Ghana News Agency (Kasoa) – The National Peace Council (NPC) has called on political parties, civil society organisations and the media to sensitise the public on the “Roadmap to Eradicating Political Vigilantism” and sanctions against acts of vigilantism.
Vigilantism is an act or threat of violence or intimidation undertaken by a person to further the interest of him or herself or another person.
Reverend Dr Nii Amo Darko, an immediate past board member of the NPC, who made this call at an advocacy campaign event on the eradication of vigilantism and related offences in Kasoa, said the Vigilantism and Related Offences Act 2019 (Act 999) will “bite” anyone or group found culpable.
The act states that “a person shall not directly or indirectly form, organise, operate or promote the formation or operations of a vigilante group”.
“Any person who contravenes the provisions, including taking part in the activities of vigilante groups, commits an offence and would be liable on conviction to a term of imprisonment of not less than ten years and not more than 15 years.”
Raft of remedies
The act also holds anyone or group armed with an offensive weapon liable on conviction to a term of between 15 to 25 years’ imprisonment. Perpetrators will also be disqualified from holding public, political or political party office until at least ten years have elapsed from the date of conviction or after the end of a sentence.
Dr Darko, who was speaking on the “Roadmap to Eradicating Political Vigilantism in Ghana”, said the NPC is monitoring to ensure that all political parties and stakeholders comply with the roadmap developed by the NPC and stakeholders to promote peace and security before, during and after the general election.
He said the roadmap identifies specific actions and consequential tasks, some requiring advocacy, administrative remedies and others in the form of legislative reform.
Dr Darko noted that the drivers of political party violence are many and fundamentally interrelated.
They include mistrust of security agencies and the Electoral Commission, mutual mistrust between the major political parties – the National Democratic Congress and the New Patriotic Party – political patronage and the culture of rent-seeking, Ghana’s youth bulge and unemployment, and “winner-takes-all” politics.
To guide political parties to adhere to the directives of the roadmap, he said, a code of conduct was developed, which demanded that political parties publicly denounce any act of vigilantism in which the perpetrators were directly connected to their party and encourage vigilante group leaders to disband such groups, among other measures.
George Amoh, executive secretary of the NPC, said political parties have agreed to work within the structures proposed in the code of conduct, and through other lawful means, to ensure the eradication of political vigilantism in Ghana.
Youths to the slaughter
He said that the greatest risk of electoral violence lies in political primaries, registration for voter cards, the election of delegates, political debates, election campaigning, election day, collation of results, declaration of results and the transitional period.
Michael Yaw Essuman Mensah, the municipal chief executive of Awutu Senya East, said peace is priceless and cannot be replaced.
Politicians do not think about the repercussions of the acts they indulge in simply to attain power, he said. Mensah added that it is unfortunate how they illegally employ the services of poor youngsters to perpetrate acts of violence in their interests.
It is important that politicians become the starting point of the campaign against vigilantism, he said, and he called on the media to support the NPC’s laudable plan.