A Peace and Development lecturer with expertise in Security at the University of Cape Coast, Dr Patrick Osei-Kufuor, has advocated trust and transparency as the cure for vigilantism in the electoral process.
While commending the Ghana Police Service for the measures adopted for last Tuesday’s Assin North by-election, Dr Osei-Kufour said the stakes for the 2024 general election were higher and required a lot more to keep the country’s peace.
Speaking with the Daily Graphic on the Assin North by-election, Dr Osei-Kufuor, who is also the Vice Dean of the School of Development Studies, said a lot more was needed to ensure a incident-free polls in 2024.
“For 2024, the tension is heightened, especially when the opposition party, having had this resounding victory of 57 per cent, feels that they can win the election.
There is that optimism that they are going to win the election.
But it is the voters who would decide.
And so you need an efficient police service that is trusted by the opposition and the incumbent.
“If we have an efficient police service that is trusted by both the NPP and the NDC, obviously, we can have a peaceful election in 2024,” he said, adding that problems arose when one party did not trust the police service.
He said the posture that had been maintained by the police in the last two by-elections was commendable and called for collaborative engagements with other state security agencies to support the peace effort for the 2024 elections.
Dr Osei-Kufuor observed that the unarmed policemen policy, which was the first layer of security measures, worked fine, saying the mere presence of policemen having guns removed trust and scared people off.
However, he said, the police had a proper backup response plan for the election in case of any incident.
He said though it was known that there were a lot of vigilante groups that hard-trooped to the Assin North constituency, the transparency and acts of trust by the police rendered the vigilantes almost useless.
He said citizens were also becoming discerning and awake and once there was a trusted system, the activities of the vigilantes would not be required.
He said it was a big plus for unarmed police officers to be able to handle the election peacefully.
He said the police also worked hard at Assin North to remove all doubts and uncertainties with the election and worked to ensure the stakeholders were clear with the processes and their roles, which he said calmed all parties involved.
He said the police had gradually made progress with time from the Ayawaso West Wuogon by-elections.
Dr Osei-Kufuor, said if the police, who were usually assumed to work for the incumbent party, had worked at an election where the opposition had managed to win by more than 15 percentage points, then trust was being built, and he urged the police to work to maintain such trust.
He said if there were doubts about the security agencies, political parties would beef up security in the form of political vigilantes, which could lead to violence.
Dr Osei-Kufuor, said the police needed to build its capacity and that of other security agencies on election security and engage with the Electoral Commission (EC) and the political parties in ensuring a peaceful 2024 election.
For the 2024 election, he said the security organisations must be proactive with operational and tactical strategies to be able to provide security for the elections and respond to other security uncertainties that will assure citizens of their security.
He commended the EC for the work done, which contributed to the peace of the by-election, and further urged the EC to enhance transparency by educating citizens, to make the process easier for all.