President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has appealed to the leadership of the two main political parties, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC), to come together and agree on the appropriate measures needed to salvage the nation from the phenomenon of vigilantism.
He said he wanted the important meeting to take place preferably next week.
“I have asked the leadership of the NPP to extend an invitation to the leadership of the NDC for such a meeting on vigilantism.
The security services of the country will be on standby to assist this meeting. If voluntary disbandment by the parties is not feasible, then I will initiate legislation on the matter,” he said.
Delivering the State of the Nation Address (SONA) to Parliament yesterday, the President said: “Vigorous debate and the exchange of ideas should be the true basis of political dialogue and competition in our country, not the activities of party vigilante groups.”
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He said Ghana would not take its peace and security for granted and, therefore, acts of violence by vigilante groups which were tolerated over the years could not and must not be accepted anymore.
“What was tolerated over the years cannot and must not be accepted any longer. We must not take our peace and security for granted, not for a moment,” the President said.
“Our children and grandchildren will not forgive us if we are to compromise our peace and stability. I will not permit that to happen under my watch,” he added.
Rawlings welcomes call
The Founder of the NDC, former President Jerry John Rawlings, who was in Parliament with his wife, Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings, to listen to President Akufo-Addo deliver his third SONA, later took to Twitter to welcome the President’s call, describing it as “disarming”.
“I do hope the NDC and the NPP will heed the call to join forces in combating the scourge of party militias and violent vigilantism,” Mr Rawlings tweeted.
The event was attended by the Vice-President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia; his wife, Mrs Samira Bawumia; the First Lady, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo; former President John Dramani Mahama, the Chief Justice, Ms Justice Sophia Akuffo, and some members of the Judiciary.
Also present were the Chairman of the Council of State, Nana Otuo Siriboe II; the Chief of Staff at the Presidency, Mrs Akosua Frema Osei Opare, members of the Diplomatic Corps, heads of the security agencies and traditional rulers.
President Akufo-Addo, who arrived on the premises of Parliament about 10 a.m., inspected a guard of honour mounted at the Forecourt of Parliament, after which he was ushered into the chamber.
His introduction by the Speaker of Parliament, Prof. Mike Aaron Oquaye, was heralded with shouts of “hear, hear” from the Majority side while the introduction of former Presidents Rawlings and Mahama was greeted by the House.
For the first time, the delivery of the SONA was not characterised by the usual interruptions, boos and jeers.
The display of placards with inscriptions to sum up the President’s address was also absent, while there were no shouts of “No No” or “Yes Yes”.
The incessant interjections from both sides of the House were also absent, a development which is a pointer to the growth of Ghana’s democracy.
Wearing his trademark dark blue suit over a white shirt, with a dark blue tie to match, President Akufo-Addo advised that vigorous debate and the exchange of ideas should be the true basis of political dialogue and competition in the country and not the activities of party vigilante groups.
He said the forebears of the country paid too high a price with their blood and toil to bequeath to the people the beautiful nation of Ghana and, therefore, the lives of the citizens were too precious to waste.
He urged Ghanaians to be guided by the words of the National Anthem, particularly the second stanza, and unite to build the country.
Recounting the events that took place on the morning of January 31, 2019 during the Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election in his almost two-hour-30-minute speech, the President said: “My first instinct was to let the police do their investigations, and then prosecute if they found evidence of criminality.”
“The narration that this was another incident of normal by-election violence caused me to expand my response.
Last Monday’s shooting incident in Kumasi, where a meeting of the national and regional executives of the opposition NDC was broken up by acts of violence, leading to the tragic death of a citizen, had reinforced the urgent need for the country to find that path,” he said.
President Akufo-Addo also referred to the violence that characterised past by-elections.
“I could have set it out, as some did for Akwatia, Atiwa, Chereponi, Talensi and Amenfi West, but I decided that would not be in the interest of Ghanaian democracy.
The time has come to put an end to the phenomenon of politically related violence and the only way in our system to begin to deal with such a situation is through the work of a Commission of Enquiry.
“Thankfully, I got four responsible Ghanaians of independent spirit who agreed to serve on the commission. I hope the findings and recommendations of the Emile Short Commission will enable us to chart a path to end politically related violence in our country,” the President said.
Support for security services
Paying homage to the country’s security services, he commended the men and women of the services for the sterling work that they did, saying “the security services are at the forefront of keeping us and our nation safe”.
He mentioned the improvement that had been registered in dealing with nomadic herdsmen and said the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) assisted the National Security to embark on “Operation Roadstar”, which led to the construction of a 40-acre cattle ranch to accommodate over 6,000 cattle at Wawase in the Afram Plains.
The construction of the ranch, he said, had considerably reduced the tension associated with nomadic herdsmen in the area.
“There are plans to replicate the construction of ranches in other parts of the country,” he added.
On allowances for the GAF, President Akufo-Addo said “the government was pleased to have fulfilled its promise to the military by increasing the United Nations Peacekeeping troops contribution allowances from $30 to $35 per soldier per day.
“We will continue to modernise and provide the equipment needed by the military to help them carry out their mandate effectively. Tomorrow, I will be presenting to the GAF 50 ANKAI buses, the first tranche of the 138 staff and operational vehicles of various categories, and 26 dispatch motorcycles,” he added.
This year, he said, the government would provide the Ghana Army with 30 Otokar armoured personnel carriers (APC) and six fast patrol boats for the Ghana Navy.
“We will also provide improved training facilities by transforming the Military Academy and Training School into a world-class institution, expand the housing project from 16 flats to 44 and begin constructing 160 two-bedroom apartments across the country.
“This year, we will also complete and inaugurate the 500-bed Military Hospital in the Ashanti Region and begin the third phase of that project,” he said.
On the Ghana Police Service, he said the government had, in the past year, supplied the service with equipment, cars, motorbikes, drones and other vital policing equipment and said financial clearance had also been given to recruit up to 4,000 men and women into the service.
“Gradually we are increasing police numbers and the service too is waking up to its responsibilities and offering more training to its officers.
I look forward to a better trained, better equipped and happier police service that has the respect and cooperation of the people.
“We need a well-trained police service if we are to abide by the rule of law,” he added.