Dr Mohammed Ibn Chambas has repeated that the presence of vigilante groups in Ghana is a major threat to the conduct of peaceful elections in November.
Speaking during a media engagement on Friday May 17, after his second fact-finding mission to Ghana this year, Dr Ibn Chambas reiterated the UN’s support and said he was satisfied with the results of interactions with stakeholders such as the Electoral Commission, Political Party representatives, the Chief Justice, National Peace Council, and the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO).
He however warned that the presence of pro-party vigilante groups which is not a secret, is a major source of concern likely to stir up a counterproductive climate of intolerance and violence, and urged political parties to show leadership by expunging and disassociating themselves completely from such groups.
“In our analysis, it is evident to us that the existence of vigilante groups and macho men is one that could raise the likelihood of violence and I think there are concrete examples of by-elections in this country where this has been the case,” he said.
“We should take appropriate steps. The UN for its part is indicating that this is an area in which Ghana and Ghanaians and major political parties need to work on to avoid any clashes between so-called militias, to allow security agencies to be able to do their work; and of course on the part of security agencies, we are urging them to behave professionally, dispassionately and in an apolitical manner to ensure that whoever is in breach of the law is brought to book.”
“I hope that all other stakeholders including the political parties, will themselves examine this very seriously and come up with the appropriate response which will be to move away from this phenomenon of using and encouraging the establishment of vigilante groups within political parties. Political parties need to discuss it, civil society groups need to discuss it, wider civil society needs to discuss it; I hope that parliament also – and why not? – so that appropriate measures and steps are taken to ensure that conditions are there to allow for peaceful elections to be held,” the Special Representative of the Secretary General for West Africa and the Sahel said.
Dr Ibn Chambas added that vigilante groups are not befitting of Ghana and are inconsistent with the country’s image as a stable democracy and a trailblazer on the continent in the conduct of peaceful and credible elections:
“We need to identify this phenomenon of vigilantes as one that we should try to take out of our politics and if a country is presented as a model of democratic governance, certainly vigilantism and impunity cannot go with this image as a country that is able to conduct peaceful, credible elections.”
The growing trend of vigilante groups and reports of violent clashes has become a concern to election watchers.
In July 2015 for instance a by-election at Talensi in the Upper East Region reportedly met with violent clashes between the Azorka boys which is aligned with the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the Bolgatanga Bulldogs, another vigilante group aligned with the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP).
In December 2015, the congress of the People’s National Congress was also marred by gunshots and a violent clash between supporters of presidential hopeful Dr Edward Mahama and then presidential hopeful Dr Hassan Ayariga, who has since withdrawn from the party to establish his party, the All People’s Congress (APC).
By Emmanuel Odonkor
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