International relations analyst, Dr. Vladimir Antwi-Danso, has observed that a new law is not needed to deal with the menace of vigilantism.
According to him, the solution lies in making state institutions work effectively, stressing that the Criminal Code is comprehensive enough to manage the threat.
Dr. Antwi-Danso made the observation when he addressed a stakeholder conference of the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs on the Vigilantism and Related Offences Bill, 2019 at Parliament House on Thursday 23rd May, 2019.
The conference was intended to solicit opinions and suggestions from Civil Society Organization (CSOs) and other stakeholders to provide for a robust and useful law to deal with the menace of vigilantism in the country.
He argued that vigilantism per say is not a bad thing and made reference to the late President Dr. Hilla Liman in 1979, who called for the formation of vigilante groups to support governance.
“But vigilantism has taken a wrong turn that is why we are all in hysteria,” he stated and indicated it is the hysteria that has prompted the call for disbandment of vigilante groups.
“Again this hysteria has brought about this bill and even the way we want this bill to come out.”
He argued there are currently 17 vigilante groups in the country but none of them is positive in its activity.
According to him, their modus operandi indicates they are a burden to the state and everything else and therefore the need to do something about it.
Dr. Antwi-Danso noted that between governance and criminality, the only arbiter is the establishment of institutions and laws to kick away the negativity of criminality. He questioned whether the bill is needed at all instead of beefing up the lower sides of present legislations to be able to tackle the criminality.
He argued that lack of institutional capacity is what is making vigilantism thrive and stressed institutionalism and constitutionalism are pillars on which good governance thrives.
“It is a beautiful Bill but how is it going to be effective if the same status quo pertains? So in tandem can we also have a tweak in our institutional structure,” he queried?
He warned that until state institutions that are to implement the law are strengthened, the vigilantism legislation despite its beauty will remain just a law for legal gymnastics.
Angela Dwamera who represented a coalition of CSOs led by Civic Forum Initiative and the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO) under the auspices of Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG) and the Ghana Center for Democratic Governance (CDD) respectively, argued that the Bill needs broad consultation and engagement considering the complexity of the matter and wondered why the Bill was laid under a certificate of urgency.
She urged Parliament to allow sufficient period of consultation and engagement to cure the problem else the Bill be allowed to go through the normal route to allow for sufficient consultation.
She said the Bill in its current state will not achieve the desired effect because of serious prominent gaps identified in the Draft Bill.
“Such identified gaps would make the implementation difficult and render the law ineffective,” she said.
When the National Catholic Secretariat took its turn, it argued though the purpose of the Bill is good, there is too much haste.
According to the Secretariat, the issue of land guard should be dealt with in a separate legislation and suggested consultations with Real Estate Developers and other stakeholders.
“We would advise that the Bill be delayed to allow the political parties to conclude their meetings and also make time for broader and deeper consultations,” it stated.