Vigilante groups associated with the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) have been disbanded.
Representatives of the two parties told Joy FM that all vigilante groups connected to their parties are no longer in existence in compliance with the vigilante law.
The law, which came into force on the back of the Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election violence outlawed vigilante groups. Persons found guilty of vigilantism could spend not less than 15 years in prison.
The NDC’s Deputy Campaign Manager, Alex Segbefia, insisted that the party have directed persons supporting the groups used to unleash electoral violence to demobilise them.
His counterpart from the NPP, who is also the member of Parliament for Sekondi, Andrew Kofi Egyapa Mercer, also confirmed that the party no longer operated such groups.
Vigilante groups have become a national headache as the security services struggle to tame armed groups formed by political parties to protect their interests.
The ‘macho men’ have often been the centre of violence, and either maimed or killed innocent people during elections and other election-related activities.
The militant groups associated with the NDC included the Azorka Boys, the Hawks, and the Kandahar Boys, while the NPP had its share in the Delta Force, Invincible Forces, and the Bolga Bulldogs.
These groups have been involved in violence in by-elections including Atiwa, Wulensi, Talensi, and Atiwa.
Things came to a head in January 2019 when members of the NDC’s Hawks clashed with members of the National Security during the Ayawaso West Wuogon by-elections.
At least 18 people were injured in the melee, forcing the government to form the Emile Short Commission to investigate the incident.
Parliament also passed the Vigilantism and Related Offences Bill 2019 into law in July 2019.
The National Peace Council also initiated a road map to broker a deal between the NPP and the NDC that ensures all such groups are disbanded.
The NPP signed the document in February this year.
The NDC endorsed the document in July.
This came after months of insistence that there were loopholes that needed to be addressed.
Key reservations of the NDC included the failure of the government to sanction persons found culpable for violating various regulations contained in the report by the Justice Emile on the Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election violence.
The NDC also raised red flags over alleged recruitment of thugs from the governing NPP into various security agencies.
Part of the agreement was that all the parties collapse such groups. When that question was put to Mr. Segbefia, he said the party had fulfilled its part of the bargain.
“I have it on authority that as far as the party is concerned, we have disbanded the vigilantes and they are no longer part and parcel of the party per se. You have to deal with people who control these institutions, but as a party, we do not support or deal with them.
When he was reminded that a former Minister of Youth and Sports, Joseph Yamin, insisted he would not disband the Hawks, formed in 2018 to protect NDC’s interest, he said the party had issued “instructions that all these groups are disbanded and they are not recognised by the party.”
“If, as an individual somebody decides to do his own thing, we will not allow ourselves to be associated with it and we will not sanction any action. We are not in a position to compete even if we want to,” he said.
He, however, insisted that the government had recruited members of the vigilante groups into the services and they were still unleashing violence. He cited the Ayawaso West Wuogon incident as an example.
“It is a different ball game now. When we met the Peace Council, we asked that they find a way through the road map to extract these people from the security services.
“Based on what happened with the cadres and the 64 battalion, we know that extracting people from a system is a very difficult task. Don’t arm people of this nature. If you don’t take care, you will end up with a Boko Haram scenario.”
For his part, Mr. Mercer said the NPP had also collapsed such groups.
He said the party’s official position was that such groups would no longer exist.
“The New Patriotic Party had disbanded all groupings associated with the party. Vigilantism should not be part of our democracy.
“That is the official position of the party. Is it factual on the ground? I don’t know. I will endorse naming and shaming,” he insisted.
He accused the NDC of keeping members of the Hawks in its Presidential candidate, John Mahama’s security detail, including in church, when he met Rev Owusu-Bempah.
“We, as parties, must be opened to these things and consciously commit to the people of Ghana that these are not things we endorse,” he stressed.