The National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) has stressed the need for strict enforcement of the Vigilantism and Related Offences Act.
The Commission made the comments on the back of findings of a survey by the Center for Democratic Development (CDD) Ghana which revealed that vigilante groups were still active and budding in various parts of the country despite its illegality.
The Chairperson of the Commission, Josephine Nkrumah said it is critical to implement the dictates of the Act to ensure that such groups are deterred from perpetrating violence before and during the 2020 general elections.
“We really hope that this kind of survey and the regulations that have come out of it will not be taken lightly but we will find the law enforcement agencies themselves going ahead and coming out with expedition because right now they have the full backing of the Vigilantism Act so that they can look at these criminal elements and let the full rigors of the law apply. This time round the vigilante act prescribes about 10 to 15 years of someone going to jail for flouting that Act and it is important that we test that law so that it serves as a deterrent going into 2020”.
Findings from the survey conducted by the Center for Democratic Development (CDD) – Ghana revealed that vigilante activities are growing at an alarming rate in parts of the country despite the introduction of the Vigilantism and Related Offences Act.
The report found that all of the activities and the associated groups are related to the two major political parties; the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP).
The report also found that women were beginning to play key roles in such vigilante activities.
On the cause of the electoral violence and vigilantism, the report found that the major causes were the ‘Winner-Takes-All’ politics, unemployment and poverty as well as politicization of chieftaincy disputes.
The report also stated that the seeming mistrust for state institutions such as the Electoral Commission and police are motivating the formation of vigilante groups in the country.
Political vigilante groups with affiliation to the two leading political parties, the NDC and the NPP have been at the forefront of unleashing torrents of violence in various forms across the country and this remains a major source of concern for Ghanaians.
The two leading political parties were engaged by the Peace Council to find a way to address the menace of political party vigilantism.
Before the dialogues concluded, President Nana Akufo-Addo, gave his assent to the Vigilantism and Related Offences Act, 2019, which bans acts of vigilantism in the country.
The Act was passed by Parliament after the President gave indications that he will be forced to use the legal option to address the phenomenon if the two parties failed to meet over the issue.
Per the new law, “a person who directly or indirectly instigates or solicits the activity of a vigilante, facilitates or encourages vigilantism, or conceals a vigilante to avoid lawful arrest, commits an offence, and is liable, on conviction, to a term of imprisonment of not less than ten (10) years and not more than fifteen (15) years.”