Of political vigilantism and the police [Article]

Since the early part of this year, there’ve been reports on the activities of vigilante groups across the country. It’s either the members of the vigilante groups are attacking a nominee or appointee of the President, or they are locking up a particular office, or they are releasing their colleagues from the police custody.

The recent violent activity of vigilante groups of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) in Karaga and Gwollu in the Northern and Upper West Regions respectively is the latest. In Karaga, the vigilante groups freed a couple of their friends who were in police custody.

In Gwollu, members of the NPP locked up the office of the District Chief Executive, Mr. Mohammed Bako, because of an allegation that he was choosing some other person for a position other than the preferred choice of party members.

Right after this incident, the President, Nana Addo Danquah Akuffo Addo charged the police to deal with the matter. Later, the Minister of Interior, Mr. Ambrose Dery also gave directives that the culprits in the Gwollu as well as Karaga incidents are dealt with.

While this matter was dying off, another group believed to be Invincible Forces of the NPP had caused mayhem in Ada East during polls to endorse the President’s nominee for District Chief Executive, Madam Sarah Dugbakie Pobee. What level of impunity have we brought unto ourselves?

Even after the directives, the charge and the threat of sanctioning as well as the punishments that have been meted out to others, we’re still here. For how long will the President keep charging the police to deal with these thugs as well as promising the nation that he will deal with the problem?

How long will the Minister of Interior keep giving directives as well as threats of sanctioning police officers who are hesitant in dealing with these thugs?

The primary duty of the Ghana Police Service is to prevent and detect crime, to apprehend offenders, and to maintain public order and the safety of persons and properties. This duty is critical and it is on the basis of the above duties the whole Police Service hangs. They don’t need directives, threats of sanctions or a charge to perform this.

But, how did we get here?  The constitution gives so much power to the Executive that as a nation it’s having a negative effect on governance.

The whole matter begins and ends with the Executive. According to Article 202 (1), “The Inspector General of Police shall be appointed by the President in consultation with the Council of State”. If the Executive continues to appoint heads of the security agencies including the police, the loyalty of those who are appointed goes first to the President, as well as to the members of the political party.

It then presupposes that the lawlessness and disorderliness that accompany the activities of vigilante groups will be with us as long as the Executive wields the power to appoint and fire. The Police and all other security agencies must select their heads on the basis of their own criteria subject to the constitution and the best of standards practiced elsewhere.

The problem of the police in hesitating to do their work is not a consequence of the lack of directives or charges coming from the Presidency and the Interior Minister; instead, it is a matter of the lack of total independence to run its affairs without having to consider the political consequences of the powers  that be.

Total independence is not what we’re seeing now. Total independence is when the Police and the Security agencies select their heads according to their own criteria in accordance with the constitution and best international standards.

This will ensure that their loyalty is first to the citizenry and not any other power. This will ensure an effective and efficient chain of command in their line of their duties without looking over their shoulders.

The President’s call as well as Mr. Ambrose Dery’s directive and threats of sanctions are synonymous to Fela Kuti’s song: “zombie”. It will be no wonder that when elections are near, the steam of the directives and sanctions will run out.

Let’s give the police and all other security agencies the total independence of selecting their own heads and they will not have to wait for politicians to give charges or directives before there’s an action against lawlessness wrapped in political colours.

Let’s change our way of doing things and we will have different results!

By: Alex Blege

The writer is a freelance journalist. kw.ameblege@hotmail.com/kwameselom12@gmail.com