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Opinions of Friday, 26 February 2016

Columnist: Africanus Owusu-Ansah

The Kintampo carnage

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow’r

And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave

Awaits alike th’ inevitable hour;-

The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

Elegy written in a Country Churchyard

Thomas Gray

IN DAYS OF YORE or IN BYGONE DAYS,we had Twi language textbooks: ‘Kan Me Hwe’ (could be translated as: ‘Read Me and See’). I recall reading about an uncle travelling from the village to the city and the expectations of goodies on his return: “Wofa him ne nsa , Kofi hin ne nsa, Amma him ne nsa, wohwee wofa atiko, wofa atiko adom”. Wofa would return with toffees and biscuits for the kids.

Among the people travelling on the Metro Mass Transit that had the horrible accident at Kintampo last week Wednesday were some on whom other people depended – great expectations. But like Pip in Charles Dickens ‘s ‘Great Expectations’, these were expectations that would never be realised. The expectations would include: gifts of toffee, biscuits and bread. Their benefactor had taken a journey of no return. The harrowing aspects of the Kintampo accidents were captured in the following words: “Pictures coming from the Kintampo accident are heartbreaking, especially those of the innocent kids whose remains were arranged on a mortuary trolley awaiting autopsy”. (DAILY GUIDE editorial: Saturday, February 20, 2016).

Kintampo captures the imagination and fancy of historians, geographers and literary scholars. Historians may recall the movements of the earlier settlers, as well as the administrative role of the town in the colonial days. Geographers will tell you stories about the marvelous waterfall and the equidistance of the town from Paga and Accra respectively. It is, arguably, the heart of Ghana, and most suited to be Ghana’s future capital – just as Cape Coast was the capital of the Gold Coast in the 19th Century, being shifted to Accra in the latter part of the 1800s. Literary scholars may capture the alluring landscape and the scenic beauty of the environment and spin these in delectable verses in prose and poetry.

The Metro Mass Transit Company is said to have instituted an investigation into the accident. While we await the report of the committee, certain facts remain undisputable and are worth pondering over. The Bolgatanga bound MMT bus which left Kumasi that fateful Wednesday afternoon had developed faulty brakes at Techiman which was said to have been repaired by the driver.

The problem created by the faulty brakes at Techiman recurred on reaching Kintampo, and on reaching the Kintampo Waterfalls area, the bus hit a cow, and then ran into a cargo truck when the driver swerved to avoid a collision with a fuel tanker. Such a collision could have been avoided if the bus was not speeding.

The mutilated bodies of the dead were collected onto trucks, taxis, vans and any other available vehicle to the Kintampo Government hospital and nearby hospitals. Some of the survivors were airlifted to the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) and Sunyani Regional Hospital for intensive care.

. The whole accident scene was painted red with the splittered and splintered tomatoes covered with a hob nob of broken wooden boxes and pieces of metals—a sad spectacle of debris for a well intended journey.

The reports had been silent on ambulances conveying the dead and living, thus confirming reports that the Kintampo Government Hospital lacked an ambulance.

A delegation of the government went to the accident scene. This ‘high-powered’ delegation included. Honorable Fiavi Kwetey, the Minister of Transport, Honorable Alhaji Collins Dauda, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Honorable Eric Opoku, the Brong Ahafo Regional Minister; Mr John Kudalor, the Inspector General of Police; Dr Albert brown- Gaise, the Chief Fire Officer

The irony of the situation is that just a week or so earlier, Honorable the Minister of Health had declared that some thirty or so ambulances imported by his Ministry lacked the accoutrements that would pass them for description as ‘ambulance’. So, how were the vehicles imported into the country? Did they pass through the processes laid down in the Procurement Act? So many questions: no reliable answers.

The Kintampo Accident has broken the hearts of many a Ghanaian; all are tempted to ask many questions, some technical, some mundane some spiritual and some simply pedestrian. A survivor of the accident threw in a spiritual dimension: he declared that he was carrying human parts. He had shown these to the driver who had done the essential rights for a safe passage. But is it true that other passengers on the bus were carrying human parts of their dead relatives being carried to the north for burial and other funeral rites. But, assuming there were, how did they affect the technical structure and stability of the bus?

Alhaji Dauda, the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development gave the assurance that government would pick up the medical bills of the injured. One is reminded that the “National Road Safety Commission” was established to curtail the number of accidents in the country; but so many years after its establishment, we still continue to write about blood letting on our highways”. What do we do to ensure sanity and stop this haunting carnage on our roads?

Nana Akomea, speaking for the New Patriotic Party, suggests as a pragmatic measure, the need for “a policy to require mandatory installation of speed alarms in all long distance passenger buses. The loud warning alarm which would sound any time a driver goes beyond an agreed limit would check speeding in long distance passenger buses and hence reduce avoidable accidents.” In a press statement, the NPP Communications Director stated: “The spate of horrendous, tragic vehicular accidents on the nation’s roads has caused immense sorrow to many families and the nation at large.

“One such recent accident occurred at the Winneba Junction, when a passenger bus whilst engaged in overtaking, ran head long into a tipper truck. Over a dozen Ghanaians lost their lives instantly in this accident. Just last Wednesday, 17th February, at Kintampo, a passenger bus, also in an attempt to overtake, ran headlong into a cargo truck. Over 60 Ghanaians have so far lost their lives in this accident.”

“According to one survivor, the driver of the passenger bus was speeding recklessly. The pictures and footage from these accidents have drawn shock and tears from many Ghanaians. The common thread in these tragic accidents has mainly been reckless driving, manifest in over speeding by drivers of long distance passenger buses.”

“One pragmatic measure that has long been advocated and agreed is the need for a policy to require mandatory installation of speed alarms in all long distance passenger buses…. Government should immediately initiate processes to legislate this policy to make it mandatory for all long distance passenger vehicles to be fitted with speed alarms. This will be the best way ensuring that those who have died at Kimtampo would not have died in vain.” We do not want to hear of such a story again!”