The National Security Minister has disclosed that officials of the National Security SWAT team that was at the Ayawaso West Wuogon constituency for the by-election in January could include former members of vigilante groups.

Albert Kan-Dapaah denied suggestions that the masked men were all members of a vigilante group in the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP), saying it was impossible.

“If the suggestion is that included in the operatives are people who normally belong to a particular vigilante group, that will be surprising.

“If some of them in the past participated in some vigilante groups, that could be possible,” Mr Kan-Dapaah added

The Minister was testifying at the Emile Short-led Commission constituted by the president to investigate the violence that characterised the January 31 by-elections at the constituency.

The masked National Security operatives he referred to have been accused of instigating the violence that led to the injuring of some six members of the public on Election Day.

They have been accused of assaulting Ningo-Prampram MP, Samuel George and firing at civilians during the polls; intimidating voters.

Mr Kan-Dapaah reiterated the Electoral Commission’s stance that the violence did not take place at the polling centre, but at a property belonging to the opposition NDC’s parliamentary candidate.

The men from National Security, the Minister said, cannot be accused of intimidation or blamed for disrupting the polls, especially when they were not there for election-related duties.

“The place where the incident took place was not a polling station, that house was not a polling station and just being around that vicinity could not have frightened anybody,” he said.

He said the SWAT team was only in the constituency because they had intelligence that there were weapons in a particular building.

“And if it turns out to be true that shots came from within that compound, it will only go to prove that they were right in deciding to mount the surveillance that they did,” he added.

Mr Kan-Dapaah responded to questions from the Commission’s lawyer Eric Osei Mensah

Vigilantism and political parties

Mr Kan-Dapaah said the notion that political parties owned vigilante groups was false and that no party in the country owned any such groups.

According to him, it was rather individual members of the political parties that sponsored the vigilante groups who then took orders from their bosses.

“There isn’t one vigilante group that belongs to a political party, the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD) has just come out with a study which establishes that these vigilante groups are owned by some individuals, kingpins within the political parties.

“So the NPP has not got a vigilante group per se because if you go into it you will find that these are not vigilante group of the party,” he added.

In a response to what his Ministry was doing about these vigilante groups and the increasing threat they pose to the country’s security, the Minister of National Security said not only is he aware of their presence but it also constitutes one of his greatest challenges as a minister

Emile Short Commission

Justice Emile Short (M) is leading the three-member team to investigate the violence

He said if he is asked to list the national security challenges of the country, it will be found among the very top ones.

He warned that until a solution is found to political vigilantism Ghana’s democracy will continue to be a threat.

“If ever there is a serious challenge to the future of our democracy, it will come from this. Boko Haram started as a religious vigilante group and today look at where they have advanced to

“The whole of the Nigerian Security Forces are unable to conquer them. We know what vigilantism did in places like Rwanda, Jamaica and we need to be able to stop this thing called vigilantism.”

Role of the police in combating vigilantism

Mr Kan-Dapaah said the police and other security personnel have been instructed to deal with any acts of vigilantism as it is a crime and anyone who indulges in it should be punished in accordance with law.

“The president has given specific instructions to the IGP on this matter. I have given similar instructions to the security and intelligence agencies that ii control.”

He expects the police to adhere to these instructions.