Political violence and terrorism is criminal, not vigilantism

In May 2015, the Upper East Regional Chairman of then opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), Alhaji Adams Mahama, was doused with Corrosive Acid, an improvised chemical weapon in what was believed to be a politically motivated attack linked to the power struggle within the NPP. He died from his wounds.

A Political Science Lecturer at the University of Ghana, Dr. Evans Aggrey Darko, called it ‘dangerous constitutional hooliganism”. Chairman of the Progressive People’s Party (PPP) Nii Allotey Brew-Hammond, described it as “institutionalisation of violence in Ghana’s body politic”

Political Terrorism:

It is recalled that on September 9, 2008, the Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN) reported the shooting incident of August 31st that abruptly ended a political rally organised by then ruling NPP as follows: – “Charred remains of houses, walls riddled with bullets, and burnt cars and talismans of last week’s violence in the Northern Region’s capital of Tamale. A 12-hour curfew is currently in force and additional joint military-police patrols have been deployed on the streets. Fred Degbe, president of the religious non-profit Christian Council, told IRIN – “If Ghana burns because of politics we have nowhere else to go, so it’s in our interest to do everything possible to preserve the peace we are known for in the sub-region.”

 

I have deliberately decided not to use any National Democratic Congress (NDC) related terrorism as an example even though they abound, to avoid playing onto the turf of equalisation and creating the erroneous impression that political violence is okay because the two main political parties are engage in it. Political terrorism and violence is not acceptable and cannot be justified as part of our democracy.

Two Evils:
By the end of election year 2016, NDC had ruled Ghana for a total of 16 years since the establishment of the forth republican constitution. The NPP which makes up the other half of the duopoly is inching to a cumulative 12 years in power by the end of the year 2018. The NPP assumed power from 2001 to 2008, when NDC was ousted in the year 2000 elections. Eight years later, in 2008, the NPP was defeated by the NDC. In 2016, the NDC was defeated again by the NPP and the musical chairs goes on.
Today, in 2018, the same signs have re-emerged more boldly, ahead of election 2020. There is political violence every now and then and in all instances, one finds the culprit party trying to shield the perpetrators by politicising the crimes and playing the equalisation card. Should the electorate who wield real power, allow this to continue?
Limitations of the NDC/NPP:
The reason NDC and NPP have failed to deliver transformational development in Ghana is because they have similar limitations. They have both tasted the benefits of the excessive powers granted the Executive President by the 1992 Constitution which was crafted to all intents and purposes, ease former military strong man Jerry Rawlings out of power but did not anticipate that civilian heads of state would maintain the loopholes for their own benefits.
The NDC and NPP have settled for the arrangement which grants excessive discretionary powers to the executive; weakens a mere  ceremonial legislature to ensure the lack of checks and balances, resulting in bad economic governance. The bad economic governance has in turn created the “winner takes all” system which is directly and indirectly responsible for the intra and inter political party violence in Ghana, as the stakes are high both in opposition and in government.

Mr. Ekow Spio-Garbrah a former Minister of State describing his experience outside government said, – “Being in Opposition is like being in Hell”. Until the 1992 constitution is reviewed to remove the known mischief and allow for open and accountable governance, where the security agencies particularly the police are enabled to deal with political violence as crimes and the legislature is strengthened enough to serve as the countervailing check to the ambitions of the executive, the dividends of multi-party democracy will continue to elude Ghana.

And when it continues for a long time there would be a revolt by the masses to correct it. Since no one can foresee or guarantee the outcome of that revolt, it is in our collective interest to evolve the system through constitutional reforms. Those sleeping on this job must wake up.

Constitutional reforms:

At a recent forum organised the Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG) in Accra, on “Breaking the cycle of vigilantism in Ghanaian politics” Dr. Benjamin Agordzor, Director of at Transformation Programmes Office of the Ghana Police Service, traced the inability of the police to enforce the law when it involves political parties, to the appointment procedures of the Inspector General of Police (IGP).

He called for an amendment to the procedure of appointment to secure security of tenure for the IGP, which by extension would empower the police to deal with political terrorism as crimes without fear or favour and without yielding to the ever looming threats of losing their jobs for tackling politically motivated crimes.

The Constitution Review Commission (CRC) has made several and similar recommendations in their report awaiting implementation. But the Constitution Review Implementation Committee is comatose. If they awake and deliver on their mandate, it would save us a lot of troubles in future. The President must gather the courage to approve implementation of the reforms, even if it does not benefit him directly. It is the right thing to do to safeguard Ghana’s democracy.

 

 

Last Uprising. By: William Dowokpor

 

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