As eligible voters in Ghana prepare for the December 7 polls, an alliance of various religious groups in the West African nation has launched a campaign project that will see unemployed youth get jobs to eradicate political vigilantism, a vice that has been blamed on jobless youth in the country.
Dubbed, “Educating, Training and Healing Individuals, Community and Society (ETHICS) Against Vigilantism in Ghana’s elections,” the project is an undertaking of the Forum for Actions on Inclusion, Transparency and Harmony (FAITH) in Ghana, an interfaith alliance made of different religious organizations in the country.
According to the Coordinator of the in interfaith coalition, Samuel Zan Akologo, the aim of FAITH is “to sanitize Ghana’s political environment to ensure that no one is left behind especially in the 2020 elections.”
Zan Akologo made the remark at the Christ the King Parish in Accra on Friday, February 28 during the launch of the project that also seeks to educate women and the vulnerable groups about their voting rights.
“As faith Based Organisations, we think that the way our young people are used by some political parties and individual politicians is quite disgraceful and demeaning. We will intervene on the side of our youth by educating, training and healing them against these undignified practices and abuses,” Zan Akologo said.
He added, “We will collaborate with the National Youth Authority to mobilize vulnerable unemployed youth to offer them decent job opportunities in a cash-for-work initiative in the northern Region.”
Zan Akologo indicated that the participation of young people, women and vulnerable groups in Ghana’s electoral processes is very critical to broadening Ghana’s democracy in a participatory manner.
However, he said, “the way and manner in which this participation takes place is important.”
Many civil society organisations have warned of imminent political disturbances in the 2020 general elections if existing laws are not enforced to deal with vigilantism and other related crimes.
The National Peace Council (NPC) of the West African nation last year instituted a dialogue between political parties especially the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) following the violence that marred the January 31, 2019 Ayawaso West Wuguon Constituency by-election.
Ghana’s President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo gave his assent to the Vigilantism and Related Offences Act, 2019, which bans acts of vigilantism in the country. The Act also disbands vigilante groups, including political party vigilante groups and land guards.
According to President Akufo-Addo, “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.”
The campaign project on the theme “Ethics Against Vigilantism” is being spearheaded by Caritas Ghana under the auspices of the FAITH in Ghana Alliance and funded by Star Ghana Foundation.
Triggered by the politicians’ use of vigilante groups in ways that many have termed as undermining the country’s security during general elections, the objective of the project is to improve peace and security in the election value chain and to eliminate excessive negative conducts by politically sponsored groups.
The 18-month campaign targeting six out of the sixteen regions in Ghana, namely, Greater Accra, Northern, Savannah, Upper East, Upper West and North East regions will be centred on activities before, during and after elections.
According to Zan Akologo who is also the Executive Secretary of Caritas Ghana, the Religious Groups will also work with the National commission for Civic Education (NCCE) to broaden the outreach in civic and voter education and to enhance credibility and inclusiveness in the electoral processes.
Speaking at the media launch of the project, George Amoh, the Executive Secretary of NPC observed that vigilantism had destroyed democracy in Ghana and called on Ghanaians to “wake up and deal with it once and for all”.
Lauding the measures that had been put in place to fight vigilantism, the NPC official said, “I am happy that there is a law, Act 999, which has been passed by parliament to deal with the criminal aspect of the vigilante malice.”
He urged the youth not to allow themselves be used by politicians or political parties “as instruments of vigilantism because the current status of the law spells out stiffer punishment for those who engage in vigilantism.”
He added, “Vigilantism has caused a lot of pain and suffering as well as deaths or loss of lives in the country.”
This was echoed by Sheikh Armiyawo Shaibu, the spokesperson of the Office of the National Chief Imam, Sheik Dr. Nuhu Sharabutu, who launched the project.
“Vigilantism is a threat to the country’s peace and undermines the purpose of unity in the nation,” the Muslim leader said, admonishing the youth to stay away from being recruited for acts of vigilantism.