COVID-19 lockdown defiance, public ‘indiscipline’, and criminalisation of vulnerable populations in Ghana

Festival Godwin Boateng, Saviour Kusi and Samuel Ametepey

Article history:
Received: 27 December, 2020
Accepted: 25 November, 2021


Behavioural economics has provided much source of inspiration for public policy in the COVID-19 era. Such is evidently the state of discussion in Ghana, where Ghanaians' so-called stubborn resistance to positive behavioural change is increasingly the target of public and popular criticisms. This paper argues that further to legitimising the police violence and extrajudicial sanctions meted out to ‘undisciplined’ violators of the restrictions, the indiscipline narrative leaps too quickly from an account of the personal morality/attitudes of Ghanaians to the collective action of mass-defiance of the restrictions without taking adequate account of the range of structural constraints that made it difficult for the majority of the people to comply with the restrictions. The mass defiance of the restrictions is best understood in the context of the unequal outcomes of the broader policy processes and practices, and the historical-institutional power dynamics around them that put some people in criminogenic situations in the country. It is important that media and policy analyses of public defiance of the restrictions and social problems in the country generally move beyond the simplistic notion of indiscipline to dissect how deliberate bias against the needs of the majority operates, and is institutionalised in policy and practice in ways that undermine their commitment to rules and regulations.

Political economy; Africa; critical postcolonial institutional theory

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