We Have An Impunity Epidemic in Ghana

Long, long ago, one story says, there was trouble in the Kingdom of Monkeys. Anyone could do what he or she liked. If you felt you were stronger than your neighbour, you could assault him/her and nothing will happen to you. Those who were closer to the various leaders were those who assaulted the weak the most because the perpetrators felt protected. This went on for a while and then, ordinary monkeys decided to fight back to curb what they felt was a total violation of their rights. They fought back and it did not take long before the leaders decided to end the practice.

Lions and other animals practiced the assault against those of their own who did not have the support of the leaders. However, it was soon felt that, it was not a good thing to do. That was how impunity and the fight against it started and ended. Unfortunately, humans have not been able to end impunity and that is why it still persists.

Anyone who feels he has strength or power feels he has control over people who are weak. The reason is that those who engage in this are never brought to book and so, impunity in its various forms, continues to grow. As a disease, impunity is very dreadful because those who suffer from it become reckless in how they use their power.

It started appearing in Ghana a while ago, but it looks like this disease has evaded the scientists at Ngouchi. Not even the Centre for Disease Control in the U.S. can see it under their microscopes. This is because the disease called Impunity is very difficult to detect. You will have to look hard. One way to notice it is to take a look at those who practice it. They either look very strong or are puffed up by the power behind them. After a while though, the disease becomes visible on some of those suffering from it.  If you want to see what the people suffering from impunity look like, they are the men who try to show off their muscles and the women use either their size or mouth to bully people around them.

In the streets of Accra, you can see impunity largely with those who drive four-wheel vehicles. They do not care about traffic regulations and some of them have graduated to the usage of sirens and multi-coloured lights to announce their presence in the streets. No one is allowed to by-pass them. If you dare, they would push you off the streets. It is the first sign of the last stages of the impunity disease.

Medical experts say an epidemic occurs when a disease spreads quickly among people. From the way impunity is spreading among our political class, we must be very careful. We need to fight it or it would become an epidemic. The Impunity disease can be defined as “exemption from punishment or freedom from the injurious consequences of an action.” In other words, impunity is similar to being granted immunity, indemnity, and freedom from punishment.

The definition which states that impunity grants “exemption from punishment” is the disease that some Ghanaians are suffering from. These are people who think that they have political power behind them and so, they can do anything they like. It starts from the small political activists who think that the regional party chairmen are behind them to the political office holder who sees him/herself above the laws of the land. It is also a problem at work places where those who think they are the favourites of senior officers do what they like without reprimand.  In the church, those who are close to the pastors exhibit impunity.

A clear example of impunity was what we saw under the National Democratic Congress (NDC) where party activists went after those they did not like. It has happened under the New Patriotic Party (NPP). It was impunity when the so-called Delta Force decided to go on the rampage. It is a common thing in Nima to see those who think they are strong, attack weak people and no one says anything to them. That is a clear display of impunity.

What Hajia Fati did to the Multimedia Group journalist is impunity. The woman had earlier stopped a party person from picking nomination forms. Instead of being reprimanded, everyone in the party hierarchy kept mute while the foot soldiers hailed her. This was what urged her on to attack the journalist because she was sure, no one would condemn her actions within the party.

We have experienced impunity in this country over the years, especially under the military regimes of the past. It became entrenched during the days of the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC). The reason for impunity to thrive is the absence of the rule of law. Fortunately for us, the country is always cited as one that has high democratic credentials. But, then with the growth of impunity, our political leaders must know that we are gradually losing what makes the country democratic.

Some writers have stated that under the rule of law, all people, all organisations, and the state itself are equally accountable to laws that are fairly applied and enforced, and there is equal access to justice when rights are violated. It means that there is no single Ghanaian who can claim to be insulated from the laws of the land. If the law says you must stop at the traffic light, let that be what guides everybody. Unfortunately, we have evolved a system where there are a few people who can break the law without anyone touching them. In some instances, even the police have been scared to touch certain individuals. That is not how to build a democratic nation, because once some aspect of rule of law is eroded, it will not take long for us to get into a state of anarchy.

If we allow impunity to become the rule, legal experts say, those suspected of criminal acts are not prosecuted or punished and victims are left without effective remedy or compensation for their injuries or loss. At the same time, they – and society – are denied access to the truth about the violations suffered.

It is the way we have allowed impunity to take over the country that is why, those who should be tried for breaking laws have been left off the hook in some instances. Hajia Fati, for instance, may not be tried for what she has done because of fears that she might rebel and it could lead to loss of support from her constituency.

Researchers have found that those who work specifically to counter impunity and promote the rule of law are often subject to aggressive threats and reprisals from those who benefit most from the status quo. Therefore, if we want to fight impunity, it must be total. Those who are against impunity must be protected by the state so that we do not slide into a lawless state.

Writing in the African Journal of Legal Studies, Volume 5, Charles Manga Fombad and Enyinna Nwauche stated that, a fundamental tenet of modern constitutionalism is that nobody, regardless of his status in society, is above the law. They said constitutional reforms in the 1990s, saw the introduction in many African countries of constitutions, which for the first time provide some prospects for promoting constitutionalism and respect for the rule of law.

Since Ghana is not an exception, it is only appropriate that we ensure that everybody is made to understand that they are not above any aspect of the law.

Break:

  1. Lions and other animals practiced the assault against those of their own who did not have the support of the leaders. However, it was soon felt that, it was not a good thing to do. That was how impunity and the fight against it started and ended. Unfortunately, humans have not been able to end impunity and that is why it still persists.
  2. Anyone who feels he has strength or power feels he has control over people who are weak. The reason is that those who engage in this are never brought to book and so, impunity in its various forms, continues to grow. As a disease, impunity is very dreadful because those who suffer from it become reckless in how they use their power.
  3. In the streets of Accra, you can see impunity largely with those who drive four-wheel vehicles. They do not care about traffic regulations and some of them have graduated to the usage of sirens and multi-coloured lights to announce their presence in the streets. No one is allowed to by-pass them. If you dare, they would push you off the streets. It is the first sign of the last stages of the impunity disease.

 

 Article: Perspectives with Francis KOKUTSE

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *