By Abdi Ali
Published December 31, 2017
The spread of vigilante groups and armed individuals threatens the national security of Ghana.
A United Nations expert group on mercenaries urges the West African country to introduce tougher measures to regulate its private security industry.
The experts express concern at the number of illegal private security firms operating in the country, saying that official figures suggest there are some 400 groups employing around 450000 people in a country where the police personnel number around 33000.
“The ratio between police and private security personnel, even if the latter are unarmed, is among the most worrying I’ve seen in any country,” says Patricia Arias.
“We are also concerned that many private security personnel do not undergo proper training and often do not satisfy the requisite standards of education. Human rights training does not normally appear to be a common requirement.”
The experts call for strong measures to rein in vigilante groups who affiliate themselves with various political parties and pose a threat to national security. These groups, the experts say, are difficult to manage, particularly during election periods.
“Ghana is often referred to as an ‘oasis of peace’ in the region and has so far escaped the scourge of mercenarism and foreign armed groups, even becoming a place of refuge for many who have fled armed conflicts and instability in their home countries,” says Anton Katz, a member of the delegation of the UN Working Group on Mercenaries, who took part in an official mission to Ghana December 8-15, 2017.
The experts have raised concerns about the huge number of private security companies and the spread of vigilante groups and armed individuals, including those collaborating with foreigners in illegal mining, known as “galamsey”.
An estimated 1.3 million illegal weapons and reported arms smuggling into the country had worsened these security threats, they say.
“We have seen many times how countries like Ghana, with rich natural resources and porous borders, can fall prey to mercenarism and mercenary-related activities when the security situation is undermined by violence – often at the hands of armed groups,” says Arias. “Combating these threats effectively now can prevent potential tensions and conflicts that may open the door to mercenary activities.”
The Working Group is set to present a full report on its visit to the UN Human Rights Council in 2018.