Commissioner of Police (COP) Alex George Mensah, one of the senior police officers at the centre of the alleged plot to oust the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Dr George Akufo Dampare, was the Director-General of Operations during the violence-plagued Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election in 2019.
COP Alex George Mensah deployed the police officers and played a supervisory role during the bloody election that got dozens of people injured.
He, however, denied knowing the masked National Security personnel who caused mayhem at La-Bawaleshie during the by-election.
By a twist of fate, COP Mensah is again the man at the centre of another election-related controversy which is being investigated by an ad hoc parliamentary committee chaired by Samuel Atta Akyea, the MP for Abuakwa South. The committee is investigating a leaked audio tape in which senior police officers were allegedly plotting with a former Northern Regional Chairman of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP), Bugri Naabu, to remove the IGP from office.
COP George Alex Mensah doing the most (speaking) after the Ayawaso West Wuogon by election violence. He was then the Director of Operations of Ghana Police Service. pic.twitter.com/hPkhHSw521
— James Agyenim-Boateng (@jagyenim) September 1, 2023
When he appeared before the committee earlier, Mr Naabu admitted to recording the audio in which the discussants claimed it would be difficult for the NPP to win the 2024 election if Dr Dampare remains in office. Dr Dampare was appointed in August 2021.
The Deputy minority leader in Parliament, Emmanuel Armah Kofi Buah, said that the audio was recorded when the veteran politician met the senior police officers to discuss the outcome of the Assin North by-election, and how the IGP did not lead efforts to assist the NPP. The opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) candidate, James Gyakye Quayson, won that election.
When COP Mensah took his turn before the committee on Thursday, August 31, 2023, he admitted to saying in the audio recording that some form of collusive syndicate was needed in elections.
When Mr. Agalga asked him to clarify what he meant on the leaked tape that elections were about “mafia work”, COP Mensah denied ever saying that.
He explained that in elections, there was always some Mafia work that was employed to undermine successful elections.
“During elections, if you don’t provide the needed security for people to come out and vote peacefully, and you allow people to come and disturb, to come and snatch boxes at your strongholds, then you are ending in opposition.”
He also alleged that the leaked tape had been doctored.
In the leaked audio, COP Mensah, who told the committee that he was a sympathiser of the NPP, is heard saying:
“This current IGP if we do a mistake and take him to the elections, it will not help us. It will not help us at all, and I will not mind if the position is not given to me, but that man is changed because he will not help us. He will not help us at all… he won’t help the party [NPP] at all.”
COP Mensah told the committee that he had been lobbying since 2017 to become IGP. He was of the view that the current IGP was not managing the Police Service well.
“Dampare is not managing the Police Service well and the majority of police officers are not happy. You can call the police officers underground and they will tell you,” he claimed
COP Mensah is expected to retire from the Police Service this month after serving for 31 years.
Explaining his reason for the secret recording, Bugri Naabu told the committee that “they are coming to tell me to go and tell the President something that they know what they are saying. And it is either I don’t go to tell the President and then, I and my party suffer for it, and if I also go to talk to the President, it is good to tell him the right thing. Since I cannot keep everything, they were telling me at that point, it was very good to record. I know the President that if I go and tell him something, and it turns not to be true, next time he won’t give me respect. (sic)”
The role of COP Alexander George Mensah in the Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election
The Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election in January 2019 led to the injury of more than six people believed to be supporters of the opposition NDC. The NPP’s candidate Lydia Seyram Alhassan won the seat.
When National Security Operatives fired gunshots and assaulted citizens at a polling centre at La-Bawaleshie, voters queuing to vote and personnel from the Electoral Commission had to flee for safety. The voting process was suspended.
The NDC MP for Ningo-Prampram, Sam George, was assaulted by a national security operative when he questioned their conduct.
The government established a commission, chaired by a former Commissioner of CHRAJ, Emile Short, to investigate the altercations.
COP Alex Mensah denied claims that the masked armed men involved in the violent activities during the Ayawaso West Wuogon constituency by-election included members of the Police SWAT team under him.
“I will be surprised that the masked armed men were members of the Police’s SWAT team.
“I saw the footage of the armed masked men in brown uniforms and didn’t know who they were, because I am not aware that the election taskforce included operatives of National Security,” he told the Emile Short Commission of Inquiry on February 15, 2019.
He also claimed that the vehicles used by these armed masked men were not owned by the Police, although videos show Police logos on them.
“The vehicle seen in the footage being used by the masked armed men is not under my fleet. Ever since I took over, I have not seen that kind of vehicle.”
His claims were contrary to the submission of the Minister of National Security, Albert Kan Dapaah. Mr Dapaah told the commission that 25 armed police officers were part of the 60 uniformed and masked security operatives who went on a ‘special operation’ within the constituency.
Apart from other critical voices who condemned the invasion of the electoral centre at La -La-Bawalashie, the Electoral Commission also chided the security operation around the election, which COP George Mensah supervised, calling it unprofessional.
“Finally, during the recent by-election, it is noted that the security officers should have better handled the clashes which occurred in the home of the NDC candidate than they did,” then spokesperson of the EC, Eric Kofi Dzakpasu said.
The Speaker of Parliament, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, last month set up a special seven-member committee to probe the alleged leaked audio containing a plan to remove the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Dr George Akuffo Dampare, from office.
The decision to form the committee comes as a response to a demand by the Minority caucus in Parliament. The NDC MPs called for a thorough forensic audit to determine the authenticity and credibility of the leaked tape.
Former Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, said the attempt to remove the IGP and the discussion about the 2024 elections must be of concern to Parliament.
“It boils down to the security of this country, and it is important that this House knows the authenticity of that leaked tape,” he said.