By Alex Boye
The Convener of Let My Vote Count Alliance (LMVCA), David Asante, has expressed worry that the issue of vigilantism in Ghana’s body politics today has gone beyond elections.
He indicated that vigilante groups, who worked to secure electoral victory for their political party, expect the government to reciprocate by giving them their share of state resources.
He said political vigilantism has become a threat to Ghana’s democracy and that the time has come for political parties and other stakeholders to consider doing away with such groups.
According to him, this brings about high and often unrealistic expectations of the government of the day, adding that “It is no wonder that in the past, after transfer of power, vigilante groups have taken over state properties such as toll booths and public toilets. This stems from a false sense of entitlement and unfulfilled promises.”
Mr. Asante made this known a public forum organised by the group to seek public views on the usage of vigilante groups by political parties in the country under the theme, “Vigilance vrs vigilantism-The act of protecting the ballot”.
The event brought together over thousands of participants from all the political divides in the country, including prominent people like the Chairman of the National Commission of Civic Education (NCCE), Madam Josephine Nkrumah, the National Organiser of the ruling New Patriotic Party(NPP), Dr. Kwesi Aning, Director, Faculty of Academic Affairs & Research, Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre.
Vigilantism, David Asante said, is a form of social group controlled by violence or activism which serves the political interest of both an incumbent government and the opposition since both incumbent government and the opposition have their vigilante groups, adding that vigilante groups date as far back as the CPP’s youth wing who were then known as “Nkrumah’s Veranda Boys.
He said there is the need for vigilante groups who are established to protect the interest of their political parties to remain calm and do away with acts of vandalism which have become a major concern to deal with as far as democracy is concern.
For his part, Dr. Kwesi Anin, Director of the Faculty of Academic Affairs & Research, Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre, described the growing canker of vigilantism in Ghana’s political discourse as a “currency” and an enterprise of which people are ready to invest in with the hope of reaping the benefits when that political party wins power.
Although he said these groups may exist to promote the parochial interest of politicians, their activities at the same time are among the key challenges that undermine the nation’s drive towards democratic maturity.
Political vigilante groups, he averred play a key role in securing electoral victory for their parties but most of them have also become key agents in pushing their parties to opposition.
He mentioned also that political vigilantism which is being fuelled by clients in Ghana’s body politics poses severe threats to Ghana’s efforts at consolidating her democracy.
“Consequently, they expect the political elite to share the state resources with them once they are in government, therefore, they work hard to win and retain power for their political elite,” he said.
These groups, he said would go at every length to ensure that their party wins power so that the engage in illegal acts including confiscation of state property, forcible ejection of officials of state from their apartments, physical Political Vigilantism in Ghana’s Fourth Republic, assault of former government appointees and other human right abuses.
The National Organizer of the NPP, Mr. Sammi Awuku, who was on the panel stressed that political patrons disregard the long-term national interest and focus on supporting their clients hence anyone who was not a client receives nothing from the government. These acts of clientlism tend to thrive in uncertain political and economic environments at the rural and urban level making it an avenue for the politics of survival for both patrons and clients, and hence will be difficult to stop.
Mr Awuku noted that the poor and marginalised members of society are drawn into these networks as the only solution to their daily survival due to limited access to formal assistance.