President urged to take drastic action on vigilantism

The Director of the Centre for European Studies of the University of Ghana and a Governance Expert, Prof. Ransford Gyampo, has described the violence that occurred in the Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election as a graduated form of vigilantism and an immediate matter of worry to national peace and cohesion.

He, has, therefore, called on President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to intervene and direct certain drastic actions that must be taken to send a clear message that he will not countenance the operations of these vigilante groups.

That, according to him, was the only way he would be able to send a message to those who might be trying to retaliate to rethink their plans.

Otherwise, he warned that “If this is not checked and there is a clash, we will sacrifice our peace in 2020.”

Speaking to the Daily Graphic on the issue of vigilantism which seems to have become a regular feature of by-elections in the country, Prof. Gyampo said, “I am pleading with the President that this one falls at his doorsteps. Recently I commended him for the role he played in bringing peace to Dagbon.

That is Dagbon but this one has the potency to undermine the entire peace of the nation and since he is a legacy-hunting President, I plead with him that it should also be said that it was during his administration that vigilantism was halted.”

What happened last Thursday, he said, was a serious dent on the country’s democratic credentials saying although there had been violence perpetrated by ‘machomen’ and vigilante groups during previous by-elections, the recent one was different as it was perpetrated by people who deceived everybody that they were also agents of the state.

“In previous violence, you could see that those involved were hired thugs but with this one, there is the temptation to believe that they are also agents of the state,” he explained.

“To my mind, this is a graduated form of political vigilantism where vigilante groups would hide behind unorthodox apparels and would be able to lay hold on police vehicles and deceive the public, including security agencies that they are coming from the state and hide under that cloak to visit mayhem during such public events as elections,” he pointed out.

Prof. Gyampo was, therefore, of the view that such a practice “is highly unacceptable and something that must be condemned by all.”

While adding that he did not think that the action of the group was something that was officially sanctioned by the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) government and so if they did not officially sanction it, then the party would have to officially dissociate itself from that act, condemn it and insist on ensuring that those who perpetrated those acts were brought to book.

Going forward, he said, to solve vigilantism, there was the need to rethink the independence of the nation’s public institutions.

That is because, “we created a Constitution that weakens all independent public institutions.

So the police is not independent because the IGP is directly appointed by the President and so must dance to the tune of the President.”

Also, he said, the Attorney-General was not independent and once the perpetration of violence benefited the party in power, there would be a natural tendency not to prosecute or bring perpetrators to book.

“Unless we rethink how we can strengthen public institutions by redefining who gets appointed by the President and whose appointment must be based on meritocracy with the President not having a say, people will continue to say that they do not have confidence in the police and so will resort to their own security agencies,” he posited.