Ghana: Anger at lawlessness of vigilante groups reported in Ghana

Accra, Ghana (PANA) – Public anger at the indiscipline and lawlessness of vigilante groups which have reached unprecedented levels in recent weeks and calls on the authorities to disband them was the major story reported by the Ghanaian media this week.

The two main political parties in the West African country - the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) and opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) – have for many years created vigilante groups which have sought to “defend” them in various ways.

They have engaged in the seizure of government institutions and the harassment of officials after a change in government while also causing havoc in their own political parties.

But the indiscipline and lawlessness of two vigilante groups of the NPP, which won power after the 7 December 2016 elections, have triggered alarm bells about the destructive consequences of such groups.

Some social commentators have expressed disappointment in government’s inability to deal with such vigilante groups after President Nana Akufo-Addo was sworn in on 7 January 2017 and suggested that their uncontrolled activities were slowly turning Ghana into a lawless land in the name of political expediency.

The Invincible Forces and Delta Force of the ruling party have seized public assets like toll booths and vehicles; assaulted or sacked government employees who they perceive to be loyal to the former NDC government; taken over government offices like the National Health Insurance Scheme and other property and demanded jobs that they were promised by their party leaders, among other things.

Their lawlessness hit a new high this week when the Delta Force on Thursday stormed the Circuit court in Kumasi, the stronghold of the ruling party, and freed 13 of their colleagues who had been remanded in custody for assaulting the Ashanti Regional Security Coordinator, George Agyei, claiming they had been assured that their colleagues would be freed by the court.

The state-owned Ghanaian Times reported the story under the headline, “Delta Force 'frees' 13 members.”

The newspaper said moments after the presiding judge Mary Nsenkyire had remanded the suspects for two weeks a group of heavily built men stormed the courtroom and marched the suspects from the dock.

The gang said they were not going to allow the ruling party to stand and almost assaulted the judge, who stood in shock. She was whisked away to her chambers by the police to prevent any nasty acts towards her. They also vandalized some court properties.

This incident will come as a slap in the face of President Akufo-Addo, who was on a tour of the Ashanti Region a week ago where he gave the assurance that the rule of law would work without “fear or favour”.

Incidentally, Parliament earlier in the week summoned National Security Minister Albert Kan-Dapaah, to answer questions on the activities of vigilante groups.

The state-owned Graphic, in a story under the headline, “Security agencies will stop vigilante groups - Kan-Dapaah”, said the minister described the activities of political vigilante groups as “criminal” and affirmed the resolve of the security agencies to confront the groups and stop their activities.

He said they had the tendency to degenerate into militant groups whose activities could have serious repercussions for the security of the country and pledged to deal with them in accordance with the laws of the country.

Following the incident at the court in Kumasi, Ghana’s second biggest city, the Graphic reported that the Minister of the Interior, Mr Ambrose Dery, had also reiterated the government’s commitment to deal with any person or group that broke the law, irrespective of their political affiliations.

He said the government would pursue the members of the Delta Force involved in the breach of peace, law and order and bring them to book, adding that “absolutely no one is above the law”.

Mr Dery described the activities of the Delta Force as regrettable and unacceptable, adding: “The government totally condemns the situation and will not relent in its efforts to clamp down on their activities.”

The 13 escapees have since turned themselves in while some of those who stormed the court have been arrested.

“GBA condemns attack on Kumasi Court by Delta Force,” was the headline of the Graphic of a statement by the Ghana Bar Association (GBA) on the incident.

It said the lawyers had condemned the attack describing it as “sickening and horrifying to watch ... persons using violence as a means to defy the court’s orders".

"(The GBA) condemns in no uncertain terms this blatant disregard for the orders of a duly constituted court of law and attack on the judge in the discharge of her lawful duties. This is an affront to the independence of the judiciary and an attack on the rule of law."

The Association of Magistrates and Judges of Ghana, on its part, described the attack as “primitive and criminal”.

The President of the Association, Justice Victor Ofoe, who is a court of Appeals Court judge, said the attack had reinforced the need for a security review of all court premises across the country.

Speaking at a press conference in Accra, he said moves were underway to declare all courthouses flash points for enhanced security protection.

He, however, urged judges to remain calm in the face of the “uncivilized and uncouth” attack on the court by the vigilante group.

The General Secretary of the opposition NDC, Johnson Asiedu Nketia, said the court invasion had all the characteristics of a carefully orchestrated plot.

He said he was not surprised at the unfolding lawlessness and the apparent incapacity of the police to handle the situation.

The buck stops with President Akufo-Addo, Commander in Chief of Ghana’s security, who wields the political will to deal with the situation, he said.

The NDC, in a statement, has given the government a 7-day ultimatum to take immediate action on the activities of its vigilante groups.

It said President Akufo-Addo’s “loud silence and unresponsiveness” to calls by well-meaning Ghanaians to call the party militants to order, had led to the dastardly unleashing of uncontrolled terror and mayhem on innocent citizens and public servants.

“Ghana is on a slippery path towards enabling the activities of terrorist groups to fester and gain roots and it must not be countenanced," the NDC warned.

It demanded swift action to continue with the trial of members of the Delta Force who were standing trial, immediate arrest and trial of all those involved in the attack on the circuit court while the President should take full responsibility for these actions.

“We also use this opportunity to call on the following security bosses, who have shown complete failure in dealing with this matter, to resign their positions with immediate effect - the Interior Minister, the Minister for National Security, the Inspector General of Police and the National Security Coordinator,” the NDC said.
-0- PANA MA/VAO 8April2017

08 april 2017 08:35:15

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