Monday, June 30, 2008

Vigilantism in Ghana

With all the global and African media attention on the man-made catastrophe in Zimbabwe, a lot of other stories are flying under the radar. Take a couple of troubling stories coming out of Ghana, a country generally seen as one of the most stable in West Africa.

The IRIN reported on an ethnic conflict in the north which might threaten national elections scheduled for later this year. Some 17 people have been killed in clashes between the Mamprusi and Kusasi. President John Kufuor said local officials in the town of Bawku should be 'ashamed' of what happened there.

The UN news agency also on a troubling security vacuum in the capital Accra that's been filled by militia-like vigilante groups.

The scary part is that these vigilante groups are actually welcomed by locals, who are so mistrustful of and disillusioned by the police and court system.

One elderly Accra resident explained, "I am grateful for their presence. They put the fear of God into all the criminals in the area."

Not surprisingly though, such instant mob justice often goes awry.

The beating to death of the administrator of the government hospital in the Bono Ahafo Region of Ghana by a group of young men last year who mistook him for a serial killer is one of the most notorious examples of mob law gone wrong.

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