Full account of Kan Dapaah at Emile Short’s commission
Q: Are you aware of reported incidents of violence that took place at the Ayawaso West Wuogon Constituency on the 31st January, 2019 during a by-election?
A: I myself was not in the country at the time, but I have been briefed.
Q: And more specifically, are you aware of the shooting incident that took place in the said constituency?
A: Yes, I have been told of the incident near one of the polling stations in the constituency.
Q. Are you also aware of another incident in which a Member of Parliament is alleged to have been assaulted?
A: Yes, I have been briefed, and I have also seen it on television.
Q: Now, as the Minister for National Security have you been given any additional report?
A: Yes, please I have had series of meetings with members of the National Security and
members of the SWAT team.
Q: In this regard are you in the position to share with this commission what this report says?
A: Mr Chairman, there is a special unit at the Ministry for National Security; SWAT team they call it, and I want to say that it is not a recent creation. It has been part of the structure of the national security for years.
It has uniformed policemen and I am told there were occasions where there were uniformed military men and also uniformed men from the Immigration Service. They also have some National Security operatives who assist them in the discharge of their work. In recent times, since we have been there, the team is made up of policemen and some National Security operatives.
I believe the number of policemen that we have today is about 25 of them.
But, as I said, there has always been a SWAT team. The National Security operatives that supported are part of National Security operatives that we employ.
We have about 1,000 men of such operatives, and they are all over the country. They do some guard duties. There are some at the airport and various government offices, and there are hundreds of them at the national security headquarters that help the police to undertake patrol activities in the night and in the day when the need arises.
On that very Thursday, the SWAT team, I am advised, deployed 60 men, comprising 25 police men and 35 National Security operatives.
They were under the command of a Deputy Superintendent of Police, and for this operation, I am told they acted based on intelligence report that there were weapons hidden within the constituency where the by-election was taking place, so they mounted surveillance around the place so that they can stop the use of the weapons and retrieve them if possible.
They went there to find out that that building happened to be a building which was being used as the operational headquarters for the NDC aspiring candidate, so when they got there they realised that some caution was needed before they were accused of having broken into the house of one of the parliamentary candidates.
So they were in the area watching how things would develop. While in the vicinity, they encountered honorable Sam George of the NDC, who came in a car that, I am told, also carried the Deputy Women’s Organiser of the NDC and another lady. They had been driven away from the polling station where they were escorted by 15 people on motorbikes, and this was in defiance of the intra-party agreement that no motorbikes should be taken to the polling station, so there was a little bit of confusion at that polling station, and we are told that it took the intervention of an elder statesman, the honorable Okoe Vanderpuje, who talked Sam George and Sam George left the polling station with the people on motorbikes.
Honourable Chair, my information was that when they left the polling station, they all rushed into that house which was under surveillance. When the SWAT team later attempted to go closer to the house, the inmates started pelting them with stones, and later they also said they heard gunshots coming from within the compound of the house. Our boys then gave some six warning shots, which, they tell me, did not hit anybody, but obviously, I await the end of the investigation to find out exactly what happened and how many shots they fired, and whether it did hit somebody.
For now, the Commander tells me that one person had a gunshot wound, but whether it was a gunshot wound or not, we can only wait for the investigation and find out. They believe that that shot did not come from the warning shots that they gave, but probably the one from within the compound. They do not even remember seeing any such person on the ground, and that the person who was shot came from that compound, but all these things, Honorable Chair, we would find out after the end of the investigations.
We have also been asked about another incident where an MP was assaulted.
I am told that after the first incident, and when they had been dispersed but within the vicinity, the honorable member started shouting that somebody has been killed in his residence. That he saw the person being killed all because of by-election. He kept saying so, and, in fact, I have heard him saying that on television as well.
My information is that a member of the SWAT team reminded him that honorable you are causing fear and panic; it is not true that anybody died at that incident, we were there; you are causing fear and panic and you should stop that.
Apparently, the honorable MP did not take kindly to that, [and] went towards the place where the operative was standing. The operative also met him halfway, and I understand he was hit by the operative.
I want also to emphasise that all those who were in uniform are regular policemen and officers. That there was no member who belongs to the National Security who was in police uniform.
The SWAT team at the National Security Headquarters has some vehicles allocated to them for their day-to-day use. Some of them come from the police and are painted in police colours and some are not painted, they belong to the National Security,but they are available for the SWAT team to use as and when necessary.
We are also told that they had covered their faces. This is nothing new. These same operatives,Honourable Chairman, in the past have displayed openly during national Independence Day celebration when security agencies come to display with their weapons and equipment. These boys normally go there as part of the display. When they go, they are dressed no differently than they were dressed when they took this operation. So, they have always been part of the SWAT team. From the way they operate, they take instructions from the police, and, as I said, they are not allowed to hold weapons. If, indeed, somebody who is not a uniformed policeman and member of the SWAT team did use any weapon, that will go against the normal rules of engagement, and that should call for sanctions.
Q: Honourable, by operatives are you referring to the masked men in brown uniform seen on the day?
A: Again, I am not sure who was masked and who wasn’t. I asked that question and I was told that some of the uniformed policemen also had the mask on. So it was not only the operatives, if you like call them civilian operatives, who were in mask on that day. That is the information I have been given by the Commander.
Q: Honorable these civilian operatives are they officially part of our security arrangement?
A: These civilians have been part of the national security architecture for year. It’s not something that has recently been created.
Q: Are they properly trained?
A: They are properly trained for the work that they do. Most of the 1,000 people provide guard duties. They have been given some training. About hundred of them are normally kept in the headquarters to assist the police when they go out on patrol duties. They have been given such training as is necessary to be able to provide support. But, remember, they don’t go out carrying guns and they do not undertake operations on their own, it must be commanded by the Commander, and it must be with the uniformed policemen.
Q: Honourable, you have been emphatic that the uniformed men were police officers, am I right?
Q: Now are you aware that the Director in charge of Operations of the police on the day denied knowledge of these men?
A: I heard it, I asked him and his response was that “I had just gotten out of my car when the media men asked me whether I knew the people, and he said I don’t even know the people that you are referring to.” So when he said he didn’t know the people they were referring to, he was only saying the rationale thing. I had just gotten out of my car; I need to know the people you are referring to before I can make any such comments.
Q: Honorable, would you be surprised if I should tell you that this commission, this morning, has been told that according to the IGP, he was not aware of the presence of the masked men in brown uniform, would you be surprised?
A: If by the masked men you mean the SWAT team, temporarily I can understand where he is coming from, or by the masked men probably the SWAT team.
So, let me tell you why that can possibly arise. The system today has been that a unit, and as I say, comprising of 25 policemen and one police officer, are assigned toNational Security. The Commander does not take instructions from the Director of Operations of the Ghana Police Service (GPS). Therefore, it is possible that that team will undertake an operation unknown to the Director of Operations of the GPS, that has been the system all these years. I have heard it questioned whether we should probably not think about the possibility of getting the SAWT team commander reporting on [a] daily basis to the Director General of Operations instead of to the Director of Operations at the National Security Council.
Q: Now has it come to your attention that some of these security operatives, as you describe them, were actually stationed at polling stations, and that they had guns which were visible to the whole world.
A: That’s strange; that is news to me, and I cannot understand the possibility of something like this. If they are using guns, they would be guns that would have been issued to them at the National Security Headquarters. They have not done anything. My advice is that they did not issue any such weapons, it will be very, very odd, they didn’t.
Q: You have admitted this morning before this commission that some of the operatives in the house of a candidate had to shoot warning shots, and now you are also saying that these operatives do not willed guns, if I may ask, who shot this warning shots?
A: The team that I referred to comprised 25 uniformed policemen, each one of them had a weapon, and 35 operatives, none of them had a weapon, and, therefore, the civilian operatives could not have fired a shot. If a shot was fired, and, I have said that my information was that six warning shots were fired by the SWAT team, they were all fired by uniformed policemen.
Q: Now, you have indicated to this commission that their presence was upon a tip-off of weaponry hiding in a particular house am I right?
A: Yes, I said so.
Q: Okay, and you agree with me that we have had several elections in this country be it by-elections or general elections or any other elections, you agree with me, don’t you?
A: Yes, I do.
Q: That never have we had the presence of such men at any of the polling stations?
A: Well, not necessarily so, one cannot say with certainty that the SWAT team has never been used in any election, I don’t think that can be right.
Q: Let me be more specific, security operatives wearing masks, obviously disguising their identity, have never been used at elections, am I right?
A: If ever some operatives have been used at a polling station, I am sure they would have been less in the past.
Q: Do I take it that you can neither confirm nor deny?
A: No, I cannot confirm or deny that there has never been the involvement of the SWAT team in any of the elections, and please, it is also important to emphasise that this team did not go there because of a by-election.They didn’t go for by-election duties. By-election security is provided by the police. This team was there because they had intelligence that there were weapons in a particular building, and if at the end of the investigations, if it turns out that shots came from within that compound, it will only go to prove that they were right in deciding to mount the surveillance that they did. They weren’t there because of the by-election.
Q: Honorable, would you also agree with me that the presence of these masked men was likely to have intimidated voters and probably cause some people not to vote?
A: The place where the incident took place was, my lord, not a polling station. The house wasn’t a polling station, and their being around that vicinity couldn’t have frightened anybody. Please get it right, they were not there as part of the security provided by the state for the by-election, no that’s not true per the brief or information that was given to me.
Q: There is this general belief in this country, and that actually forms a conversation going around, that this group of people, described as security operators, are actually part of a vigilante group within the NPP, what do you have to say about that?
A: Definitely not true.If the suggestion is that included in the operatives are people who normally belong to a particular vigilante group, that would be surprising. If some of them in the past have participated in some vigilante groups that probability could be possible, but Mr Chairman, it is important to know about these political vigilante groups that we have in the party. There isn’t one vigilante group that belongs to one political party. The Center for Democratic Development (CDD) had just come out with a study which establishes that these vigilante groups are owned by some individuals within the political parties, so the NPP hasn’t got a vigilante group per say, there are vigilante groups that, probably, people associate with them, but if you go in you will find out that these are not vigilante groups of the party.
Q: Now, on the subject of vigilante groups in the country, you, being a Minister in charge of security, in the country, are you aware of the presence of vigilante groups in the country?
A: Honorable Chairman, not just that I am aware, but it constitutes one of my greatest challenges. If you ask me to list on the National Security challenges that we have in the country, that will be found among the very top ones, which is why, in my opening statement, I said three days before this particular incident, I had spoken at a roundtable conference organised by the Peace Council and had expressed my concerns about the situation, and have warned Ghanaians that unless we find the solution to the political vigilantism, our democracy will continue to be under threat. And, in fact, even before this incident, I also arranged for the political class, religious groups and academia, and the security and intelligent agencies; we have all planned and, in fact, your Executive Secretary was there as an academician who has been known to have studied this particular problem; we all met, and the conclusion was the belief from all of us that if ever there is a serious challenge to the future of our democracy, it will come from this. Boko Haram started as a religious vigilante group, and today,look at where they have advanced to. The whole of the Nigerian security forces are unable to conquer them. We know what vigilantism did in places like Rwanda, Jamaica; we need to be able to stop this thing called vigilantism.
Q:Very wellhonourable, having identified the danger vigilantism poses to our society, given the conviction to find solutions, specifically what have you done?What measures have you put in place to get raid of vigilantism in our country?
A: Security agencies have been given firm instructions that vigilantism is a crime and that anybody who indulges in it should be punished as per the laws of this country. The President has given specific instructions to the IGP on this matter. I have also given similar instructions to the intelligent agencies that I control. When we organised the retreat at Peduase, it was all in search of finding a lasting solution to this.