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2019 New Year School... Speakers call for concerted action on political vigilantism

COP Mr Nathan Kofi Boakye  delivering his lecture at the New Year School in Accra. Picture: GABRIEL AHIABOR
COP Mr Nathan Kofi Boakye delivering his lecture at the New Year School in Accra. Picture: GABRIEL AHIABOR

The Director-General of the Police Professional Standards Bureau (PPSB), Commissioner of Police (COP) Nathan Kofi Boakye, has stated the resolve of the police to crack down on political vigilante groups in the country.

He said the police would no longer countenance the machinations of political figures behind the formation of those groups.

Delivering a lecture on political vigilantism and Ghana's democracy at the ongoing New Year School and Conference at the University of Ghana in Accra yesterday, he said although some politicians had frustrated efforts by the police to deal with the menace, the time had come to take the bull by the horn in the interest of the country.

“It is difficult to arrest members of vigilante groups of political parties in power because of political interference, and people who organise these groups have the guts to sit on radio and blame the police.

"The Police Service is prepared to face the vigilante groups squarely; so despite the political tagging and threats from politicians who are serving as entrepreneurs for these groups, we are saying that enough is enough,” he stressed.

Other speakers on the topic were the Director of the Faculty of Academic Affairs and Research at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC), Dr Emmanuel Kwesi Aning, and the flag bearer of the Convention People’s Party (CPP) in the 2016 elections, Mr Ivor Kobina Greenstreet.

Partnership

COP Boakye called for a strong partnership among actors in the criminal justice system, including the Attorney-General's Department and the Judiciary, as well as civil society, to tackle the menace holistically.

“The police are bold and ready to arrest members of vigilante groups, but we need the support of civil society and other key stakeholders.

"If we arrest these guys and the courts give them mild slaps from the bottom, they will continue to be emboldened to do what they do. So let's all fight together," he urged.

Vigilantism

The vigilante groups are mostly affiliated to the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC).

Some of the groups engaged in all kinds of activities during and after the 2016 general election, leading to tension and the disruption of public peace.

In the aftermath of the elections, members of the Invisible Forces and the Delta Forces, believed to be linked to the NPP, stormed state institutions, including the Passport Office, the courts and toll booths, and seized public toilets.

Action

Taking his turn at the discussion, Dr Aning said political vigilantism in the country had become more sophisticated and required concerted efforts from all to deal with it.

He noted, for instance, that the vigilante groups were now being formed by “political entrepreneurs” as a business, with decentralised structures that were difficult to crack down.

Dr Aning said the economic dynamics of political vigilantism ought to be looked at critically because more groups were being formed as a result of the incentives associated with the formation.

“Prior to Election 2016, there were 17 groups, but in the aftermath of the elections, we have seen the formation of many more groups.

 Those who acted as vigilantes have had economic benefits and so those who have not had these are now forming their own groups to also have their turn, and this is dangerous for us.

"From where I sit, I see the formation of more organised and structured vigilante groups that have access to offensive weapons, so if care is not taken, this country will be in a serious security situation,” he cautioned.

Dr Aning stressed the need for stronger collaboration among state institutions to tackle the incentives and disincentives for the formation of vigilante groups to dissuade people from engaging in the menace.

Commitment

For his part, Mr Greenstreet said political vigilantism persisted because political parties played the ostrich by condemning the act in public and emboldening them in camera.

“It is easier for politicians to say they have zero tolerance for vigilantism, but they must go the extra mile to demonstrate it.

As we approach the 2020 elections, it is getting increasingly clear that expectations are not being met and so there are more fertile grounds for vigilantism,” he said.

He called for decisive action from all who matter to weed out the vigilante groups to ensure that the peace and security of the country was protected.