Party security are militias not vigilantes – Abotsi defends Short Commission

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Ernest Kofi Abotsi

Former Secretary to the Commission of Inquiry into the election violence at Ayawaso West Wuogon, Ernest Kofi Abotsi has justified the Commission’s use of ‘militia’ to describe security groups associated with political parties.

“The reality is that the Commission having listened to the evidence, recognised that the proper term to use was militia and not a vigilante,” Mr. Abotsi said Monday on the PM Express on Joy News TV.

NPP Organiser, Sammi Awuku recently criticised Joy News latest documentary, ‘Militia in the heart of the nation’ which unmasked De-Eye, an NPP-affiliated militia group, which had been operating from the Christiansborg Castle in Osu.

According to Mr. Awuku, the characterisation of the group, De-Eye, as a militia was inappropriate.

Similarly, the Information Minister, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, who filed a complaint at the National Media Commission against Joy News, indicated that: “Nothing in the impugned documentary shows any activity by the said company bordering on a militia exercise.”

However, Mr. Abotsi, who is also a former Dean of the GIMPA Law School noted that regular vigilante groups usually sit on the sidelines to observe and only comes in only when there is a failure on the part of state security to protect their interests, which is a direct opposite of what currently persists.

“The vigilante groups fundamentally are complementary in character [but] these groups oppose…therefore, that fundamental feature of vigilantism in that respect, I think these groups fail,” he stated.

Mr. Abotsi added that “In terms of militia, I think that these groups, in the minimum, they are evolving towards it [and] at worst many of them have crossed this threshold and they are already militia.”

Acknowledging that these party vigilante groups may have started off with good ideas and good thoughts of defending their parties’ interests where the police stood aloof, the private legal practitioner said one cannot also “discount the fact that any or all of these groups do bear some level of arms.”

He said, therefore, that calling such groups militias will be the appropriate way to dealing with the problem at hand, referencing the recent shooting and killing of NDC activist at the party’s Ashanti Regional office by a member of the ‘Hawks’, an NDC-affiliated vigilante group in the region.

“I think that the appropriate language when used strategically and deployed properly, can achieve fundamental results,” he stated, arguing that the groups have in recent times “become more and more emboldened and they’ve gotten to a point where they see themselves bigger than vigilantes.

“They won’t wait until there is a failure, they actually act and they challenge and they oppose, in many ways, the authority of the state.”

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