The Vigilantism and Related Offences Bill as laid by the Attorney-General had fundamental flaws, that is the stance of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) and civil society organisations.
The Catholic Bishops Conference and the National Commission on Civic Education (NCCE) who were at a public forum on the Bill, also believe more work needs to done on it before it is passed.
They caution the government against rushing the Bill through.
Once passed into an Act, the Bill will see to the disbandment of political party vigilante groups and prohibit the formation of such.
The purpose of the Bill is to disband political party vigilante groups and forbid acts of such nature in the country, following the continuous violence that has characterised the country’s by-elections.
By-elections in Atiwa, Akwatia, Chereponi, Talensi, Amenfi West and more recently Ayawaso West Wuogon, have all been marred by acts of violence.
The Bill applies to persons who participate in the activities of a vigilante group that is associated, related, connected or affiliated to a political party, political party officer, or a political party member.
It also applies to persons who act as land guards and those who engage in other acts of vigilantism.
For the NDC, the Bill is “unnecessary and a deliberate diversion to allow the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) to continue to build its militia infrastructure ahead of the 2020 elections.”
The Bill was laid in Parliament by the Attorney General
In their view, there are fundamental, conceptual and policy issues that completely undermine the Bill, such as its title. They say the Bill misdirects Parliament and the nation by incorrectly characterising the problem.
Making reference to Prof Henrietta Mensah Bonsu, who was a member of on the Commission of Inquiry into the Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election, the party said Ghana does not have a crisis with vigilantism – which occurs when groups engage in law enforcement and crime prevention without proper legal authority.
The NDC believes that is not the situation in Ghana. They prefer the term militia as stated by Prof. Bonsu.
“The Bill and its accompanying memorandum demonstrate no effort on the part of government to understand the problems at stake.
“The Bill mischaracterises the issues and will not provide enduring solution to the problem of unlawful militia,” they added.
They want government to wait a few more months for a real workable solution to the party militia menace in the country.
The civil society groups share similar views as the NDC.
The civil society organisations believe the Short Commission report is essential for the BIll
Not only do they agree with the opposition party on its claims that some party elements have infiltrated National Security but also the inclusion of the Ayawaso West Wuogon Commission report, as a basis for formulating any legislation.
Executive Director of the Ark Foundation, Angela Dwamena-Aboagye who spoke on behalf of the civil society organisations said, “the issue of party militia who find their way into the National Security network as emerged from the live telecast of the Emile Short Commission, has not been factored into the Bill. This is considered a huge gap in the proposed law.”
The civil society organsiations believe the Emile Short Commission’s report should have influenced the contents of the Bill, “therefore a publication of the full report and passage of the white paper on the report should have preceded the laying of the Bill.”
“The meeting of the two political parties under the auspices of the National Peace Council, may also yield other areas which again may be of benefit to the Bill,” Dwamena-Aboagye said.
The NCCE sides with the civil society organisations for the inclusion of recommendations by the Short Commission in the Bill.
Its head, Josephine Nkrumah, believes the report will help shape the Bill and give it a proper road map as to how to deal with party militia.
For the National Peace Council, the Bill is “thoroughly misconceived.”
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