Based on misconceptions that the Ghana Police Service is not active in the fight against vigilantism in the country, an Assistant Commissioner of Police has revealed why the police service is unable to prosecute offenders of such acts.
Speaking at a roundtable discussion organised by the Institute for Democratic Governance on the topic “Breaking the cycle of vigilantism in Ghanaian Politics”, the Director at the Transformation Programmes Office of the Ghana Police Service, ACP Dr. Benjamin Agordzor said the Ghana Police Service has become unprofessional due to the various political parties in the country especially the New Patriotic Party and the National Democratic Congress.
According to him, the interferences by successive governments in the police service is hindering them from performing actively, making them unprofessional because they are mostly controlled by authorities in power.
Indicating how sickening it is and how their hands are tied to the authorities in power, ACP said there is no way the police service can be professional with their work when their fates are in the hands of political parties.
According to him the fight against any act of vigilantism or acts perpetrated by party members of successive governments is a lost battle. This is evident in how difficult it is to persecute culprits who are caught, eventually in such cases, the issue is trivialized and offenders go scot free; vigilante groups act without fear because of the support from their parties.
“The arrest and prosecution of political vigilante groups especially winning party groups is not a straightforward matter. Vigilante groups are the heart and control of political parties in the place of foot soldiers. Once they help the party to win the election, they consolidate themselves and have a support base within the winning party. Since the vigilante groups constitute a mobilising force that might be needed for another election, the party structure hardly condemns their activity and are careful in making pronouncements against them and when you even arrest them behind the scene, they come and tell you their own people and find way of taking them out”, he revealed.
Citing examples on how there are no interferences in the police service in Kenya and UK, ACP Agordzor said that “the National Police Service Commission in Kenya is the one that deals with recruitment and promotions in the police service so there is nothing about police council chaired by the Vice President, the President giving promotions and other things, these are all arrangements that we have brought upon ourselves which calls for political interference by the President; it doesn’t matter which government is in power. The President and the Vice President, Minister of Interior and the cabinet has control over the police service”.
He further added that “in the Kenyan arrangement, it is rightly written in the constitution that the Minister of Interior cannot direct the IGP on how he should do his work and it is also expressly stated that if he has to give any directive, that directive must be in writing. So the Minister of State cannot call the IGP and say come to my office. But we (Ghana) have an arrangement which compels the minister to interfere in the police service and if you have put this arrangement together don’t blame the police too much because you’re tying our hands and then you’re expecting us to be professional”.
Vigilante threats over the period
The major political parties have often been accused of forming vigilante groups to man polling stations during elections. Sometimes these groups have been involved in some election incidents including some reports of ballot box snatching, and assault on supporters of opponents.
A Regional Security Coordinator, an appointee of the President was openly assaulted and injured in Kumasi. At the end of the trial of the vigilante suspects their colleagues stormed the court, freed the accused and defiled and threatened the trial judge. In Northern Region, a DCE appointed by the President was walked out of her office and in Tamale the Regional capital, the Chief Executive Officer of the Teaching Hospital was assaulted and evicted from his office.
Quite recently in Kumasi, heavily-built men believed to be members of pro-NPP group, Delta Force recently stormed a meeting of constituency executives which was being chaired by the MP for Old Tafo Pankrono Constituency, who doubles as Minister of State for Monitoring and Evaluation, Dr. Anthony Osei Akoto. The men disrupted the meeting and allegedly wanted to physically abuse the Member of Parliament over failed election promises.
The Member of Parliament was however assisted to escape unhurt. Three men are currently standing trial for the incident.