The President’s hydra-headed approach to resolving party militialism through legislation and voluntary disbandment creates more questions than answers.
In a recent missive addressed to the Chairman of the NDC, Samuel Ofosu-Ampofo, the President, Nana Addo Dankwah Akufo-Addo, while directing the Minister for Justice and Attorney General to pass legislation to outlaw party militiasm, he also urged the NDC and NPP to work towards voluntary disbandment.
Portions of his letter read, “Since the constitutional responsibility of maintaining law and order in our country is that of the Executive, i.e. the President of the Republic, I have, in line with my pronouncement to Parliament during the Message on the State of the Nation on 21st February, 2019, instructed the Attorney General, without prejudice to the outcome of the engagement, if any, between the NPP and NDC, to prepare and submit to Parliament, as soon as possible, specific legislation to deal with the phenomenon of vigilantism, and provide appropriate sanctions against its occurrence.”
The unanswered question is; of what effect will the outcome of the voluntary disbandment meeting be, given that the proposed law will outlaw the existence of militias? For instance, assuming the political meeting decides against giving up the militias, will the president use the new law to compel them against their wish?
If so, why can’t the President call off the meeting of the parties and just pass the law, since ultimately the law supersedes any consensus at a political forum?
While the query appears banal, it is the cost to the taxpayer which gives relevance to it.
In recent research published by Parliament, it was found that the cost of implementing the Right to Information law (RTI) [when passed] will cost the government some ¢750 million over the next five years.
In this case, assuming time, human resource, and implementation cost were waived, how much will it cost the government financially to pass a law and implement same against vigilantism?
Still on cost, how much will it cost the government to facilitate a meeting involving the political parties, civil societies, security agencies, the media, and international bodies as proposed by the NDC and accepted by the NPP?
To illustrate the above, what will be the cost of the venue for the meeting, the cost of meals and refreshment, transportation of attendees and fees for the expert facilitators for the same period as the Emile Short Commission sat?
Already, the public is yet to be apprised of the cost of the Emile Short Commission, constitute for the same purpose. What was the salary of the commissioners, cost of tooling their office and the experts they fell on?
But it does appear the cost may even be higher given the NDC is now calling for a national dialogue on the subject, which include all forms of societal violence such as chieftaincy disputes, student unrest, police-civilian conflict and mineral conflict.
Writing his third letter to the President on the subject, here is what the Chairman of the NDC added “Organised violence has become prevalent not only in partisan politics (inter and intra- party) but in land and natural resources disputes, chieftaincy disputes, disputes within academic institutions, and even disputes within religious bodies.
“We can also not exclude the problem of unjustified violence by state agencies such as the Ghana Police Service. It is this larger and intensifying violent culture that threatens our constitutional Republic and not just partisan political violence,” he said.
He added, “We hope that as the first Citizen you will use your position to support and shape this broad national dialogue.”
That is not all, the NDC has also questioned the need for new legislation, given that the existing laws empower the President sufficiently to combat the existing threat topeace.
According to the Communication Director of the party, Sammy Gyamfi, while his party welcomes any effort aimed at combating party militarism, Nana Addo Dankwah Akufo-Addo’s latest action merely betrays his commitment to disbanding political militia, which he said is “little.”
“We already have enough laws to deal with the exodus of vigilantism. Vigilantism is illegal,” he said on News Desk, a Joy News analysis programme on Friday.
The suggestion is that any cost incurred in passing a law to deal with a menace for which sufficient laws already exist will amount to causing financial loss to the state.