Many lies sited in security Minister’s testimony?
The Minister of State in charge of National Security, Thursday, January 14, used coded security words to bamboozle the three Commissioners probing the gun violence and physical assault on innocent civilians during the recently held Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election by masked armed men.
Bryan Acheampong used a security term such as “operative” to encompass both the regular police and bury the involvement of the political party thugs linked to the New Patriotic Party (NPP) who reportedly took part in the gun violence saying the National Security Secretariat has all manner of people trained and stationed at various places to work for it and are paid.
He did not speak to pictures and videos of some of the thugs in NPP branded t-shirts some of whom were seen in others wearing the brown khaki uniform worn by the masked men who attacked the La Bawaleshie polling centre, during the by-election. He only disputed one which was said to have been taken in his house.
He spoke on one video of some of the khaki clothed men dancing and holding guns at the funeral of the late Emmanuel Agyarko, and said that SWAT team was based in the Eastern Region. But The Herald’s information is that the claim is a palpable lie. One of the men in the videos is called “Double” which is based in Accra and was at La Bawaleshie polling centre.
Despite the several rounds of the gun fire heard at the Polling Station, with civilian, regular policemen, Immigration Service Offices and others running for their dear lives and wide condemnation from civil service organizations, opposition political parties and the general public, the Minister of State insists the operation is “not a failed operation”.
According to him, the armed and masked men numbering about 60 of them deployed did not fire gunshots indiscriminately as reported by the media.
Again, despite the thugs seen kicking the civilians on the ground with their legs and hitting some others with the hands and other dangerous implements, Bryan Acheampong strangely disputed media reports on the incident which sent over 18 persons to both Legon University Hospital and 37 Military Hospital with gun-wounds among others.
Appearing before the Justice Emile Short commission of Inquiry, Mr. Acheampong explained that the armed security operatives seen in khaki and masks did not misconduct themselves in their handling of the volatile security situation during the by-election.
He several times hid behind the Commander of the Police SWAT team and Director of Operations the National Security DSP Samuel Kojo Azugu and Col. Michael KwadwoPoku respectively, as those who can give accurate information on the deployment since was not in town at the time of the deployment.
He explained that although he was not on the ground for firsthand information, the security briefs he received indicate that the armed masked men, widely described in the media as hoodlums were on duty to arrest certain 9 persons who were causing trouble near the home of the NDC candidate for the by-election.
He added that ‘minimal force’ was used in their arrest after they initially resisted arrest.
Mr. Bryan Acheampong who is also a Member of Parliament of the Abetifi Constituency in his defence for the national security operatives said the gunshots they fired were warning shots and not directed at any person.
He alleged that all the gunshots wounds took place inside the house of the NDC parliamentary candidate for the by-election, Mr. Delali Kwesi Brempong.
“They tell me, that in the arrest of the nine people, six were injured I asked if it was from gunshots, they said no. They were resisting arrest and they applied minimal force in their language and sustained some injuries, they sent to the police station and they were given medical forms, so yes, some Ghanaians sustained injuries.”
“Your question suggests that the gunshots wound came from the SWAT team, we denied that flatly that they gave the gunshots from outside the warehouse and the gunshots were up they were not directed at persons. We did not enter the house, we arrested the nine persons outside the gates of the house and not inside the house. We left the scene and I have seen the video suggesting that. The gunshots wounds that we have seen came from inside the house.”
The Interior Minister, Mr. Ambrose Dery in an interesting twist to the violence witnessed during the recently held Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election, has said the Police Service did not play any role in the disturbances.
According to him, the Police service, which is under his ministry had no hand in the operations of the masked men who have been widely described in the media as party vigilantes aligned to the governing NPP.
He also disclosed that the vehicles used in transporting these masked and fully armed men to the La Bawaleshie polling centre, where most of the violence occurred, did not belong to the Police Service despite having the inscription “Police SWAT” on it and being driven by a uniformed police officer.
Mr. Ambrose Dery also said he had no idea of the deployment of the masked men to the Ayawaso West Wuogon constituency and only saw them on national television.
He also explained that the official report sent to him, by the IGP revealed that the masked men in Khaki uniforms were not personnel of the Ghana Police service.
Speaking at the Public hearing of the Justice Emile Short’s Commission of Inquiry Thursday, Mr. Ambrose Dery explained that political vigilantism is illegal and must be dealt with at all costs since it has the potential to affect the country’s peace and stability.
“As reported to me, by the IGP, who was in charge of the operations, I will say that there were police deployed and there were also officers of the Ghana Immigration Service, also deployed in the 137 polling stations. That is what I know…”
“…I first saw on TV, some persons dressed in Khaki and some of them wearing masks and armed… and when I got the video, I forwarded it to the Police and he said these are not part of my men. I later got information that an officer of National security had said that they were national security operatives,” he said.
The NDC withdrew from the Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election following the shooting incident and ordered its polling agents and observers out of the area.The masked men were caught on camera beating up civilians who did not resist arrest. The men, fully armed were also seen in the company of some police officers.
Some of these men believed to party vigilantes of the ruling NPP were seen in T-shirts with the inscription ‘NSC’ which translates as the National Security Council of which the President of the Republic heads.
The Member of Parliament for Ningo Prampram, Samuel Nartey George, was seen being struck in the face by two security personnel in a viral video.
Mr. Bryan Acheampong, Minister of State in charge of National Security in an interview on the Citi Breakfast show, said his outfit deployed the masked men.
The National Security Minister Albert Kan-Dapaah denied suggestions that the masked men were all members of a vigilante group in the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP). He, however, disclosed that officials of the National Security SWAT team that was at the Ayawaso West Wuogon constituency for the by-election in January could include former members of vigilante groups.
“If the suggestion is that included in the operatives are people who normally belong to a particular vigilante group that will be surprising.
“If some of them in the past participated in some vigilante groups, that could be possible,” Mr.Kan-Dapaah said when he also testified at the Emile Short-led Commission constituted by the president to investigate the violence that characterised the January 31 by-elections at the constituency.
Mr.Kan-Dapaah reiterated the Electoral Commission’s stance that the violence did not take place at the polling centre, but at a property belonging to the opposition NDC’s parliamentary candidate.
The men from National Security, the Minister said, cannot be accused of intimidation or blamed for disrupting the polls, especially when they were not there for election-related duties.
“The place where the incident took place was not a polling station, that house was not a polling station and just being around that vicinity could not have frightened anybody,” he said.
He said the SWAT team was only in the constituency because they had intelligence that there were weapons in a particular building.
“And if it turns out to be true that shots came from within that compound, it will only go to prove that they were right in deciding to mount the surveillance that they did,” he added.
MrKan-Dapaah responded to questions from the Commission’s lawyer Eric Osei Mensah
MrKan-Dapaah said the notion that political parties owned vigilante groups was false and that no party in the country owned any such groups.
According to him, it was rather individual members of the political parties that sponsored the vigilante groups who then took orders from their bosses.
“There isn’t one vigilante group that belongs to a political party, the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD) has just come out with a study which establishes that these vigilante groups are owned by some individuals, kingpins within the political parties.
“So the NPP has not got a vigilante group per se because if you go into it you will find that these are not vigilante group of the party,” he added.
In a response to what his Ministry was doing about these vigilante groups and the increasing threat they pose to the country’s security, the Minister of National Security said not only is he aware of their presence but it also constitutes one of his greatest challenges as a minister
Mr. Kan-Dapaah said the police and other security personnel have been instructed to deal with any acts of vigilantism as it is a crime and anyone who indulges in it should be punished in accordance with law.
“The president has given specific instructions to the IGP on this matter. I have given similar instructions to the security and intelligence agencies that ii control.”
He expects the police to adhere to these instructions.