Let’s not just disband vigilantes it should be backed by law – DCOP Sarpong

The Accra Regional Police Commander has said the call on political parties to disband their vigilante groups will not be sufficient to deal with the phenomenon of political vigilantism.

Rather, DCOP Patrick Adusei Sarpong suggested that the call should be backed by legislation that could be enforced.

He said recent experiences, including last Monday’s shooting in Kumasi in the Ashanti Region involving members of a group linked to the National Democratic Congress (NDC), proved that it was not enough to ask the parties to disband such groups.

Responding to questions posed by the Justice Short Commission at its sitting in Accra yesterday, DCOP Sarpong said he did not think the call to disband the groups was enough.

“I don’t think the call alone is enough, unless there is a will to disband. If the will is not there, then we have to outlaw the groups. In that case, legislation will be the solution,” he said.

Opposition suspicion

Earlier, led in evidence by Mr Eric Osei-Mensah, counsel for the commission, DCOP Sarpong had told the commission that politicians formed those groups to protect themselves.

Asked if he was aware that opposition parties tended to form those groups because it was their belief that the police served at the whims and caprices of the government, he nodded in affirmation.

He explained that it was the reason politicians trusted the police when they were in government “but when they are out of government they don’t”.

“When they are in government, they have a certain influence over the police.

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When out of government, they don’t have it and, therefore, become afraid and apprehensive that the power they used when they were in power would be used against them.

They are afraid of their own shadows,” he said.

Removing political influence

Asked what could be done to remove the political influence, he said, in his personal opinion as an individual and not as a police officer, “politicians should do politics and allow security men to do their security work”.

“I don’t know how possible or feasible it will be, but if politicians take themselves off security and allow security men to do their work without any form of hindrance, then, with time, it can be sustained,” he said.

Bullet holes

Mr Sarpong also told the commission that he saw bullet holes on the walls of the school building at the polling station at Bawaleshie where violence was recorded.

Responding to questions from a member of the commission, Mr Patrick Acheampong, he said he counted about seven or eight holes when he responded to a call from police radio and the East Legon Police Commander, DSP George Asare, about the shooting and violence at the La-Bawaleshie area.

Mr Sarpong, who is the eighth witness to testify before the commission, said he also saw another bullet hole on a container near the house of the NDC parliamentary candidate, Mr Delali Kwasi Bimpong.

It was the second time a witness appearing before the committee had said there were signs of shooting outside the house of the parliamentary candidate.

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The first person was the East Legon Police Commander.