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UN warns Ghana over threat of mercenaries, vigilante groups

Ghana’s peace may be threatened by the influx of private security companies, a UN expert group on mercenaries has warned, calling on authorities to introduce tougher measures to regulate the industry.

It said the situation has been exacerbated by the spread of vigilante groups and armed individuals.

“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,” Patricia Arias, a member of the group, said.

The expert group carried out a research from December 8 – 15 in Ghana but is yet to come out with its full report.

“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,” one of the members, Anton Katz, said on the portal of UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner.

The group was alarmed that despite laws to regulate the private security industry, the number of companies operating vis-a-vis the police is overwhelming.

According to official figures, 400 security firms employing around 450,000 people are operating in the country.

The situation is more dangerous as a result of the proliferation of small arms.

“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,” said Ms. Arias.

“Combating these threats effectively now can prevent potential tensions and conflicts that may open the door to mercenary activities.”

Ms Arias added: “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.”

“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.”

‘Foot soldiers’

The working group, which will present a full report to the Human Rights Council in 2018, said political vigilante groups referred to as ‘foot soldiers’ are posing a threat to national security.

These groups were becoming difficult to manage, particularly during election periods, and had sometimes acted in violent mobs, even disrupting a court case and freeing the defendants, the delegation said.

The group, however, commended government for the “exemplary” record in adopting laws that promoted, respected and protected human rights and urged full implementation.

By Emmanuel Kwame Amoh|3news.com|Ghana

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