Explainer on Violence Flash Points in Ghana's 2016 Elections


Ghana has maintained an enviable position as an example of peace for other emerging democratic African countries with less than two months into its 7th consecutive elections since 1992. The country has, as result, attained a lower middle income status with appreciable level of development in all spheres of the life. However, a striking feature in the body politic in Ghana is the recurring violence that intensifies during the electioneering period which remains the greatest concern in this promising democracy.
Ahead of the 2016 election therefore, the country has had to grapple with not only how to deal with microeconomic issues in order to avoid fiscal overruns risk but also with how to contain potential widespread of electoral violence that have been sustained by impunity.

Violence Incidents in Ghana’s Elections

Among the top five incidents that occurred during the 2004 elections across the country were intimidation of voters (18%), harassment of voters (9%), improper voting procedures and difficult access for the aged/ disabled persons (6% each), improper set-up of polling station (5% each) and denied access to polling station (3%). The process was also characterized with notable incidents including threats to burn down some district offices of the electoral commission and the actual burning of some ballot boxes that led to delays in the declaration of results for some polling stations/constituencies. The delayed release of results created some tension and suspicion that the electoral process was manipulated and this does not augur well for a growing democracy (2004)



In 2008 there were incidents of intimidation or harassment (13 cases on December 7 and 20 cases on December 28), violations of voting procedures (13 cases on December 7 and 14 cases on December 28) and suspension of voting (14 cases on December 7 and 12 cases on December 28). This forced the security agents to resort to the use of warning shots to disperse crowds which in turn caused a lot of panic and unease especially in the conflict prone areas in Bawku and Tamale metropolis on polling day and the day after. http://www.codeoghana.org/assets/docs/ghana's%20election%202004%20observers'%20report.pdf


In the 2012 elections, 137 critical incidents such as voter intimidation, tearing of opponent posters, exchange of insults, and obstruction of political opponents from campaigning were observed.

The high number of cases in 2012 was an indication that violent acts have crept into Ghana’s democracy which have defied all remedies. Electoral violence has been reported in almost all elections conducted in Ghana since 1992. These incidents are even manifest in intra and inter-party elections particularly between the NPP and the NDC with the potential to affect Ghana’s democracy. In all these instance, district offices of the electoral commission have been burnt while lives of innocent Ghanaians have been lost during elections, among other challenges in certain polling stations.


Phenomenon of Macho Men and Vigilante Groups

It is difficult to isolate the phenomenon of “Machomen” (strongly built men) from electoral violence in Ghana. Ghanaian election-related violence perpetrated by thugs who are hired by political leaders to snatch ballot boxes and intimidate voters at polling stations in areas considered to be strongholds of opposing parties or to disrupt the electoral process where one perceives defeat or even to prevent others from snatching ballot boxes and causing mischief. This is indicative of the fact that state institutions like the Ghana Police Service have failed in their primary responsibility to provide the required security for the electoral process. As a result, elections in Ghana have been replete with acts of violence by political party actors. In Ghana’s polarized political and the winner takes all political environment where political spoils such as appointments become exclusive to the members of the winning party, dealing with the acts of violence in elections has been hard to deal. https://www.Modernghana.Com/News/403939/Election-Violence-In-Ghana.Html. The failure to deal with the machoism in Ghana has encouraged the formation of vigilante groups that have become local mercenaries who sell their services and use their expertise in different circles.

Vigilante Groups and the Talensi By-Elections

The National Democratic Congress’ Candidate, Benson Tongo Baba was declared winner in the July 7, 2015 Talensi by-election, a seat which became vacant after the incumbent NPP MP, Robert Mosore was installed Paramount Chief of the area. This election was a real battle ground for the two dominant parties to unleash mayhem on each other. Supporters of the governing National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) engaged in bloody clashes in Talensi as voters elect a new Parliamentary candidate in a by- election.

Like the Chereponi and the Atiwa by-elections in 2009 and 2010, the Talensi by-election was also marred by violence and intimidation from the NDC and NPP camps. what was even more terrifying was the interception by the Police an AK-47 rifle, pistol, a dagger, an axe and other dangerous weapons in Tongo, the capital of Talensi through a random search of vehicles entering the town. In a process that was very acrimonious and confrontational between NDC Azoka boys and the NPP Bamba boys in the Talensi one could imagine the dangerous consequences if the police had not ceased these weapons.


In the process, a V8 vehicle which belongs to the NDC was damaged. The key groups that fomented the trouble, the Azorka Boys, the Bamba Boys, the Invincible Forces and the Bolga Bull Dogs were not apprehended and prosecuted.

Speaking on behalf of the NDC, the Deputy General Secretary, Mr Koku Anyidoho denied knowledge of the any such group, but said. “Azorka is the chairman of the NDC in the Northern Region and with the right to move to any constituency in Ghana. If he moves around with an entourage, that does not make it a party vigilante group. Similarly, the National Organizer of the NPP, Mr John Boadu, said the party would not disband its security group because state security had looked on while NPP officials were attacked by hooligans in the Chereponi and the Akwatia by-elections and that it was in the interest of the NPP to keep its internal security forces to protect party members.

While this kind of statements from the two parties must be condemned in no uncertain terms, it must be said the decisiveness by the police in dealing with such matters could increase public confidence in order to avoid vigilante groups. It is however regrettable to say that those who were in possession of offensive weapons were properly identified for purposes of further investigations and possible prosecution.

Increasing Number of Violence Flash Points and the Election Security Task Force

Ghana went into the 2012 elections with about 1,000 potential violence flashpoints throughout the country, where some form of political violence was expected based on the previous experience in those areas. The country emerged from that election unscathed and remains among a few African countries that have not experienced any form of large-scale violence or civil war since independence in March 1957. However, threat analysis done by the Ghana Police ahead of the 2016 elections revealed over 81 constituencies that contains 5,003 out of existing 26,002 as potential hotspots as against about 3,574 in 2012. Even more scary is the revelation by the Minister of Interior, Prosper Bani, that out of the 2.3 million weapons circulating in the country, only 1.2 million have been captured on the police database. This leaves about 1.1 million unlicensed weapons in the possession of civilians in the country https://www.modernghana.com/news/703389/gun-proliferation-not-linked-to-election-dr-aning.html.

The just ended biometric voter registration exercise also recorded pockets of violent acts committed by thugs and macho men to cause violence and intimidate potential registrants in some strong holds with attacks on even EC officers for instance at Suhum over voter transfer brawl . Further, the revelation by the communications Officer of the governing National Democratic Congress (NDC) in the Asunafo South constituency of the Brong Ahafo Region, that over 250 guns are in the possession of the supporters of both the NDC and New Patriotic Party (NPP), Ghana risks being plunged into violence in the December 7 general polls, if adequate measure are not put in place to counter the threats. https://www.modernghana.com/news/704017/election-2016-in-ghana-youth-beware-of-violent-conflict-e.html.graphic.com.gh/news/politics/election-2012-1-000-flash-points-identified-nationwide.html

Acting swiftly on this early warning signal, the National Commission for Civic Education, as part of their Constitutional mandate of developing programs and creating awareness among the citizenry of their civic rights and responsibilities has from September, started a nationwide workshop in 40 selected flashpoint districts across the country within which most of these constituencies fall. Financially supported by the European Commission, I believe this initiative will sensitize the populace on their patriotic responsibility to put Ghana first in all things; being vigilante in their communities and reporting to the police, any deviant activity by a group or individual which poses threat to peace and security.

 List of violent-prone constituencies ahead of polls

 Lawra, Jirapa, Wa Central  Builsa South, Navrongo Central, Bolgatanga Central, Zebilla, Bawku Central  

Walewal, Gushegu, Tolon, Sagnarigu North, Tamale Central, Tamale South, Sagnarigu East, Yendi, Bimbilla, Wulensi, Salaga North, Salaga South

 Tain, Berekum West, Berekum East, Techiman Sout, AtebubuAmanti, Sene West, Sene East  Ahafo Ano, Offinso South, Mampong, Kumawu, Bantama, Nhyiaeso, Manhyia North, Manhyia South, Suame, Asokwa, Asawase, Asante Akim Central, New Edubiase  

Nkawkaw, Akwatia, Suhum, New Juaben, New Juaben South, Akwapim South


Nkwanta South, Hohoe

Ho Central


Keku South


Ningo-Prampram, Tema Central, Tema West, Madina, Amasaman, Ayawaso East, Ayawaso Central, Okaikwei Central, Ablekuma West, Odododiodio, Weija Gbawe


Awutu Senya, Awutu Senya, Assin Central

Assin South Mfantseman Cape Coast South, Cape Coast

 Shama, Takoradi, Kwesimintim, Sekondi, Tarkwa-Nsuaem, Prestea Huni Valley, Jomoro Sefwi Wiawso, Bia West


A National Election Security Task Force (NESTF) and a Technical Committee (TC) mandated to ensure peaceful, free and fair elections for Ghana. The establishment of the NESTF is meant to nullify or neutralize the flash points such that it will not pose any danger to us. The NESTF which has been replicated in all the regions has the responsibility to deal with undesirable incidents such as shooting, ballot box snatching, vandalisation of property and other acts of violence. It is expected that the presence of the NESTF would provide the right platform to deal with all security issues in a coordinated manner before they degenerate into bigger national problems. Replicated in the other nine regions with each regional and district heads providing a number of personnel who will serve on the various technical sub-committees at the national task force. The members of the committee were drawn from; the Ghana Police Service, the Immigration Service, the Prisons Service, the Fire Service, the Bureau of National Investigations(BNI). The rest are the Electoral Commission, the Information Services Department and the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO). The NESTF is divided into Transport and Logistics, Deployment and rapid response to situations and the upkeep of all electoral materials.


Ghana’s experiences in election management has received international acclaim. Ahead of the 2016 elections adequate preparation has been put in place to deal with the new threat level. There has been increase efforts from the international community and CSOs to deal with the challenges in order to achieve peace. Some citizens have pledged to protect the peace. But perhaps the best approach to ensuring peace polls in the 2016 elections is to pay equal attention to all polling stations in the quest to ensure incident- free process. There is therefore the need for collaboration of all citizens in order to achieve peace before, during and after the elections.


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