After eleven years of military rule, the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana came into force and brought about multi-party democracy and its accompanied rights, responsibilities and limitations. Sadly, political parties, especially the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) encouraged the emergence of vigilante groups which have gone on the rampage at one time or the other. This phenomenon has betrayed the constitution which guaranteed the right and responsibilities of political parties in Ghana. Chapter Seven of the Constitution: “Representation of the People,” Article 55 (1), indicates that “the right to form political parties is hereby guaranteed.” Article 55 (5), adds that: “the internal organisation of a political party shall conform to democratic principles and its actions and purposes shall not contravene or be inconsistent with this Constitution or any other law.”
The constitution defines the internal organisation of political parties stressing that its organisation must conform to democratic principles. The emergence of vigilante groups for the purposes of personal security may look harmless; however, it shows the distrust political parties have in the state security agencies whether in opposition or in power – a phenomenon borne out of political polarisation of the security agencies.
Vigilantism in the Ghanaian body politic is a scar on the political conscience of nation. The NDC and NPP defend actions of vigilante groups of their political parties; instead of bowing their heads in shame because they have created monsters who are out of control and the ripple effect is staring them in the face. Beyond the distrust that political parties have in the state security, it shows that the state is ineffective in protecting them; thus the same mindset is handed down to these vigilante groups, as such the monsters are created and let loose. If at any point in time a group of young men in a political party take the law into their hands so as to get the attention of their paymasters, it unfortunately paints the picture that there is break down of law and order.
Law and order is important to the holistic development of every nation. No nation has ever developed in an atmosphere of lawlessness, disorderliness and chaos. A typical incident that confirms the disregard for law and order was when after the President had condemned the actions of Delta Force – a vigilante group linked to the ruling party, another group – Invincible Forces locked up the Eastern Regional National Health Insurance Offices. These acts of disrespect for law and order confirm the monsters that have been created out of these young men whose actions haunt their paymasters. The matter is a threat to national security – “a source of worry” as the President of Ghana puts it concisely.
The police are powerless in dealing with these young men due to the political strings tied to the phenomenon. Frankly, as long as vigilante groups are created by political parties it will be an impossible task for the police to clamp down on them. The political parties which actions have encouraged emergence of the vigilante groups should take the necessary steps to disband them.
The only way to deal with this matter is to use the legal system to compel the political parties to disband the vigilante groups – for in civil societies where actions of the people are ordered by the constitution, political parties do not raise vigilante groups, they exercise their rights as citizens by depending on the state to protect them. It is for the purposes of law and order that Ghanaians chose to have a constitution. Let us show the whole world that our society is not one where political parties betray the very constitution that gives them their very existence.
We are sick and tired of this political lawlessness.
BY: ALEX BLEGE, A FREELANCE JOURNALIST.
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