The Director of Operations of the Ghana Police Service, DCOP Dr. Sayibu Pabi Gariba, has cautioned, yet again, against the threat of vigilantism to the security and cohesion of the State. He says it can and must be “countered with all the might of the State.”
He said while the Ghana Police Service and other security agencies will work in accordance with the laws and enforce same – such as the National Constitution, the Police Service Act, the Criminal Code and Other Offences Act 1960 – which all have provisions that deal with elections infractions, it behooved all stakeholders to play active and effective roles to achieve the desired results.
He said it is not enough to blame the police and the other security agencies for shortcomings when other institutions also have key roles to play in the law enforcement circle.
DCOP Gariba served the caution while contributing to a roundtable discussion on Preventing Election Violence before, during and after the 2020 General Elections, said while vigilantism is outlawed and adequately dealt with under the Vigilantism and Related Offences Act, 2019, (Act 999), implementation must come with the full might of the state..
The forum was organized by the Ghana Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) on the theme, “Let’s crack the whip”, and was supported by the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO), The National Peace Council and the USAID.
Ghana outlawed vigilantism last year, 2019, however the threat of occasional explosions remain rather formidable, with a number of vigilante activities and clashes recorded as recent as during the voters registration exercise. Many voices have pointed to the danger it forebodes if it is not uprooted entirely from the society.
DCOP Gariba said the National Elections Task Force is continuing with its planning for the 2020 elections and conducting various training programmes for the command, operational and tactical levels to build the confidence of personnel to be able to counter any threat that will undermine the 2020 elections.
He said the taskforce will maintain a robust posture for the 2020 elections and warned members of the public, particularly vigilantes, not to dare assume any security role during elections 2020.
That role, he said, is assigned to the National Elections Security Task Force and that any other individual or group that assumes that role does so illegally and will be crushed.
He explained that while the politics of violence in the country is usually associated with vigilantism, it also manifests in clashes between the political parties.
“We must understand here that the maintenance of law and order, safety and security of Ghanaians and their property is the sole responsibility of the state. There is no argument about that, no any other organization, individual or group is authorized by the laws of this country to do that.”
DCOP Gariba said that the provision of safety and security which constitute public goods, rest on the power and authority of the state and therefore vigilantism or political vigilantism causes a threat to national security and integration and we all need to be thinking about that.
He enumerated a number of election-related offences and disagreements that reared their heads during the recent voters registration exercise, all of which he said the police had preempted and prepared to deal with, resulting in the arrest and prosecution of a number of offenders, while many more were under investigation.
He described police operations during the registration as generally successful, and that the exercise provided useful lessons that will inform security planning into the elections and beyond.
The way forward
“The way forward is not about the security agencies, we are here to work. The violence is not perpetrated by us, we are rapid response teams that are always countering the violence that is created by the people, and you know who are doing that… The answer has actually been provided. Currently the main law,… the Vigilantism and Related Offences law, and I can tell you that this law provides solutions to the problems that we are facing. It has punitive measures for vigilante groups, their supporters and financiers, the vigilante groups and individuals themselves… and what we want to say as a Service and National Election Security Taskforce is that we shall, like all other laws, enforce.
“But in the enforcement of the law, it will be wrong for you to point fingers at the security agencies and the National Elections Security Taskforce. It’s a whole spectrum of agencies that work together, we can arrest, we can investigate, we can process and forward, some of the functions are done by somebody else.”
“The 2020 elections if you are not part of the security agencies that are deploying that are mandated to to deploy to provide security, don’t dare, if you dare, the security agencies will crush you on that, but it’s not about the security agencies and the National Elections Security Task Force alone, it’s about a holistic stakeholder approach to peaceful 2020 elections. So all Ghanaians, the political parties, the perpetuators of the violence that you have presented here… all stakeholders in the country as far as the peace and security of this country is concerned, the must contribute effectively for a peaceful 2020 election and should not leave all the burden and be complaining about it is the police, it’s the National Elections Security Task Force, it’s for all of us. We must work together to ensure that we get a successful, peaceful 2020 election.”