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.