Vigilantes To Face 15yrs Jail Term
Government wants a list of all members of political vigilante groups, a demand contained in a bill to criminalise the activities of organised political thugs.
Clause 2 of the bill which was presented to Parliament Thursday requires that all the names be submitted within one month after the passage of the bill.
“A leader of a political party vigilante group is required to inform the Minister, by notice in writing, of the formal disbandment of the political party vigilante group within one month of the coming into force of the Bill.
“The notice is required to include the date of formal disbandment and the names of the past and present members of the disbanded political party vigilante group,” it said.
The bill makes good President Nana Akufo-Addo’s vow to cause the enactment of law criminalizing the menace of party militias. And it comes 49 days after his widely applauded vow in Parliament where he delivered the State of the Nation Address.
The bill defines a vigilante as “a person who participates in the activities of a vigilante group that is associated, related, connected or affiliated to a political party officer, a political party member, a person who acts as a land guard and a person who engages in other acts of vigilantism”.
The Attorney-General and Minister of Justice Gloria Akuffo wants leaders of these groups who fail formally disband and supply names of its members to be punished.
The ministry wants such persons imprisoned for at least five years and not more than 15 years.
The Bill also requires the ministry to publish in the Gazette, a list of the disbanded political party vigilante groups within three months of the coming into force.
It also targets for punishment, the financiers of these groups for a prison term of five years, minimum and a maximum of 15 years.
After the bill is passed, it will become illegal for any group to purport to provide security or protocol services at a political party event or for a politician or providing security during a public election.
It will also be illegal for these groups to provide training for the purposes of providing security or protocol services to a political party, a politician or for a public elections.
A Security analyst, Dr. Kwesi Aning, has named 24 violent groups in Ghana, several of them associated with the two main political parties, New Patriotic Party and the National Democratic Congress.
He mentioned “Aluta Boys, Bukurosun, Hazi, Pentagon, Aljazeera, NATO Forces, Gbewa Youth, Azorka Boys as some of the groups.
Also included in his list was 66 Bench, Al-Kaida, Invincible Forces, Bamba Boys, Delta Force, Bolga Bull Dogs, Rasta Boys, Sese Group and Kandahar Boys. Eagle Forces, Lions, Hawks, Dragons, Burma camp, Ashanti vigilante group as well as Green Mambas.
He was speaking at the Short Commission investigating investigating the violence liked to political vigilantism and which marred the Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election held January 31, 2019.
Violence is beneficial, it transforms lives, it creates new identities and it gives access to power,” he told the Commission.
It was the aftermath of violence in the Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election that has inspired the President to push a bill to deal with the menace which is breeding fear ahead of the 2020 general elections.
The bill also targets the phenomenon of land guards, an organised group of thugs hired to protect private property.
Government submitted the bill under a certificate of urgency, indicating it would like to see the bill passed quickly in a Parliament controlled by the governing NPP.
A bill is expected to face criticism from some lawyers and political commentators as well as leading members of some civil society groups who have maintained, the country has enough laws to deal with the menace of vigilantism.
They have faulted a growing culture of lack of enforcement as the cause of lawlessness and impunity associated with these groups.
There is wide acknowledgement that there is political interference in the work of the security agencies in its attempts to punish political thugs.
The Akufo-Addo government has an election to win in 2020 and would want to be seen as addressing a problem that has plagued it since it was sworn in, in 2017.
His political rival, John Mahama, has called him the father of militant vigilantism.