Sources within the New Patriotic Party yesterday confirmed to the Daily Statesman that officers of the party will be meeting their counterparts from the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) today to engage in dialogue on the way forward for disbanding the vigilante groups affiliated to both parties.
We are also reliably informed that the two political parties have agreed to allow the National Peace Council to mediate the whole process.
“Yes, we are meeting with the NDC and the venue is the Central Hotel, near the British High Commission in Accra,” a well-placed source said. “Because this is our maiden meeting, it will mainly focus on the terms of the engagement and ground rules.
“I can also confirm to you that we have reached a consensus with the NDC to allow the National Peace Council to be the mediator between us.
“We are going into the meeting with a genuine commitment to the efforts at ending this menace of political vigilantism in our body politic,” our source said.
Our sources said today’s meeting signifies an end to the days of “dragging feet” over the matter with the series of exchanges between the opposition NDC and the President on how best to go about the engagement.
The NDC in two separate letters had suggested that other political parties, civil society and the media should be invited to join the dialogue.
In a response which the NDC later described as “surprising”, President Akufo-Addo said he saw no basis for the request, given that the suggested groups do not have any “vigilante” groups. He therefore said the best thing to do was for the two parties to meet first and decide on how to go about the whole engagement.
In a statement on March 14, President Akufo-Addo said he had directed the Attorney General to prepare and submit to Parliament specific legislation to counter “vigilantism” and to provide appropriate sanctions against it.
“Since the constitutional responsibility of maintaining law and order in the country is that of the executive, ie, the President of the Republic, I have, in line with my pronouncements to Parliament during the Message on the State of the Nation on 21 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,” the President said.
NPP takes first step
Barely days after the President’s directive, the NPP sent a letter to the NDC, officially inviting the opposition party to a meeting to deliberate on the matter.
The letter, which was signed by the NPP’s general secretary, John Boadu, said the invitation had not “only been necessitated by the President’s call during the 2019 State of the Nation Address, but also the legitimate concerns expressed by overwhelming Ghanaians about this menace and the need for the two political parties to do the needful in the interest of the nation”.
The letter added that the NPP had no objection to the NDC’s request to have other stakeholders, including the Peace Council, invited to the meeting.
The NPP said it looked forward to an earlier engagement that would allow the two parties decide on which stakeholders to invite to the dialogue.
On the venue for the meeting, the NPP asked the NDC to propose a venue they would find convenient.
NCCE welcomes move
Meanwhile, the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) had described the attempts to get the two leading political parties to meet and find ways to end political party vigilantism as very good for Ghana’s democracy.
Calling on all well-meaning Ghanaians to rally behind the efforts of state institutions and civil society organisations at finding a lasting solution to problem, the NCCE said it was ready to help in the disbandment process.
The commission however asked the parties to rise above their parochial interest and work together for the good of the country.
The talks on vigilantism were sparked when masked and armed men invaded a house near one of the polling stations during the Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election in Accra on January 31 this year.
This led to a commission of inquiry, set up by the President to look into the matter.
Presenting his most recent State of the Nation Address in February, the President again tasked the NDC and NPP to jaw-jaw on the issue and seek ways to disband “vigilante” groups associated with the two parties.
“The time has come for us to put to end politically related violence,” he said, adding: “Our children and grandchildren will not forgive us if the country’s peace and security is undermined.”