Ghana Faces Growing Vigilantism And Electoral Violence

The issue of vigilantism and electoral violence in Ghana continues to be at the forefront of Ghanaian political discourse. Most recently, Mr. Johnson Asiedu Nketiah (General Secretary of the National Democratic Congress) implored President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to seek justice for Silas Wulo Chameh, the teacher trainee graduate who was murdered at Banda in the Bono Region. Chameh was killed during the new voter’s registration exercise that ended earlier this month.

Indeed, the NDC has denounced this year’s voter registration as the most violent witnessed by Ghana thus far. Alongside Chameg, another civilian Kofi Stephen was also murdered in the Dormaa West – also in the Bono region. Nketiah has described these two instances as the most extreme examples of a series of “brutal attacks” on its members and went on to reveal that extreme violence was also directed to politicians themselves. These included gunshot injuries and attacks on Alhaji Collins Dauda (Member of Parliament for Asutifi South) and Alhaji Bawa (Member of Parliament for Ejura Sekyere Odumase).

Nketiah’s assertion, that these incidents were linked inextricably to the “violent by-elections” as Ayawaso West Wuogon, was alluded to last month by the Chairman of the National Peace Council, Emmanuel Asante, who argued that a frayed trust between the public and political actors an institutions is helping to drive electoral violence in Ghana. However, Asante also argued that perceiving the Electoral Commission and the security forces as at the behest of the ruling party whilst working to sabotage the interests of the opposition was not helpful. Instead, he called for unity between political parties in order to achieve sustainable peace for the country.

According to a report conducted by the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development in partnership with the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development, since Ghana returned to constitutional rule in 1992 none of its elections have been conducted without some forms of violence. However, the violence is also intensifying as elections become increasingly competitive. This has been exacerbated by the swell and deployment of political vigilante groups in electoral and political activities.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the report also identified deep structural causes to this rise in electoral violence in Ghana. And it is these entrenched problems that must be addressed to avoid the situation escalating into further conflict in Ghana. Most specifically, a fundamental lack of trust and confidence in Ghana’s security agencies must be tackled through an independent and systemic review of policing practices within the country. The government must strengthen its judicial processes in order to ensure that Ghanaian civilians can rely on excessive violence used by state forces to be tried in a court of law.

It is only by rebuilding trust between the public and these state institutions that vigilante groups might disappear once more. And this extends beyond simply policing. The conception of vigilantism as a business model has been allowed to thrive because politicians are happy to capitalize on its offerings when it so suits in strengthening internal party security.