The Member of Parliament (MP) for Kwadaso Constituency in the Ashanti Region, Dr. Kingsley Nyarko has thrown a challenge to Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) to always have the rights of vagrants in mind when enforcing their bye-laws.
Dr. Nyarko expressed concern that the rights of poor and vulnerable citizens are often abused by local assemblies in the implementation of their bye-laws.
According to him, the poor and needy in their daily struggle for economic survival, end up violating the laws out of ignorance.
The MP expressed these concerns while addressing participants at a sensitization workshop organized by Crime Check Foundation (CCF) on the bye-laws of the Kwadaso Municipal Assembly (KwaMA), in Kumasi.
The event is part of the implementation of CCF’s Decriminalizing Vagrancy Laws and Advocacy (DVLA) project which aims at increasing citizens’ knowledge on the bye-laws of the MMDAs and other relevant penal codes to reduce violations, arrests, fines, and imprisonment of citizens under the laws.
When achieved, the objective will foster an enabling environment for ‘vagrants’; made of the homeless, street hawkers, head porters, vendors, truck pushers, market women, artisans, and other identifiable and vulnerable groups to know, claim and exercise their rights and responsibilities in Ghana.
The project is funded by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA).
In view of the DVLA project objective, the MP for Kwadaso acknowledged that it is a direct response to a ruling on ‘vagrancy laws’ by the African Court on Human and People’s Rights’ on vagrancy laws on 4th December, 2020 which stipulates that imprisonment of vagrants constitutes an abuse of their right.
Dr. Kingsley Nyarko therefore reminded the MMDAs to provide an enabling environment for citizens to prevent them, especially vagrants from engaging in acts that breach the bye-laws.
“It is a fact that you arrest people who break the laws. It is also true that most of the Assemblies have not been able to provide dustbins, toilet facilities and other needs of citizens. It is therefore important for Assemblies to work harder because vehicles knock down citizens, people sell on the streets because there is no market and they are arrested, fined and imprisoned,” he added.
Participants at the workshop were made up of representatives of Traditional Authorities, market women, head porters, truck pushers, sanitation workers, local chapter of Federation of Disability Organizations, and other identifiable groups.
Meanwhile, the Municipal Environmental and Health Officer, Rev Wisdom Kudjoe took the participants through relevant sections of the bye-laws in the Kwadaso Municipal Assembly (KwaMA).
On his part, the Municipal Chief Executive for KwaMA, Richmond Agyenin Boateng commended CCF for project on the sensitisation of vagrants on the bye-laws “end imprisonment under laws, improve protection of human rights and reduce prison congestion as well as poverty.”
While commending the CCF and OSIWA the Municipal Coordinating Director of the Assembly, Madam Rodalyn Pondua, said it is important the sensitisation program is decentralized to the community and zonal Council levels to reach more people.
The Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), established in 2000, is a grant-making and advocacy organization focused on equality, justice, democratic governance, human rights, and knowledge generation. It is part of the global network of Open Society Foundations spread across 37 countries around the world.
The one-year project will be rolled out in 12 metropolitan assemblies in three regions: Greater Accra, Ashanti, and Central.
It will sensitize 1200 vagrants about their rights and responsibilities to prevent any misunderstandings with the assemblies.
Monitoring and Evaluation
To monitor the progress and effectiveness of the Decriminalizing Vagrancy Laws and Advocacy project, a contact centre will be created after the sensitization to address the concerns of vagrants at the partnering organization, Crime Check Foundation.
The project will run from May 2021 to May 2022.
By Sefakor Fekpe