EC urges political parties to do away with vigilantism

Mrs Jean Mensa, the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission (EC) on Friday appealed to political parties in the country to do away with vigilantism.

“Our parties must do away with their vigilantism. And the citizens must condemn it.” Mrs Mensa stated in her testimony before the Ayawaso West Wuogon Commission of enquiry in Accra.

The Commission was set up by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, following the outbreak of violence at La-Bawaleshie during the Ayawaso West Wuogon Parliamentary bye-election, to conduct a far-reaching investigation, which would sustain the peace of the nation.

Mrs Mensa in her submission noted that going forward, the EC would engage in a lot more public education, as well as with the security services prior to elections.

“We will engage in a lot of public education and continue to engage with the security to ensure peaceful elections,” she said.

Mrs Mensa described the conduct of the January 31, Ayawaso West Wuogon Parliamentary bye-election, as peaceful and transparent.

Responding to a question from Mr Eric Osei-Mensah, the Counsel of the Ayawaso West Wuogon Commission of enquiry on the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO) report that the election was characterised by the heavy presence of armed security forces, Mrs Mensa noted that there were no armed security forces at any of the 137 polling stations.

With regards to CODEO’s report that a police officer on duty at the Prisons Polling Station at Dzorwulu was assaulted by a National Security officer, Mrs Mensa said reports she had received from electoral officers on the ground and the police indicated that, there was no any assault case; adding that, there was some verbal exchanges between the two officers.

She noted that the shooting incidence which occurred at the residence of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) Parliamentary candidate in the bye-election made some people in the La-Bawaleshie area to run for shelter at the Presbytarian Primary School Polling Station, which was about 140 metres away.

She said this halted voting at the Centre for about 45 minutes.

Prof Mensa-Bonsu urged the EC to learn lessons from the Ayawaso West Wuogon Parliamentary bye-election, and that, it should also be mindful that observers were on the ground, who would report as it is.

She advised that in future there should be better coordination between the security forces in the conduct of any election.

Also at the Commission to testify were Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCOP) George Alex Mensah, the Director of Operations at the Ghana Police Service, and Deputy Superintendent of Police (ASP) George L. Asare, East Legon Police Commander.

DCOP Mensah said he did not know about the masked gunmen who caused the violence during the bye-election.

“I did not know who the masked men were. I will be surprised that they were members of the SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) team. That vehicle is not part of those under my command and the police have never used that vehicle before.”

He noted that during elections, all security forces deployed to monitor were under the police command.

DSP Asare said it was upon receiving a phone call from the Greater Accra Regional Police Commander that there was violence at La-Bawaleshie that he and some of his men rushed to give support to bring the situation under control.

The Commission is under the chairmanship of Mr Francis Emile Short, a former Commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ).

Other members of the Commission are Professor Henrietta Mensa-Bonsu, an eminent professor in criminal law and Mr Patrick Kwarteng Acheampong, a former Inspector General of Police (IGP); with Dr Ernest Kofi Abotsi, a private legal practitioner, and a former Dean of the GIMPA Law School, as the Secretary.

Sitting has being adjourned until, Monday, February 18.