NEWS COMMENTARY BACKS CALLS TO DISBAND ALL VIGILANTE GROUPS ACROSS THE COUNTRY
As a democratic country, Ghanaians expect the holding of regular free and fair elections. Inviting observers from international organizations such as ECOWAS, AU, UN and their local counterparts to publicly monitor, assess and produce report on the election results, have largely helped to enhance transparency of Ghana’s polls. All these electoral activities help to entrench democracy as the foundation for national and regional security, development and integration. Sometimes, election, seen as one of the pillars of democracy is abused by some powerful elites when they get the opportunity to govern. They exploit the vulnerability of the youth, commit crimes, engage in electoral violence and go scot-free. The condemnation that followed the violence in La Bawaleshie during the Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election has been loud and clear. There have been some videos showing how reportedly some electorates were beaten, stoned and shot at by armed men. What is worrying is the confusion surrounding the identity of the armed men with allegations suggesting their association with the NPP as National Security Personnel. The Police were reportedly not speared. According to CODEO, a police officer did not find it easy when he attempted to stop the armed men from their unacceptable conducts. The question is if the Police, an institution mandated to protect the rights of citizens and sovereignty of the state could not stop that unfortunate incident, the what is the fate of the ordinary citizen. Obviously this incident and other recent happening give a negative image to the country with global investment implications.
Political Parties and governance related institutions must up their game and work as expected of them. The rhetoric for political parties to disband vigilante groups associated with them should be backed by action for the sake of peace and national cohesion. Electoral Commission must take some lessons from the Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election incident and see what measures to adopt to deal with such security concerns whether near polling stations or not, because the chances of registering low voter turn-out in a security charged environment are high. Electoral violence, causing fear and intimidation due to the presence of heavy security personnel if not managed well can undermine the credibility of election results, looking at the experience of the Ayawaso West Wuogon poll. The Electoral Commission has a duty to assure peace loving Ghanaians and the world that they are capable of conducting and managing the country’s future elections. The Police Service and their security Institutions must give the citizenry a reason to trust them because the posture and conduct armed men at Bawaleshie in the Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election raised a lot of questions.
Who authorized their deployment and which of the security agencies do they come from? Why were they not arrested if claims that they were not sanctioned for that operations are true? Indeed, there are more questions than answers. Democracy is very expensive. It took a lot of work and sacrifice to build Ghana’s current democratic credentials making it a shining example in Africa. It is essential for the present generation to be mindful of their actions and inactions in order not to turn the progressive democratic clock backward. Let’s not fail those who shared their blood for the Independence of our motherland. The time to eschew violence and sacrifice our individual interest for the collective good of One Ghana, is now.
BY: SEIDU MUTAWAKIL, A STUDENT OF THE GHANA INSTITUTE OF JOURNALISM.