As the New Patriotic Party and the National Democratic Congress prepare to enter dialogue to ending activities of vigilante groups loyal to them, the former Secretary to the Emile Short Commission wants both parties to acknowledge that these groups are a danger to the country’s democracy.
According to Ernest Kofi Abotsi, there is no “strategic advantage” for the two leading parties to set up vigilante groups whether they are in power or opposition because, they have been counterproductive.
“Having these groups…you undermine your own claim to leadership because the Constitution clearly has said that nobody should set up a state entity,” Mr. Abotsi told Evans Mensah on PM Express on Joy News TV, Monday.
He further explained: “So if you are in power, this flies in the face of logic that you set up a vigilante group given all the sheer force of state that you have behind you and if you are not in power, you give excuse to the one in power to go after you for having set this up.”
The former Dean of the GIMPA Law School, therefore, wants both the NPP and NDC to be decisive in dissociating themselves from these groups in order to bring sanity into the political space.
“I think moving forward, there is the need for a stepping back of the two leading [political] parties that we have in Ghana, both of whom have apparently, at a certain level, either openly or tacitly admitted that they benefit from the use of these vigilante groups.
“I think there must be a certain reckoning or recognition that these groups are counter-productive, whether they are in power or out of power,” he advised.
Admissions and denials
Despite the denial by the two leading political parties, NPP and NDC, that they own these groups, some key activists have admitted that they benefited from their activities.
Former Deputy Ashanti Regional Minister and leading member of the opposition NDC, Joseph Yamin, has openly admitted to financing activities of ‘Hawks’ group who offer protection to party members in the Ashanti Region.
General Secretary of the governing NPP, John Buadu, who testified at the Commission’s hearings into the violence that characterised the January 31 by-election at Ayawaso West Wuogon constituency, also said he is a beneficiary of a vigilante group.
According to Mr. Buadu, that became necessary after the state security failed to come to his rescue when his life was in danger during a political event.
As part of efforts to disband these groups, President Nana Akufo-Addo set up the three-member Commission of Inquiry into the by-election violence that marred the election.
The Commission was headed by former Head of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Justice Francie Emile Short while Prof. Henrietta Mensa Bonsu and former IGP P.K Acheampong were members.
The Commission which was handed a month’s period to among others, to “inquire into any matter which the Commission considers incidental or reasonably related to the causes of the events and the associated violence and injuries,” has finished its work and submitted their report to the President.
Refusing to comment on details of the Commission’s report which is yet to be made public, Mr. Abotsi said, it reflects in many ways, what Ghanaians saw from the live radio and television broadcasts of the Commission’s hearing.
“What the Commissioners did was to take the evidence, to review the evidence…and put them together in a narrative that can be distilled for purposes of reform moving forward,” he told Evans Mensah.
A key legacy in the establishment of the Commission, he noted, is the demonstration of determination and desire by the President, to meet some of the things that challenge the nation’s governance paradigm.
“If there’s one major legacy of the Commission, is that, it represents a significant intervention in the political arrangement, the constitutional arrangement and the security arrangements of Ghana so that moving forward, we can consolidate our democracy,” he said.
Watch the discussion below: