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Key findings
  • Eight of 10 Ghanaians (81%) say citizens should always rely on the police to deal with suspected criminals. About one in seven (15%), however, think it is sometimes acceptable for citizens to administer instant “justice” – a view that is shared by 39% of residents in the Upper West and Northern regions.
  • Most Ghanaians believe it is “wrong and punishable” for party vigilantes to attack government appointees whose appointment they disagree with (88%), to lock up government offices to protest unfulfilled expectations of employment (87%), and to destroy state property (91%).
  • Almost nine of 10 Ghanaians (88%) “approve” or “strongly approve” of government prosecuting and punishing political-party vigilantes who engage in acts of lawlessness, irrespective of their party affiliation.
  • A slim majority (53%) of Ghanaians say the government has performed “fairly well” or “very well” in handling the criminal activities of political-party vigilante groups.

Two forms of lawless violence dominated headlines in Ghana in 2017, though neither was new: mob “justice” applied to suspected criminals and vigilantism by disgruntled politicalparty thugs.

A national outpouring of grief and anger followed the gruesome killing in May 2017 of Maxwell Mahama, a 32-year-old military officer and father of two who was lynched in the Upper Denkyira West District of the Central Region by a mob that mistook him for an armed robber (Citifmonline, 2017a). While the prevalence of “mob justice” in Ghana is not known, condemnations by Ghanaians from all walks of life often suggested a “surge” in such violence in recent years (Citifmonline, 2017b).

Similarly, political leaders, news media, civil-society groups, and citizens have widely commented on increased political-party vigilantism during and after the 2016 national elections. After the new government assumed office in January 2017, vigilante groups affiliated with the ruling party allegedly attacked government appointees whose appointment they disagreed with, locked up government offices, and destroyed state property in protest of unfulfilled expectations of employment (Citifmonline, 2017c). Some group members even forcefully freed colleagues facing prosecution in court. President Nana Akufo-Addo publicly pledged to bring the violence under control (Business Ghana, 2017), and the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers conducted a series of regional roundtable discussions on this “pressing” issue (CODEO Ghana, 2017).

According to Afrobarometer’s latest national survey, Ghanaians overwhelmingly reject both mob “justice” and the lawless activities of political vigilante groups. An overwhelming majority of Ghanaians call for vigilantes to be prosecuted, irrespective of their political-party affiliation.

Daniel Armah-Attoh

Daniel is the surveys manager for North and Anglophone West Africa

Josephine Appiah-Nyamekye Sanny

Josephine is the knowledge transfer manager for Afrobarometer.