Urban policing, political vigilantism and Ghana's democracy
Richard Asante (University of Ghana)
Peter Alexander Albrecht (Danish Institute for International Studies)
Paper short abstract:
Political vigilantism and associated violence is one of Ghana’s most pressing post-election challenges, and particularly pressing in urban settings. Yet, there appear to be few scholarly studies that systematically examine factors that facilitate or constrain the capacity of the police to eradicate this phenomenon.
Paper long abstract:
The phenomenon of political party vigilantism, particularly in urban settings, has been a challenge to Ghana’s image as a stable democracy in the turbulent West African sub-region. Historically, vigilantism started as young men (‘boys’), who were loyal to influential political figures, and often from poor and illiterate backgrounds. Over time, being a member of these groups has become relatively more lucrative and formalized, and has been given recognition by the political parties to provide security. During party events such as yearly congresses, press conferences and demonstrations, these vigilante groups collaborate with the police to provide security. However, since 2000, the level of violence that has characterized the activities of party vigilante groups, has increased and become a decidedly politically charged issue. Countless pledges by the police to eradicate the phenomenon of vigilantism in light of the danger it poses to the country’s security, electoral politics and democratic development have failed to materialize. How do we explain the rise in the activities of vigilante groups in urban setting? What factors including spatial, temporal, economic and political particularities of urban settings facilitate and hinder police to deal with political vigilantism? The urban setting as a center of political activism is intensified by growing unemployment among youth. Activities of such groups during elections, and difficulties in contemporary policing in terms of resourcing and general legitimacy among the public, account for the complex relationships and interaction between the Ghana Police Service and vigilante groups.
Urban policing and production of the city