especially during elections.

We have all been witnesses to the mayhem caused by the vigilante groups, even during by-elections, and if we do not want the prediction by the Director General of the Police Intelligence and Professional Standards (PIPS) Bureau, COP Nathan Kofi Boakye, that violence would escalate in the 2020 electioneering if the country failed to curtail the operations of political vigilante groups to come to pass, now is the time to say no to the groups.

We urge the two political parties not to take entrenched stances that will be inimical to the fruitfulness of the talks but to discuss the issue dispassionately, so that Ghana will become the ultimate winner.

We need a fool-proof electoral system to ensure credible elections and not ‘machoism’ which will disturb the peace and taint our hard-won reputation as an oasis of peace in a troubled sub-region.