Sammi Wiafe writes: Political vigilantism; When trust becomes a scarce commodity

kwahuonlineradio March 12, 2019 0
Sammi Wiafe writes: Political vigilantism; When trust becomes a scarce commodity

When President Akufo-Addo on February 21, 2019, delivered his state of
the nation address, the majority of us stayed glued to our seats to
listen to the President of the Republic.

One thing that hit many including myself was the President’s call for
both the NPP and the NDC to sit at one meeting and fashion out ways of
ending the phenomenon of vigilantism which in the last couple of years
has dominated discussions on our airwaves, homes, eateries and so on.

Well, the NPP and the NDC have controlled the political scene since the inception of the Fourth Republic.

Our lives are divided into NPP and NDC. Our homes, churches and even
workplaces are divided over these two parties. Ahead of the 2016
election, a family in the area where I lived was divided over these two
parties; whilst the man, the head of the family was NDC, the woman and
the two kids were staunch supporters of the NPP.

You can imagine the situation at home when Nana Akufo-Addo and the NPP
won the election, well that story will be told another day.

It’s been over two weeks since President Akufo-Addo asked the two parties to meet on this issue.

To quote him, “I want to use the platform of this message to make a
sincere, passionate appeal to the leaders of the two main political
parties in our country, NPP and NDC, to come together, as soon as
possible, preferably next week, to agree on appropriate measures to
bring an end to this worrying and unacceptable phenomenon of vigilantism
in our body politic.”

He continued, “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.”

The President concluded with this, “if voluntary disbandment by the
parties is not feasible, then I will initiate legislation on the matter.
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.’’

How glad and happy people were including myself to hear this from the leader of the land. But

Mr. President over two weeks and some days after this call, it looks
like the two parties have adopted the ‘’yen tie obia’’ attitude. Very
little has been done on this apart from complaints that without a
mediator, no serious result will ensue.

Political party vigilantism did not start only under the Fourth
Republic. We are told of their existence even in the 1950s. But it has
become more popular under this Republic.

Many people have their own appreciation of political vigilantism, but a
basic understanding from the evolution of the characterization can be
said to be an instance where organized armed or unarmed men and women
are deployed as private armed forces (militia) to protect the electoral
prosperity of political parties and their leaders.

In Ghana, there are quite a number of them, some whose name I never heard until I sat to write this.

I have heard of Bamba Boys, Kandahar Boys, Aluta Boys, Nima Boys, Azorka
Boys, Invincible Forces, Bolga Bulldogs, Delta Force but not Gbewaa
Youth, Zongo Caucus, Veranda Boys, Supreme, Mahama Boys, Basuka Boys,
Badariba, Basuka Boys,Bindiriba.

Political party Vigilantes come about when there is no trust for the
security agencies. For instance, the formation of the Invincible Force,
the most popular vigilante group in Ghana was formed by elements in the
NPP because they thought the country’s security agencies, especially the
Police, could not offer the NPP the needed protection.

The NPP had accused the NDC of visiting violence on them in a number of
by-elections when they were in opposition, notably Chereponi, Talensi,
Atiwa and the Akwatia.

According to the party, the Police looked on unconcerned whilst NPP
leaders and supporters were beaten to a pulp. This anger led to the
formation of the Invincible Force, and its purpose was to provide
internal security for the party.

Fast forward, the NDC after losing the 2016 election also formed the
Hawks, a group to provide security for the NDC and its leaders.

This bit of history or background gives a better understanding why the
two parties endorse the activities of these vigilante groups.

It’s almost as if when in opposition you don’t trust the Police. But
when you are in power you do. In opposition, the best bet for
protection, to the politicians is vigilante groups. They will go the
extra mile to protect you, something the Police, they infer will not do.

The just ended hearings of the Justice Emile Short Commission of Inquiry
has made Ghanaians know the kind of Police we have. A service largely
controlled by the party in power, as the appointment of the IGP and most
top promotions and transfers, are sanctioned by a system favourable to
the government.

We all knew this even before the Short Commission was formed, but never
knew the magnitude of it until the revelations at the Commission.

A week after the President’s call for the disbandment of vigilantes in
Ghana, the National Chairman of the NDC, Samuel Ofosu Ampofo wrote to
the President making some demands before the meeting is held

He said, “and as the phenomenon has appeared to take some root in the
fabric of our politics, it is only prudent that the call for a
disbandment is extended to not only the National Democratic Congress and
the New Patriotic Party but all political parties, civil society
organisations, representatives of the media, representatives of the
military, police and other security agencies, as well as any other
relevant stakeholders.”

He continued, “In addition, in view of the often recurrent mistrust and
suspicion that characterize such interactions by political parties, and
the pain and suffering that vigilantism may have created especially in
the recent past, it is of the utmost importance that a mediator with
national credibility be appointed to drive the entire process. In that
regard, my party, the NDC, propose that the National Peace Council be
appointed as the mediator for such a meeting.”

The letter goes on to say that “we also think that the Peace Council
will require as collaborators, institutions that may have unimpeachable
knowledge and expertise in providing support for such efforts, And in
this regard the NDC propose that the Kofi Annan International
Peacekeeping Training Center (KAIPTC), the United Nations Development
Programme (UNDP), National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) and the
Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG) join the Peace Council to
facilitate the process’’.

Why would the National Chairman of the NDC make these demands before a
simple meeting with the leaders of the NPP is held? It’s simple! The two
parties do not trust each other as he implied in his letter.

Mr. President this meeting will not happen anytime soon. These two
political parties only agree and work together when something good is
coming their way like ex-gratia, or pay rise among their MPs or when
there is free money coming from somewhere. That one, they will meet and
report back to you before the deadline.

Trust among the NPP and the NDC is a scarce commodity. With all their money and power, they can never find it.

I have heard the NPP Deputy General Secretary, Nana Obiri Boahene say on
Citi FM that the NDC has shown bad faith in this whole process.

For them, the NPP has met to set out modalities for the meeting and only
waiting for the NDC to come along. We are told that the National
Chairman of the NPP, Freddie Blay had already placed a phone call to his
counterpart, Samuel Ofoso Ampofo on the matter

We are also aware that the Functional Executive Committee of the NDC
(FEC) has also met to discuss the President’s call. So the question is
what are they waiting for? Simple, they don’t trust each other. Not at
all! There is no trust.

The benefits the two parties derive from their vigilante groups is overwhelming and doing away with them will not come easily.

The winner-takes-all politics currently practised in Ghana makes it difficult for political parties to trust themselves.

The NPP thinks the NDC is in to do them evil and deny them basic rights
and the NDC thinks likewise. I do not have enough ink to deal with the
phenomenon of winner-takes-all politics today.

Mr. President, it’s about time you began the process of initiating
legislation to end this vigilante canker. The two major political
parties do not seem ready to do away with their ‘’darling’’ groups
obviously because of the ‘benefits’ they get from them.

President Akufo-Addo has never minced words on this issue of
vigilantism. On several occasions, he condemned the actions and
inactions of these vigilantes called on the Police to deal with them
according to law.

Mr. President the two parties are not willing to heed your call.

They enjoy having these young men and women around them. Please initiate the law NOW!

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