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24.05.2019 Parliament

Vigilantism Bill May Not Be Effective Against Politically Sponsored Hooliganism —Stakeholders

By Clement Akoloh
Ben Abdella Banda, Committee Chair, Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.Ben Abdella Banda, Committee Chair, Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.

Some stakeholders at Thursday’s meeting in Parliament to discuss the Vigilantism and Other Offences Bill currently before the House, have expressed misgivings about the ability of the law to deal with the fundamental issues of politically affiliated militia groups in the country.

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo, had to forward the Bill to Parliament through the Attorney General, Madam Gloria Akuffo ostensibly in an attempt to bring an end to politically related violence.

The Presidential move followed the violence that ensued the Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election where the issue about the upsurge of sophisticated forms of the phenomenon derails the country’s democratic process if left unchecked.

Some Members at the stakeholders meeting organized by the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, reveal that more consultation is required in order to make the fight against the phenomenon more effective.

For instance, a security analyst and international relations experts with the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPKTC), Dr. Vladimir Antwi-Danso, was emphatic that the Vigilantism Bill, even if passed will still not work if frantic efforts are not made to ensure its enforcement.

According to him, there were enough legislations in the country, including the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29) which could be used effectively to address the menace of vigilantism.

He added that for the Vigilantism and Other Related Offences Bill, 2019, to be effective and to achieve the purpose for which it has been developed, the institutional architecture of the state must be tweaked to make state institutions responsible for the enforcement of the law more independent of the appointing authority.

According to him, “We will get nowhere if institutions continue to patronize the government of the day,” adding that the trend had been so because the institutions clothed with the authority to enforce the laws were “at the beck and call of government.”

Speaking on behalf of the Civil Forum Initiative (CFI), a coalition of 28 different Civil Society Organisations in Ghana, Dr. Angela Dwamena-Aboagye noted among others that the Bill if given room will achieve the desired effect because of some serious gaps they have identified in the draft already.

She said the identified gaps including the root cause of vigilantism, impunity recruitment of party vigilantes into the national security set up, would make implementation of the law difficult.

One of the issues that featured prominently was the findings of the Emile Short Commission which has not yet been made public. A key resource which would enrich the content of the draft Bill.

The Forum also called on the government to address the underlining causes of mistrust between the political parties and the Police Service which seems to be weakening public confidence.

The Catholic Bishops Conference, have suggested that the passage of the Bill be delayed to allow for a broader and deeper stakeholder consultation before its passage.

Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, Ben Abdella Banda, emphasised that the committee was racing against time to finish consultations on the Bill before Parliament resumes sitting on Tuesday, May 28, 2019 since the Bill is scheduled for swift attention in the next meeting of the House.