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Opinions of Monday, 7 September 2015

Columnist: Graphic.com.gh

Stop use of live ammunition at festivals

Festivals in the country have always been marked with pomp and circumstance.

Rather unfortunately, such colourful celebrations have not been without incidents such as clashes between rival chiefs and the firing of guns that kill or injure revellers.

The security agencies have always impressed upon organisers of festivals and activities at fetish shrines to desist from using live ammunition, but such cautions, in most cases, have fallen on deaf ears.

The firing of muskets that does not involve the use of live bullets but gunpowder had left many people with burns and, in extreme cases, dead.

Recently, at an event involving chiefs in a town in the Eastern Region, the police had no choice but to seize all the pump action guns from the people who were firing live ammunition in a very crowded area.

The police, in an attempt to calm nerves because some of the people, including even a section of the chiefs, were incensed by the action of the security officers, had to explain to them that the firing of live ammunition was just like shouting fire in an enclosed environment filled to capacity.

The Daily Graphic is worried that in tune with our attitude to shout on top of our voices and go to sleep after the hue and cry, we keep repeating untoward behaviours that our laws explicitly prohibit.

Even the police are prohibited from firing live ammunition in crowded areas, hence the procurement of rubber bullets and the spraying of hot water on demonstrators in order to reduce casualty levels in the event of violence at mass events.

The Daily Graphic, therefore, finds it very difficult to appreciate the inability of the police to enforce the ban on the use of these sophisticated weapons on occasions such as traditional festivals, leading to the loss of lives and injury to many others.

The attitude of the police to these incidents gives the impression that as a people we are not interested in enforcing the laws but just pass legislation and allow it to gather dust.

The Daily Graphic reminds the law enforcement agencies that it takes a large portion of the nation’s resources to pass a piece of legislation and if they refuse to enforce legislation so passed, even if it is breached, then we are, as someone said, engaged as a nation in “organised waste of time and resources”.

Last Friday, two persons died at the Obuotabiri Shrine in Koforidua when some of the participants in a celebration fired muskets with live ammunition, instead of gunpowder.

We are told the police in Koforidua have arrested three persons in connection with the deadly celebration.

In the Koforidua incident, we are also informed that the police advised the organisers to go according to laid down regulations but those who fired the muskets defied the police directive.

The Daily Graphic advises the police to set an example with those who defy the norms of our society and tend to encourage impunity, so that full enforcement of the law will deter others from similar actions in future. Unless we enforce our laws, the few lawless people will push us into the jungle where might is right and, instead of promoting the rule of law, we will rather encourage the rule of men, especially those who can influence the system.