The Government of Ghana has presented Vigilantism And Related Offences Bill, 2019 to parliament.
The Bill was read for the first time and referred to the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee for consideration and report within 24 hours from today, April 11, 2019.
A letter signed by The Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Gloria Afua Akuffo addressed to The Clerk to Parliament requested that The Bill be passed under a certificate of urgency in view of the current Parliamentary calendar but the Constitutional Committee was tasked to determine that request.
The objective of The Bill is to disband political party vigilante groups and proscribe act of vigilantism in the country.
The memorandum accompanying The Bill said:, “Recent public elections including by-elections held in the Fourth Republic have been characterised by violence particularly by-elections held in the following constituencies: Akwatia, Atiwa, Chereponi, Talensi, Amenh West and more recently Ayawaso West Wuogon.
The memorandum further stated that the unfortunate incidents of politicalIy-related and motivated violence has led to the formation, organisation and promotion of “vigilante” groups associated, connected or affiliated with political parties in the country.
These vigilante groups show up during public elections or political party events for the sole purpose of providing security for elections and political party activities, it noted.
“The phenomenon of politically-related violence threatens Ghana’s fledgling democracy and the rule of law.
Consequently, there has been widespread revulsion and condemnation expressed by the public in the aftermath of the Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election of January 31, 2019″.
This led the President of the Republic to appoint a Commission of Inquiry, within a week of the occurrence of the unfortunate event, to investigate the matters that led to those events and make recommendations.
While the Commission of Inquiry was still sitting, the President, during his Message on the State of the Nation delivered on February 21, 2019, encouraged the leadership of the two main political parties, namely, the New Patriotic Party, (NPP), and the National Democratic Congress, (NDC), to come together to bring an end to this phenomenon of political party vigilantism.
The President also stressed that if voluntary disbandment by the two main political parties was not feasible, then he would initiate legislation on the disbandment of political party vigilante groups.
The Bill also takes into account the need to ensure that citizens are not deterred from coming together to protect lives and property within their neighbourhood or community as well as preventing crimes from being committed.
The Bill creates offences specifIc to political party vigilante groups, the phenomenon of land guards and other acts of vigilantism.
The Memo again noted that, “the increase in the use of land guards and its attendant violence across the country is another worrying phenomenon that threatens the right to own property, iives and liberty. There have been countless cases where property owners have been bullied off their property because of the use of land guards by certain citizens. In other cases, there have been deaths”.
Story by Edzorna Francis Mensah