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GHANA AND “VIGILANTES”: GIVE A DOG A BAD NAME AND THEN HANG IT

General News

How we misuse and abuse the term “vigilantes”

How we misuse and abuse the term “vigilantes”

More often than not, the work of these ultra-radical loyalists is carried out by the parties’ various youth wing groups. So you will rarely, if ever, know who the masterminds are. And, to be honest, their activities ‒ bad as they might sound ‒ do not come anywhere near vigilantism

My last visit to Osu Castle happened somewhere last month. I was attending a conference for some professors and the package included visiting various sites that captured bits of Kwame Nkrumah’s history. I am no professor; I was just made to tag along.

We made a stop at Osu Castle. In fact, when we got there, we were not allowed to enter. I’m sure this was for no reason connected with security: the learned old people were tired, and so the tour guide had to end his long talk so that we could go back to base.

So to claim that I knew the place was a security zone would make me a liar. In fact, I do not know why we have decided, as a people, to glorify such an edifice, a place that has such a sour history of trading slaves. It still amazes me that we found the Castle worthy of hosting our presidency until 2013.

Fast-forward …

Our troubles go beyond us. After waiting with bated breath and staying alert so as not to miss any tangibles in the exposé by Manasseh Azure Awuni/Joy News, I must admit I am beyond disappointed. However, let me not discredit the programme entirely.

I will not claim to know why this supposed “militia group” uses the Castle as its assembly point. But if what we watched was anything to go by, then Manasseh should not have gone undercover.

Clearly, these are known people on our streets, so much information is available about them. These people are not a jihadist group which hides behind technology to perpetrate acts of terror against humanity. The danger here, rather, should be the fear that a group of unemployed people with little to hold on to may, at a moment’s notice and faced with any provocation, resort to violence to make their voices heard.

I think we are being unnecessarily sensationalist, in an attempt to paint a picture of doom and gloom.

Before National Service became what it is today, the scheme was holding military drills for service personnel. Does that mean they were a militia group?

Yes, I could have done worse, or said some nasty stuff, to make sure I dented the credibility of the journalist. But to what end, really?

Safeguard our peace

This is the point where we must, as a patriotic people, come together to safeguard the peace we have had as a country in the middle of a turbulent subregion. And this I firmly believe.

A couple of pointers in the sensational Manasseh documentary ought to be interrogated just so we do not confuse the meaning of radical activism with vigilantism. In this way, we will not be extending it to mean activity by militias, as the revered Professor Henrietta Mensa-Bonsu of the Ayawaso West Wuogon Commission of Inquiry describes it.

To be fair, the lay definitions of these words within the confines of the African environment are historically tainted. “Vigilantism” can be best explained as the radicalisation of political activism. Why would I want to label the group in the documentary as a bunch of vigilantes?

The ways of loyalists

There can be no surviving Ghanaian political party with a vibrant life which does not host such movements. The history of Kwame Nkrumah’s Convention People’s Party exemplifies this. Another example is the “Cadres”, a group established by the then PNDC, now NDC.

More often than not, the work of these ultra-radical loyalists is carried out by the parties’ various youth wing groups. So you will rarely, if ever, know who the masterminds are. And to be honest, their activities ‒ bad as they might sound ‒ do not come anywhere close to vigilantism.

Vigilantism begins in communities lawfully; while at it, young men expecting to fulfil their egotistic ambitions join or form bigger militia groups around a single interest.