from MASAHUDU KUNATEH in Accra, Ghana
ACCRA, (CAJ News) – THE PROLIFERATION of vigilante groups affiliated to the ruling administration and carrying incessant attacks on non-members of the party are tarnishing the image of the fifth democratically-elected administration of a country hailed as a haven for stability in West Africa.
The violations are a major blemish to the New Patriotic Party (NPP) as it takes stock of its achievements attained over the past five months of its reign.
Critics and opposition parties of the administration of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo allege the youth known as the Delta Force and Invisible Force are becoming a law unto themselves amid complicity by government.
There are fears this could deter investments into the country, contrary to the NPP electoral campaign premised on the economy and pledges to stabilize the country’s foreign exchange rate and reduce unemployment levels.
The Deputy Minority Leader in Parliament, James Klutse Avedzi, who led the National democratic Congress (NDC) charge lamented, “Ghana today under the Akufo-Addo government is witnessing state sponsored thuggery and terrorism. We the citizens have watched on helplessly as our compatriots have been subjected to brutal assaults, harassment and intimidation.”
“Sadly, this spate of thuggery and outright lawlessness will most definitely have a negative impact on attracting foreign investors into the country which will adversely affect the country’s economy,” added NDC.
NDC is the party of former Presidents Jerry Rawlings, John Atta Mills and John Dramani Mahama, whom Akufo-Addo defeated in the polls held in December last year.
Pro-democracy groups are also concerned at the spate of violence by the NPP-affiliated vigilante groups.
Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana), a democratic think-tank, said such violations include the forceful takeover of state assets and public facilities including toilets, tollbooths and school feeding programmes as well as the alleged unlawful seizure of vehicles of members of the previous administration.
“This has cast a dent on the hitherto smooth transition process,” argued CCD-Ghana.
Ghana witnessed smooth transition of power after Mahama graciously accepted defeat, which was the first time that a sitting president of Ghana had failed to win a second term.
CDD-Ghana accused Mahama’s successor, the government and law enforcement agencies of failure to deal decisively with the NPP-affiliated vigilante groups, mainly the Delta and Invincible Forces that have also invaded sensitive government institutions such as the Passport Office and the Ports and Harbour Authority in Tema.
“This appears to have encouraged the recent brazen attacks on the Ashanti Regional Security Coordinator (George Agyei) and a circuit court in Kumasi, by the so-called Delta Force.”
Late March, more than 200 members of the self-styled security force attacked Agyei and physically hound him out of office.
They claimed he was ‘not part of the struggle’ to wrestle power from the NDC.
He sustained injuries.
Recently, men believed to be members of the Invincible Forces besieged offices of the Eastern Regional National Health Insurance Scheme. They claimed they would not work with leaders of the organisation as they were “outsiders.”
Officials were locked out of their offices.
There have been several attacks allegedly masterminded by groups and individuals affiliated to the NPP.
Akufoo-Addo has issued a warning.
“Inasmuch as the law enforcement agencies and the judiciary have moved in to apply the laws of our land, let me reiterate that it will not be under my watch that the people act with impunity neither will it be under my watch that the laws of the land will not be respected,” said the president.
Meanwhile, an ambitious programme to transform Ghana’s economy and create thousands of jobs through agriculture is under threat from unwilling farmers.
The project dubbed ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ launched recently by Akufo-Addo, is anticipated to create some 750 000 jobs in both direct and indirect employment especially for the teeming youth.
It is modeled on the highly successful ‘Operation Feed Yourself’ programme of the 1970s.
Agronomists, economists and farmers have expressed fear the project might stall.
Under the project, farmers are required to make 50 percent upfront payments for inputs such as seedlings and fertilisers but many of the farmers cannot afford.
“Those that have the initial payment are also not committed to farming. This will affect the smooth running of the project,” economist and senior lecturer at the University of Cape Coast, John Gatsi, said.
The Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana, a representative of the majority of farmers, criticised project over some lapses such as the delay of distribution of imported seeds.
Programmes officer, Charles Nyaaba, questioned government plans to engage National Service personnel instead of trained extension officers.
“They (National Service) are not equipped. We think the approach is wrong and must be changed.”
Despite the prevalence of vigilante groups and the agro project facing some challenges, Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia is encouraged by achievements during the period.
He said government had recorded “over 103 achievements” in its 100 days in office from January 7.
Bawumia listed them to include the cancellation of 20 power purchase agreements entered into by the past government, restoration of the teachers and nursing trainee allowances, giving clearance for the employment of thousands of nurses previously unemployed and stabilising the Cedi currency.
Analystsand dean of Graduate Studies of the Institute of Local Government Studies, Eric Oduro-Osae, said the President’s government had set the right tone for success after its first 100 days in office.
“The swift manner in which the government went about its appointments was commendable,” said Oduro-Osae.
– CAJ News