Think of these contrasts.
First, on Thursday, 13th October, 2011, it was reported that Fulani herdsmen had murdered Agya Kwame Abu, a farmer in the Agogo area.
In response to the death, there were no reports of police armoured vehicles racing to the area in search of the killers or anything like that. It turns out that despite the presence of soldiers in the area over the last two months, four people had been killed and no arrests had been madeyet.
It would appear to reasonable people that it should not be very hard to find people dressed a certain way with large herds of cattle but our security services are having a very difficult time finding these people.
The complaints about the Fulani have been heard in Tamale, Berekum and Agogo, amongst other places. Regardless of who they are or where they come from, it appears that we should be able to deal with people harassing and sometimes killing innocent people.
A week or so before the murder of the farmer, a Deputy Minister, Honourable Kobby Acheampong, had allegedly been insulted by Police. In response, the IGP had dispatched personnel to apprehend the policemen involved.
On March 11th of 2011, unarmed teachers, on a peaceful demonstration to present their grievances in connection with their salaries were tear-gassed by police. Explaining what had happened to the teachers, Superintendent Kwasi Ofori, then head of public relations for the Police said Looking at the nuisance and the uncomfortable traffic jam that obstructed the public highway and restricted movement, the police had to take a decision to disperse the demonstrators in order to restore law and order and to protect lives and property. Later, the Deputy Minister for Education, Mahama Ayariga apologized but no police personnel were investigated for this incident. Would such conduct not be more worthy of investigation than an argument with a Minister on a highway?
Surprisingly, since the beginning of the Mills administration, NDC activists have gone on demonstrations and or acted outside the law many times without any reaction from the police.
Candidly, can the police defend the implications of their conduct?
Are the police who allegedly insulted the Deputy Minister more dangerous to the public than those Fulani allegedly killing farmers in Agogo and its environs?
Are the teachers who were marching more dangerous than the NDC mobs that were chasing DCEs out of their offices?
Was Nana Konadu, an unarmed and defenseless woman, seeking to thank her party members for their support more dangerous than those who prevented her from speaking with the connivance of the police?
Other security agencies have shown equal bias in pursuing investigations. For instance, allegations of corruption have been investigated very differently based on who is accused. Thus NPP functionaries like Kojo Mpiani and Wireko Brobbey have been investigated and charged while NDC members implicated in the M and J as well as the SCANCEM scandals have been let off the hook. To add insult to injury, Mrs. Betty Mould-Iddrisu, during her tenure as Attorney General, pledged to jail NPP functionaries. Even the President, following the Ya-Na verdict, expressed sympathy with those demonstrating violently against the courts verdict. Of course, the police made no arrests and no tear-gas was used.
Furthermore, depending on the government in power, even the investigation of things like murder, drug smuggling and crime, according to some, have been influenced by which party is in power.
Underlining the loss of confidence in our security forces recently, the NPPs Sammy Awuku, after an alleged robbery, said, according to Joy FM, that he would seek police protection even though he cannot trust the security officials. In an interesting aside, he speculated that it should be possible for his party to protect its members from unwarranted harassment by criminals or partisan security personnel.
To add to that, there are cases that show clearly that we cannot count on our law enforcement agencies. Earlier this year, I was involved in an accident with a run-away driver. Fortunately, with the help of by-standers, I managed to get the vehicles make and registration number. To date, the Ghana Police have not been able to trace the vehicle and its owner. Two weeks ago, a friend was robbed of his Toyota Land cruiser at gunpoint in Kumasi. The reaction of most people was that he would most probably never recover the vehicle. Should a police service that can arrest policemen who insult a Minister within hours not be able to find the stolen vehicle here?
Normally, when we talk of corruption, we focus on money changing hands in exchange for public services, contracts or favors, but, we must broaden our definition.
While the examples I have cited would tend to create the impression that the Mills administration started this practice, it did not. Under previous governments, dating to just after independence, there have been different levels of politicization of our security forces. Politicians of all stripes have used them to pursue their enemies and to protect their friends. Such conducts have served to undermine our democratic development and to undermine our national cohesion.
These observations are not new. And they are not my unique point of view. On 11th February 2011, the National Security Advisor, Brigadier Nunoo-Mensah said When a government is in power, they pack these areas, (State security agencies) with their cronies. So anybody who comes to power, we have got people there who are trying to sabotage what government is trying to do, it is a fact.
He added that, referring to the US, people are so different there, because the law works. The law gets you whether you are the President or what, the law deals with you. He was right and deserves commendation for his candour.
As a nation, we need to let our constitutional protection mean something, to people on the street like my friend who lost his Land-cruiserand the Police who had the incident with the Deputy Minister and the farmers who are being terrorized by the Fulani. If we cannot protect them and guarantee them due process, then our democracy is meaningless to them.
How can we move forward?
First, we must stop politicizing our security forces and let them be professional organizations. Our police will always put politics ahead of professionalism when an IGP can be sacked just because the President who appointed him or her has lost an election. While the change of IGPs with Presidents makes the IGPs sycophants, it turns every policeman on the beat into a political boot-licker who is seeking to stay in the good books of the powers-that-be at all levels. Indeed, when there are elections, it is not just the IGP who gets changed.
We need to have the IGP and the heads of our security services appointed for a fixed term of say four years and not subject to removal except for clearly stated offences. This would mean that an IGP appointed by President Kufuor in 2006 would have served till 2010, regardless of who was elected in 2008. Then that IGP, if re-nominated would serve a further four years regardless of the results of the 2012 elections.
Such measures would go a long way towards making our security services more professional and autonomous.
Second, the institutions themselves, must strive for professionalism despite the challenges they face. I think Ghanaian Police personnel are very friendly but sometimes, they are their own worst enemies. When the IGP took Mr. Acheampongs call and his complaint, he was speaking to a young Minister, a little intoxicated by power who was acting a little inappropriately. The IGP could have calmed him down and then referred the matter to his regional commander for investigation and a report on the incident. This would have been orderly and saved him and the Minister a lot of embarrassment. Instead of gently setting the Minister right by his actions, he chose to cater to his whims. That was unfortunate.
I wish that when they had been ordered to arrest people for insulting President Mills or Rawlings, some constable had asked For what? instead of rushing to effect those needless and unlawful arrests.
Recently, the police have announced the implementation of a five-year Strategic National Policing Plan for the years 2010-2014. Their last conference had the theme One-year of Strategic national policing planIts impact on contemporary road traffic management and democratic policing. I do not know what their conclusions were but if I had a chance to address them, I would have said, The accidents are increasing and sending vehicles and police from Accra to arrest the Central Region eight was undemocratic! Instead, they were fed a lot of, with due apologiesbull. They were told by Interior Minister, Hon. Ben Kunbour that I certainly have never come across a Ghanaian policeman who will ask me to pay money, fix the amount and even direct you who you should go into the room to pay the money to. Really, Honourable?
Third, the mindless and sycophantic reporting by the media too, must cease. The media has been very significant in the development of our democracy. However, day-by-day, their content is being diluted by paid partisans who are more interested in catering to their pay-masters than their profession or their consciences. The result is that often, even unreasonable actions by political actors are given legitimacy and defended.
Fourth, the Non-governmental organizations must speak up more forcefully. In our society, it is difficult for a single policeman or individual to take on the government of the day. It would help if Non-governmental organizations can take up, in the public interest, litigation relating to cases of obvious victimization of people doing their job, including the Police and other public servants.
Fifth, our clergy must condemn abuse of power from their pulpits. In the 1980s and early nineties, our struggle for democracy would have faltered without the voices of the Catholic Bishops Conference and individuals like Reverends Essamuah( late) and Asante Antwi. Their work is not done. Let our nations leaders of faith be steadfast in standing for righteousness. It is not enough to wait till we are on the brink of national division before appealing for peace. In addition to peace, let our religious leaders insist, always on the right things in our public arena.
Let us move forward together, to build a true democracy, under God and under our laws.
Source: Arthur Kobina Kennedy
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