The opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) have clashed over the re-emergence of political party vigilante groups in the country’s body politics.
The two bodies in separate statements on political party vigilantism shared diverse opinions on the need to check the re-emergence of their activities.
Endorsement of vigilantism
According to the NCCE, the endorsement of vigilante groups, especially in the quarters of the NDC, was giving impetus to entrenching political party vigilantism.
The independent governance institution in a statement signed by its Director of Communications and Corporate Affairs, Mrs Joyce Afutu, stated that the Commission was saddened by the development which went contrary to the nationwide condemnation of political party vigilantism prior to the 2016 general election.
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It will be recalled that during the just ended regional conferences of the NDC, particularly in the Ashanti Region, the use of vigilante groups, the Hawks, was rife, giving an indication that the NDC was giving a tacit endorsement to the use of vigilante groups.
Condemnation too late
But the NDC in a sharp rebuttal to the NCCE’s assertion stated that the NCCE’s condemnation had unfortunately come in rather too late in the day.
“We have allowed the New Patriotic Party (NPP) to perpetrate these acts of injustice to our members for far too long. We shall not miss any opportunity to protect the lives and property of our people,” the NDC statement signed by its General Secretary, Mr Johnson Asiedu Nketia, emphasised.
It said the party was ready to order the disbandment of those groups provided “President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo showed signs of readiness to protect the lives and property of our members by disarming and disbanding the NPP’s numerous vigilante groups; arresting and prosecuting all NPP members who have been cited for various breaches of the law through vigilantism; including the forcible release of NPP suspects from police custody, the forcible ejection of some chief executive officers of state-owned organisations from their offices and providing appropriate operational environment for state security agencies to regain their control and mandate in protecting life and property of the citizenry.”
However, the NCCE vehemently condemned the NDC statement.
The Commission took the opportunity to remind all political parties of their responsibility towards the preservation of peace, law and order in the country’s democratic dispensation.
“All political parties, especially the NPP and NDC, must disband existing vigilante groups with immediate effect. Security agencies must be proactive in clamping down such illegal groups,” the NCCE statement cautioned.
It further cautioned that any political party that formed vigilante groups was acting in contravention of the 1992 Constitution.
It, therefore, entreated all political parties and the entire citizenry to seek to promote civic consciousness and stir up patriotism and nationalism among Ghanaians.
“We urge political parties to use their influence to promote adherence to peace and order among all groups in the country in order to safeguard the peace that we are enjoying,” the NCCE statement concluded.
But the NDC took a rather regrettable notice of the NCCE statement, saying: “We have all been witnesses to the various episodes of terrorism, intimidation and brutalisation of our functionaries by these NPP vigilante groups, and not on any single occasion did we see an attempt by the NCCE or any section of moral society to condemn these acts of terrorism from these NPP vigilante groups.”
“First of all, we welcome the new awakening of organisations such as the NCCE to an over-grown menace of political party vigilantism in the country,” the NDC statement pointed out.
It stated that the NDC was the more encouraged and motivated by the fact that individual members of the party had now taken charge of their personal security by organising themselves into such groups.
“As we may all be aware,” the statement said, “this has been necessitated by the “persistent and loud failure of the Akufo Addo led-NPP government to rein in its para-military trained vigilante groups, who have since their electoral victory, virtually over-powered the state security and rendered them ineffective in their bid to protect life and property of fellow citizens.”
The statement added that “ we were all witnesses to the loud silence, the helpless response of the state security and the protection of the Judiciary when the Delta Forces visited terror on the Ashanti Regional Security Coordinator and their subsequent invasion of the Kumasi Circuit Court to free their colleagues who were being tried for the brutalisation of the said Security Coordinator.”
“These same NPP vigilante forces unlawfully seized two of our party vehicles under bizarre circumstances, and the said vehicles are still in the custody of the presidency’s security, even after submission of all vehicle documentation to the transport officer,” it said.
According to the NDC, the NPP’s forces again brutally invaded the residence of their Member of Parliament for Asunafo South, Mr Eric Opoku, and visited mayhem on the occupants of the house and other NDC faithful. “We can only remember the loud silence of President Akufo-Addo and how helpless the police looked on in this matter,” the statement said.
“While we are guided by the saying that ‘he who seeks peace mustn’t prepare for war’, we wish to serve notice of our cautious adoption of all the groups formed by our members to protect the interest of our party,” the statement concluded.