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Opinions of Saturday, 27 March 2010

Columnist: Nyarko, Kingsley

The creeping rule of lawlessness in the country should be stopped

Democracy, a system of government that has been proven to be the best in ensuring that nations are governed according to the interests of the people, and not according to the whims and caprices of the rulers is the desire of every people who want to experience a turnaround in the fortunes of their country and in their lives. Under this system of government, the people, and not the elected officials are supposed to wield unfettered power when it comes to the governance of the country. Anytime elected leaders of a country rule, not according to the wishes and aspirations of the people, but according to their wishes, then the spirit of democracy is undermined. Again when the elected leaders and authorities who are expected to enforce the laws of the land, refuse to do so, the spirit of democracy and the rule of law is further compromised. What we get in the end is a situation where lawlessness, anarchy, and arbitrariness become the acceptable norms in the country.

When the government rules according to the wishes and aspirations of the people, it means that above all, the rule of law, one of the cardinal principles of democracy is upheld. The rule of law simply means that the law should be supreme on the land; or nobody should be above the law. Where the rule of law is upheld, arbitrariness has no place; and also things are done efficiently to promote orderliness. When leaders and authorities of a country dither in enforcing the principle of the rule of law, then by and large, the country will be taking a nose dive into anarchy and destruction. We should not forget that where laws are not enforced to the letter, the weak and vulnerable always live in fear and timidity. It is because of this situation that we put in place authorities to ensure that all citizens, especially the vulnerable are protected. When the rule of law is not enforced, we end up with the rule of lawlessness. And that is what we are witnessing in the country at the moment. Instead of the law being allowed to work, what we see is that lawlessness is rather the order of the day. The rule of lawlessness is the situation whereby people close to the corridors of power take the law into their own hands whilst authorities who are expected to enforce the law fail to exercise their authority. I will provide some instances why I think that the rule of lawlessness is gaining root in the country.

First, is the Kofi Adams and Nana Darkwa saga. Circumstances that surrounded the arrest and incarceration of the young boy are a clear instance of lawlessness. When politicians, especially those whose parties are in power think that they are too big and thus can take the law into their hands and get away with it, then lawlessness is the rule of thumb in that jurisdiction. Since that shameful act by Kofi Adams, there has been a gradual breakdown of law and order in the country, which does not bode well for a country that has earned international reputation for the upholding of the rule of law and democracy on our continent. If we allow people like Kofi Adams to arrogate to themselves the power of causing the arrest of people who do wrong, then we are promoting lawlessness on the land. He did what he did to prove to the whole world that he wields power, simply because his party is in power, and also being the spokesperson of president Rawlings—a god that is worshipped by people like him. I’m saying this because he couldn’t have executed that action if his party were in opposition. In a jurisdiction where the rule of law is not respected, lawless citizens—especially those who are near to the corridors of power resort to lawlessness in satisfying their egos. And this must be stopped. The state institutions mandated to uphold the laws of the land should be encouraged to do their jobs efficiently and effectively in safeguarding the rights and freedoms of the people.

Second, is the aftermath of the above episode. Developments after the Kofi Adams’ day of shame show that we are drifting towards the practice of the rule of lawlessness in the country. The first time Nana Darkwa appeared before the court after he had been released from remand, a clash ensued at the court’s premises between the youth wings of the ruling NDC and the opposition NPP. A day after the clash at the court house, on Adom Fm, some of the youth sympathizers of the ruling government who were interviewed about their motivation of being at the court, indicated that because their party is in power, and also because president Rawlings has been talked down to, they will mobilize their supporters and be at the court to show solidarity with the former president and nobody can stop them. Although, the youths had already indicated their intention on the airwaves that they were going to mobilize their supporters and storm the court house, nothing was done by the police to ensure that these unemployed irate youths were prevented from taking the law into their own hands. And to put their moneys where their mouths are, on 15.3.2010, they made good their threats, stormed the premises, took the law into their own hands, beat somebody to the point of death and strangely they are still walking free.

As if this was not enough, on the same radio station the following day, one activist of the ruling government called “Untouchable” bragged that “they beat one of their opponents to the point that he believes he might be dead by now.” This made the anchor of the program, Ekuoba Gyasi to say that “Ghana Policifo3 na efo nti a, anka wo da mu” to wit, but for the weakness of the Ghanaian police service, you would be languishing in jail by now. The pronouncements of this chap show that indeed he is what he says he is—untouchable. The pronouncement of this rogue shows a blatant disregard to the law and authority. How on earth can somebody brag on the airwaves for aiding and abetting in a criminal act, and escapes the long arm of the law? And this is what I call the rule of lawlessness. If you have such a character in your country, and the rule of law is not applied, then what happens is that the country would be drifting into the abyss. Such characters can kill when they are tasked by their paymasters to do so.

Third, is the pressure being mounted on the attorney general and minister of justice to “rush” in prosecuting perceived corrupt ministers and other officials in the former administration. As I did indicate previously, the rule of law eschews arbitrariness; it avoids a situation where authorities, without recourse to laid down procedures use their power to punish political opponents. When you have government officials and party sympathizers putting pressure on the attorney general and minister of justice to hurry up in prosecuting people who are perceived to have abuse their offices via corrupt practices, when the minister has not been able to assemble the needed evidence to convict these perceived corrupt officials, then the rule of law is not being given a chance to thrive. What these people are saying is that these former state officials are guilty, and that do not deserve justice. These individuals are lawless, and do not respect the rule of law. What these individuals, calling for the head of the attorney general fail to consider is that if credible evidence are not assembled before the attorney general proceeds to the court, and in the event that she loses the case, when she should have won if she had diligently done her job, the victim is the country, you and me. And that would be the result of the rule of lawlessness. Due to the principle of double jeopardy which prevents an acquitted person to be tried again on the same offence, it is incumbent on prosecutors to be sure that they have a leg to stand on before they make their case. Let us permit the minister to do her job professionally. Since she assumed her current portfolio, all the cases she has sent to the court, she has lost them, and when this trend continues the country will suffer the loss, especially when criminals are left off the hook due to dereliction of duty on the part of the state attorney.

Finally, is the unfortunate event that occurred at the Brong Ahafo region between the chiefs of Tuobodom and Techiman. We are not living in a jungle for such barbaric acts to be entertained. A lawless chief orders the kidnapping of a rival chief by his strongmen; subjects him to beatings, and for close to 2 weeks no action was taken by the police to bring the perpetrators of such a barbaric act to justice. What is worrying is that the said incident led to the death of three people, and the police and government were dead silent. What this means is that the law is not working or the law is exercised selectively—that is some citizens are too big to face the law when they violate it.

In fact, but for the threat issued by the Asantehene, the situation would have degenerated into something we might be ruing over now. Those who are castigating the Asantehene should also not forget that the dithering of the government and the police in arresting the situation primed his unfortunate, but timely pronouncement. Why didn’t the government intervene when the incident happened, but waited till the Asantehene has spoken? In my view the only wrong that the Asantehene committed was the swift reaction by the government to his unfortunate outburst in responding to the issues that led to the death of three people, and left others injured. This unfortunate outburst of the king lends credence to the point that the rule of lawlessness, and not the rule of law is working in the country. The government is too weak to the point that, everybody has taken the law into their own hands.

In conclusion, for us to deepen the democratic culture in the country, the rule of law and not the rule of lawlessness must be allowed to work. All the constitutionally mandated institutions must be empowered to carry out their jobs efficiently and professionally. Those who are found foul of the law should be brought to justice—and this should not be done without recourse to the law—and not selectively. Where the rule of law works, the rule of lawlessness is reduced to the barest minimum, if not eliminated. In jurisdictions where the rule of law works, the regional minister, the regional police commander, and the regional crime officer—who has been reassigned would have been fired for their gross show of ineptitude. God bless Ghana!!

Source: Kingsley Nyarko, PhD, Psychologist & Educational Consultant, IAF- Munich, (