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Opinions of Monday, 3 July 2017

Columnist: K. Badu

Spio-Garbrah, do you think Rawlings and his cohorts are lily-white?

Some of us who were old and fortunate enough to have witnessed the events which took place over a period of three decades (1970-1990s), cannot be hoodwinked by the propagandists.

I perused through Dr Spio-Garbrah’s Republic Day statement which sought to beseech President Akufo-Addo to disband all vigilante groups with absolute puzzlement, so to speak.

As a matter of fact and principle, no true patriot will ever support lawlessness. In that regard, some of us will rightly support genuine calls to disband such groups.

However, the apparent gleam of hypocrisy being displayed by Dr Spio-Garbrah cannot be allowed to go unchallenged.

Let us face it, though, we cannot pretend to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs and principles, whilst we continue to practice vice.

If we continue with such an abhorrent behaviour, we cannot then turn around and blame anyone for referring to us as inveterate hypocrites.

I have said time and time again that when experienced politicians keep holding on to vague rhetoric and political inebriations with a view to deceiving the unsuspecting Ghanaians, it gives some of us the reason and the energy to confute the apparent wrench.

Of course, it is heartrending to continue reading and listening to the groundless claims from the NDC quarters that it was the NPP Party that introduced vigilantism and lawlessness in Ghana.

Dr Spio-Garbrah writes: “As Commander-in- Chief, the President controls all our uniformed services, including all law enforcement agencies, and also has the capacity to seek military assistance where necessary from foreign powers. These powers are to enable the President to ensure the peace, safety, security and prosperity of all residents of Ghana.

“Given these powers of the President of Ghana, the continued existence in Ghana of outlaw vigilante groups, such as Invisible (or Invincible) Forces or Delta Forces, pose a huge risk to the security and safety of Ghanaians as well as to the millions of foreigners residing in Ghana.

“On the occasion of Republic Day, I wish to call on the President of the Republic of Ghana and Commander-In-Chief of the Ghana Armed Forces, H.E. Nana AddoDankwa Akufo-Addo and the NPP in government to wake up from their slumber and disband the various armed or semi-armed vigilante groups that were trained and prepared for mayhem before the 2016 elections”.

I am pretty sure that there are more than two vigilante groups in Ghana. So why did Dr Spio-Garbrah only find it convenient to limit his scope to the ‘Invincible and Delta Forces?

In as much as the Delta Force’s abhorrent action at the Kumasi Circuit Court was completely out of order, I do not want to subscribe to the seeming sophistic view that their action is alien to Ghana’s political terrain.

In any case, while discerning Ghanaians have every right to ventilate their arousing disgust over the seemingly reprehensible action, it would be absolutely wrong for anybody to suggest that Delta Force’s despicable action is unheard of.

Believe it or not, the Delta Force’s action does not supersede the relentless harassments we received from the paramilitary groups which were created by the founders of the NDC Party.

It is worth pointing out that it was the founders of the NDC Party who set up paramilitary organs such as People’s Defence Committee (PDC), the Civil Defence Organisation (CDO), which was popularly known as the Militia and the Workers Defence Committee (WDC), where the last two organs were later reorganised and renamed as the Committee for the Defence of the Revolution (CDR), whose collective mandate was to defend the revolution by hook or by crook.

“The PDCs and the WDCs (Workers Defence Committees) had their own courts and "meted out justice according to no established legal procedures” [Amnesty International, 1983).

If we stroll down memory lane, in their attempts to defend their illegitimate power and lay the foundation for a supposedly true democracy in Ghana, the PNDC regime created a controversial countrywide network of People's Defence Committees (PDCs) and Workers' Defence Committees (WDCs), reorganised and renamed, in late 1984 as Committees for the Defence of the Revolution (CDRs).

The CDRs were established in villages, urban communities, and workplaces and intended to be the organs of popular power and political initiative.

In addition, Forces' Defence Committees were established in the armed forces and the police service.

The most important aspect of the reorganization of the PDCs and the WDCs from the standpoint of the political and socioeconomic functions of the CDRs was the opening up of membership to all Ghanaians.

This decision reversed the earlier exclusion from PDC/WDC membership of elite groups, such as chiefs and so-called exploiting classes.

The change returned the revolution to its original objective of involving all Ghanaians in decision making and opened up possibilities for genuine national reconciliation.

According to official directives, the principal functions of the CDRs were to ensure democratic participation in decision making in all communities and workplaces; to guard against corruption, abuse of power, sabotage, and social injustice; and to promote sustained national productivity by focusing efforts on the productive sectors of the economy.

The other mass organizations of the revolution were the National Mobilisation Program, the 31st December Women's Movement, the Civil Defence Organisation (the militia), the National Youth Organising Commission, and the June Four Movement.

The National Mobilisation Program started as an emergency programme to receive and resettle Ghanaian returnees from Nigeria in 1983. It soon developed into a cooperative movement engaged in a variety of economic and community development projects throughout Ghana.

The 31st December Women's Movement aimed to bring about the political, social, and economic emancipation of Ghanaian women, especially rural women.

The Civil Defence Organisation, popularly known as the militia, was set up as a paramilitary institution to assist other state organizations in national emergencies such as invasions, bush fires, and floods. Members received special training in combat readiness to defend the nation against internal and external aggression and economic sabotage.

The militia, in addition to combating crime in local communities, engaged in voluntary social and economic activities to help promote community development. In this effort, it was often assisted by the National Youth Organising Commission, created in 1982 as part of the PNDC's efforts to establish a youth movement to carry out the objectives of the 31st December 1981 Revolution.

The June Four Movement was a militant mass revolutionary movement dedicated to keeping alive the ideals of the June 4, 1979, uprising that Rawlings had led. It sought to arouse the population at large to assist in establishing so-called people's power within the avowed objectives of the revolutionary process.

On a practical level, it worked with the militia and the National Youth Organising Commission in various community development projects.

Participatory opportunities of the ordinary Ghanaian citizen were significantly expanded through membership in revolutionary organs.

Before the establishment of the district assemblies in 1989, the PNDC government was able to reach the rural population and to broaden its base of support by direct consultation.

This was achieved through chiefs, the CDRs, and other national bodies such as the Democratic Youth League of Ghana, which in 1988 claimed a nationwide membership of more than 100,000. Other such groups included farmers' organizations, market women's associations, trade union groups, students' organizations, and religious and other bodies.

The PNDC's political opposition back then, however, hotly contested the democratic nature of such organs and saw them as nothing but state-sponsored vigilantes engaged in intimidation and human rights abuses (Source: U.S. Library of Congress).

Somehow, it is being alleged that when Ghana returned to democratic rule, some members of the paramilitary groups who could not get the opportunity to join any of the security services bolted with their guns.

And, we have unfortunately sat idly over the years and allowed the boisterous homicidal brats and other ill-motive paramilitary groups to cause havoc to innocent Ghanaians.

Given the circumstances, it would be hypocritical on the part of anyone who attempts to put all the blame on the NPP Party with regard to the creation of vigilante groups in Ghana.