Security analyst doubts efficacy of Vigilantism Bill

DR Vladimir Antwi-Danso, a security analyst with the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre is doubting the efficacy of the Vigilantism and Other Related Offences Bill 2019, to deal with the menace of vigilantism if state institutions are not given the freedom to enforce the law without fear or favour. 

In his view, Ghana has adequate provisions in the Criminal Offences Act 1960 (Act 29) to address the menace of vigilantism but has been unable to do so because of the lack of enforcement. 

At a stakeholders conference in Accra yesterday to discuss concerns and perspectives in respect of the Vigilantism and Other Offences Bill, Dr Antwi-Danso asked: “Can we make institutions work? How effective will the Vigilantism Bill (if passed] be if the status quo remains?” 

According to Dr Antwi-Danso, there was the need to tweak the institutional architecture of the country to make them more independent of the appointing authority. 

The patronage of the appointing authority by the security agencies, he observed, was one of the reasons why the agencies have been unable to enforce the laws of the law to the latter. 

“We will get nowhere if institutions continue to patronise the government of the day,” he said observing 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.”

He cited the arrest of Tsatsu Tsikata and Stephen Asamoah Boateng, former government appointees, by the Bureau of National Investigations after their governments left office, as evidence of the culture of political patronage and weak institutional framework in the country. 

“Why did the BNI wait to arrest Tsatsu Tsikata in church only after the NDC left government and did same to Asabee at the airport only after the NPP left office? Let us discipline ourselves,” Dr Antwi-Danso admonished. 

The Civil Forum Initiative (CFI), a collection of 28 national civil society organisations, in their contribution done by Dr Angela Dwamena-Aboagye said “the Bill as it is now will not achieve the desired effect because of serious prominent gaps that we identify in the Draft Bill.”

The identified gaps including the root cause of vigilantism, impunity recruitment of party vigilantes into the national security set up, the CFI said “would make implementation (of the bill if passed) difficult and render the law ineffective”.

Pushing for the publication of the report of the Emile Short Commission of Inquiry into the violence that characterised the January 31 Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election, the CFI representive said the findings of that Commission should have influenced the contents of the Bill. 

Their paper, jointly signed by Major General Carl Coleman (rtd), Chairman, CFI and Professor Miranda Greenstreet said government must address the underlining causes of mistrust between the political parties and the Police Service thereby weakening public confidence in the latter. 

The Catholic Bishops Conference, in their suggestion asked that the passage of the Bill be delayed to allow the political parties to conclude their meetings and also make time for broader and deeper stakeholder consultations. 

The governing New Patriotic Party and the opposition National Democratic Congress on their parts pledged in “all sincerity” to disband all vigilante groups associated with them.

The meeting was called by Parliament’s Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to have the input of stakeholders awaiting its consideration and passage or otherwise by the plenary of the House. 

The Bill was laid in Parliament on April 12 in fulfillment of a promise by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to legislate against the menace of vigilantism that has characterised by-elections in the country. 


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