The National Democratic Congress (NDC) has announced that it will not partake in the President’s proposed bipartisan dialogue to stem political vigilantism in the country.
The veiled announcement was contained in its second correspondence to the President on the subject – an obvious response to his earlier one to the party’s embattled National Chairman, Samuel Ofosu-Ampofo.
In the correspondence, President Akufo-Addo told Mr. Ofosu-Ampofo that the issue should be restricted to the NDC and the New Patriotic Party (NPP), with no foreign arbiter.
In what is appearing to be an endless exchange of open correspondences between the President and the NDC National Chairman on the vigilantism talks, the opposition party said “it would be a tragedy to go forward on the narrow basis of only the two major political parties considering the gravity of the matters to be considered and the danger that the threat of unregulated use of force by unauthorized armed groups poses to civil society, and indeed to those who bear arms lawfully as mandated by the 1992 4th Republican Constitution of which you are the principal guardian.”
In his response to the Ofosu-Ampofo correspondence of 28th February, 2019, the President insisted that such a dialogue should be restricted to NDC and NPP – something the former is demurring.
The NDC’s political feast of the so-called militia training at the Castle which was described by the government as mendacious stood prominent in the correspondence.
“We cannot restrain ourselves from drawing Your Excellency’s attention to the recently broadcast documentary by Manasseh Azure Awuni of Multimedia Company on the activities of an illegal militia operating from Christiansborg Castle Osu, an annex of the Presidency,” it said.
They missed no time in pointing to the discredited documentary.
The Museum and Monuments Board has even denied that the Osu Castle is a security structure in opposition to the NDC’s description as such.
The NDC took a swipe at the ruling party, claiming the assertion that the Castle ‘vigilantes’ are sponsored by the NPP has not been challenged – something which is far from the truth. The Information Minister has swiftly denied the charge.
In defending its position for broader participation in the dialogue on vigilantism, the NDC stated that “the stakeholders in the struggle against political violence cannot reasonably be limited to the two largest political parties.”
Touching on the facilitation of the dialogue, the NDC said: “We are not looking at a principally juridical process. As indicated, we envisage large and complex citizens’ process. There will be several different stakeholders with different perspectives and priorities.”
“The sad fact is that the expertise required in facilitating such a dialogue does not reside in any meaningful way in the current political establishment as much as it does in civil society and in the international community. Indeed, a significant element of the crisis we currently face is the winner-takes-all culture of our national politics.”
Much as it agrees with the President that the NDC and the NPP have been the most successful parties of the 4th Republic, it however claimed that “our parties do not represent the full scope of Ghanaian opinion as your letter suggests,” adding that “an important driver of political violence is the fact that increasingly large sections of society do not feel represented by the political establishment and do not have faith in its constitutive institutions and their process.”
The NDC highlighted the problem of citizens resorting to violent self-help.
“Some of the militias degrading our politics also provide land guard services to the highest bidders in our cities or double as galamsey or illegal logging enforcers in our rural areas. The same forces that ‘protect’ prominent politicians are engaged in communal violence around chieftaincy disputes.”
“The NDC and the NPP cannot do it alone and we need important assistance from the wider society to achieve lasting verifiable solutions that will assure peace and security to our citizens, our parties and our nation.”
The NDC pointed out that the problems facing Ghana are not peculiar to the country and called on international organizations to help find solutions.
With the NDC’s lack of cooperation, it is hard to tell what the option is for the President.
He had said that he could use legislation to give backing to ban vigilantism should the bipartisan approach refuse to fly.
It is unclear whether this missive would prompt a response from the President now that it has become evident that the NDC is uninterested in the bipartisan dialogue.
“These include ECOWAS, the AU and various UN agencies. Ghana is a member of these bodies and is entitled to call on their resources to assist in resolving critical problems. This is not in any way a surrender of our sovereignty or a declaration of a lack of faith in our own abilities. We see it rather as an act of responsible regional and international citizenship and transparency. President Akufo-Addo in his letter to the National Chairman of the NDC kicked against this anyway.”
Test for Belief
The question of turning to a bipartisan approach in tackling political violence should be put to Ghanaians to decide, the NDC said.
“We respectfully request that you invite the public and entities such as the Ghana Peace Council or the various expert institutions to weigh in on this debate. We have already begun to sound out to other stakeholders and believe that there is considerable interest in participating in a process such as we have described.”
The correspondence, like the earlier ones, was copied the National Chairman of the NPP and the Chairman of the National Peace Council, a man Mr. Ofosu-Ampofo ordered NDC members to insult as captured in his leaked audio recording.