That we are not in ordinary times is not lost on anyone but that’s no justification for the brutalities meted out to civilians.
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo used his lockdown speech to create an image of the enemy Ghana and the world, are dealing with. The coronavirus has proven vicious and no respecter of persons and news from around the world, point to this. This, the President made it clear to us.
But the President didn’t direct the police and military personnel who have been sent out to enforce the 14-day lockdown to inflict inhumane treatment on disobedient civilians. That bit we didn’t get it from the President’s speech. I have had occasions to watch some of these disturbing videos of officers forcing civilians to do squats, sit-ups, push ups, and in some situations violently cane those who flout the restrictions.
Now I should be quick in pointing out that some of the videos circulating on social media are fake, and old. They are cheap propaganda materials being foist on Ghanaians by some faceless people within the society.
But there are others that are true reflection of the situation on the ground. This has been confirmed by the General Officer Commanding, Southern Command when he admitted that a soldier in one such video has been withdrawn from the operation.
“We have had one incident and that has nothing to do with slapping, it is something we thought off as not being up to our standard and we are dealing with it. That soldier involved has been withdrawn from the operation back to the barracks,” Brigadier-General, A. Y. Nsiah said at a media briefing on Wednesday.
But this issue is not peculiar to Ghana. This is the situation some civilians in other jurisdictions such as India have had to contend with following a declaration of lockdown. The local police in India are reportedly pulling out all the stops to enforce the lockdown.
What I am finding it difficult to understand is the applause the security agencies have drawn from the public. Many people, including some respected journalists have praised the police and military personnel for devising what they believe are creative ways of punishing the people who disobeyed the restriction. But I believe this is surely not the way to go in our quest to ensure compliance with the President’s directive.
Ghana is not in a period of war and President Akufo-Addo has not declared a state of emergency either as stated in Article 31 of the 1992 Constitution. The President is simply drawing his powers from the Imposition of Restrictions Act, 2020 (Act 1012).
Therefore, we must not behave as though we are in a period of war where the uniformed men and women in the frontline will behave as they see fit, even that cannot be countenanced.
In his quest to uphold the rule of law, the Chief Justice, Kwesi Anin-Yeboah has designated 28 courts to deal, unilaterally, with cases of violations that emanate from the partial lockdown. This is called wisdom.
The police and military personnel out there to enforce the lockdown should know that they are not gods to be behaving as they like.
They must pull the break immediately on some of these dastardly acts. Using brutality against defiant citizens is patently wrong and amounts to a clear violation of human rights. This is called the fact.