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Opinions of Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Columnist: Abdul-Yekin, Ali Abdul

The reign of democratic terror in Ghana

The people of Nima, in East Ayawaso constituency of Ghana, embarked on a peaceful demonstration with the sole purpose of establishing the truth from falsehood. The noble effort was sadly met by police brutality that left bad memories in the heart and mind of our youths. The demonstrators consisted of all ages and sex numbering about thousand-two hundred (1,200).
The reason for the demonstration is a gutter that runs from the Kanda Highway to the Nima High Way, covering a distance of about 250 meters. The demonstrators have hardly got themselves together at the location of concern, to begin the noble act of patriotism, when the contingent of police turned up to brutally disperse them from the location.
The gutter in question is popularly called Nima Gutter. It is indeed an eye sore as one hardly goes through Nima without being attracted to the large gully of wasted land filled with all kind of filth, within which run a lean snake-like dark liquid of stinking disease. Nima as a community is majorly a slum, where almost every house is built of mud. The nature of the community also makes it a densely populated area, as migrants from all parts of Ghana and West Africa; find it a place to start a life in the capital. Nima therefore has a link to all part of Ghana as most people from outside Accra who ended up in the corridors of power, have link with Nima. It is being rumoured that President John Dramani Mahama’s father once lived in Nima, when he first migrated to Accra where Nkrumah met him to make him a minister. It is also not news that Nana Addo’s father lived in Nima where he had a house and gave birth to the current opposition leader. It is sad we do not keep documentary record of these things but, we have enough oral evidence.
The population density of this Ghanaian Diasporas and the clustered nature of the house in Nima, placed the community in great disadvantage. Mosquitoes breed almost everywhere. The exposed water running from the households to their various destinations, are enough a threat as breeding mediums for mosquitoes. Most of these running waters end up in the poorly managed Nima Gutter water body.
The poorly managed land on which water from Thirty Seven and Kawo Kudi areas run, has eaten into the adjoining lands, creating very large wasted space. The unprotected land has always been the victim of heavy rain water overflowing the banks, on the way to Odor Ona, through Circle. The result is a very large space that lay idle most part of the year. The space has become a dumping ground of any imaginable waste. Animal and human body parts are daily sight at this location. This space has become a very good breeding ground for the mosquito population, in addition to those breeding from other sources. The kind of household and bio waste that find their way to the location, also sustain all sorts of insects and diseases. Insects like wild cockroaches, killer bedbugs, giant flies and deadly ants, migrate daily into surrounding houses, where they reproduced themselves, with the only mission of infecting the human population. It is also important that rats and rodents of all nature employ this wild isolated space to breed and transmit all sorts of infections into the human population. Above all is the stench that oozes from the location to miles away, polluting the fresh air breath in other parts of Accra.
It is very important to mention that yes, the people of Nima are very poor but the densely populated nature of the area spanning across very huge land space, means strength in revenue generation as tax to the state/ the local authority and a heavy weight in voting power, at election.
This unfortunate act of community negligent by the state of Ghana or the Local Authority in charge of the area, is not just causing the state of Ghana huge amount in health care cost, it also causes the state in man-hour. Sick people only consume without producing and if such a large population is left to this kind of fate, then it is indeed a serious thing to those who know what is happening. The slogan that “a healthy population translates into healthy national wealth” seems not to be sensible to some people in our leadership positions, who are suppose to know better.
The concerns around this Nima Gutter have been there for a very long time and the cheap excuse employ by those responsible for doing something about the situation has been given as, “the people of Nima like it the way it is”. There have been several rumours in the community that the government of Ghana and the local authority, have made several attempts to pave roads between the inaccessible houses and repair the Nima Gutter but the people of Nima have raise against this noble effort.
Ironically, the concern on having something done about this same eye sore was the basis on which the people of Nima committed their mandate to those seeking votes from them, to win elections. The people of Nima are very sincere in their democratic commitment and vote for those they trusted. The youths of Nima recalled the late President of the Republic of Ghana John Atta Mills inaugurating the commencement of work on the “dead River”, before his sudden death, as he prepare himself for the 2012 election. Most of us also remembered when our Member of Parliament (MP) of the area, before the creation of new additional constituencies, Dr. Mustapha Mohammed started some work on the gutter. Our hopes got increased further when our MP at the time got appointed as the deputy minister for works and housing of Ghana. In fact we believed Professor Mills appointing Dr. Mustapha to the ministerial position, to be the president’s show of appreciation to our commitment to get him into office, as we promised him. Dr. Mustapha in turn did so much to give us the impression that our symbol of disgrace will be a thing of the past. Hon. Dr. Mustapha never shies away from posing as responsible for placing some construction facilities at the location. He did not only give us an impression of work in progress at the sight but made us feel he is personally responsible for the work.
The actions of the President John Atta Mills and the Dr. Mustapha gave us enough convection that the contract for the construction of the gutter has been completed and awarded. We are fully aware that we are tax payers and proud to feel that the revenue by which the contract was awarded, is from part of the resources of the tax collected from Ghanaians. The demonstration was staged by the beneficiaries of the work and was for these few reasons, in addition to those stated above;
First, Article 21 of Chapter Five, of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana under Fundamental Human Right, allowed every Ghanaian the right to public demonstration as part of our democratic effort. Section (1) of these article states, “All persons shall have the right to - (d) freedom of assembly including freedom to take part in processions and demonstrations”. The people of Nima were excising this constitutional right as demonstration is a fundamental condition for democracy to be sustained in any civilized society. The action of the police automatically took away this constitutional right of Ghanaians.
The second issue for which the people of Nima demonstrated was in line with 21, Sec.1, (a) “freedom of speech and expression, which shall include freedom of the press and other media”. All we did was to embark on expressing ourselves within the law, regarding the threats we feel the state of the gutter is posing to our lives. We are aware and are educated enough to know that we are dying from preventable diseases being bred by the Nima Gutter. We were therefore employing the demonstration to counter certain rumour, to get clarification of relieving ourselves of this menace.
Article 21 (1) (f) “information, subject to such qualifications and laws as are necessary in a democratic society” confirmed it us our right to employ civil means to get to the bottom of ambiguous issue.
In support of the above, we are aware of several conflicting information on the construction of the gutter. All we wanted are clarification on issues to allow us have clearer picture on the state of things. We approached our Assembly members on the issues based on the information available to us and they made it clear to us that they are also looking for answers. In fact, our Assembly men were with us and part of the demonstrators in seeking for answers, when the police disperse us off with unimaginable use of force.
It is important to mention that, we approached Hon. Mohammed Nazr who is currently our elected member of parliament (MP) for East Ayawaso Constituency, to provide us with clarification and up to date position on the issue. Mohamed Nazr made it clear to us that he is also not clear on the issue but seeking for answers, since no documentary record on this, were handed over to him on his assumption of office.
After playing the dumb, MP Nazr then joined us to approach Dr. Mustapha who has been part of authenticating all the information on what has been happening on the gutter, for almost 16 years now. Dr. Mustapha, whom we have given our mandate to for the fourth time of sixteen years, could not tell us anything sensible regarding the construction of the Nima Gutter with documentary proof. In fact, all we wanted to know, based on the information we had are; has the contract been truly awarded? Who was it awarded to? When was it awarded and who awarded it?
We had several meetings with Dr. Mustapha and every one of them is characterised by election promises, than the actions that are expected after our mandate has been given on this gutter. The MP that had told us the same lies for sixteen years could not tell us anything different. We have been fooled for sixteen years and our MP saw nothing wrong in singing the same old tune.
Our community and the youths in particular have a lot of issues on this. In fact the issue was about trust and truth. The actions of Dr. Mustapha all along are that of a person who is personally pretending to be responsible for the construction of the Ghana, just to win votes. Placing construction facilities at the location and visiting the facilities like the one awarded with the contract, was very misleading. Mustapha could not tell us whether he was awarded with the contract. Our MP Mohammed Nazr could also not again tell us who was awarded the contract. At this point in time, all we have is MP Nazr feigning ignorant and MP Mustapha behaving elusive.
Our trust in our MPs has become shaky and since no one in our twine constituencies appeared to have answers to our simple questions, we were left with no other option than approaching the Presidency as our last resort.
We are fully aware of our social responsibilities in (a) to (f) of Article 41 of our Constitution. We know everyone is shouting about corruption as the problem of Ghana and have been part of patriotism to raise concerns when need be. We are conscious of the wisdom on which basis our constitution allow us the free will of opting for public demonstrations. We know very well that public demonstration provide a solution to bureaucratic bottle neck, which comes with democracy. We are aware that a demonstration does not have to be violent for us to achieve our objective.
We approached all the media house where we were interviewed on our concerns. The media shared our pains with us and agreed with us that there are needs for answers to most of our concerns. The media sympathize with us and encouraged us with publications and coverage.
We were at Ministry of Works and Housing for clarification on this subject, but that could not lead us anywhere. We asked our MPs to join us on TV and radio discussion but they turned down these invitations as unnecessary. Having decided to resort to demonstration, we approached the police to inform them of our intentions. We know it is very important for our own safety and the safety of the members of the public, to have one or two uniformed police presence.
The Nima Police Station under whose jurisdiction we are and where we were expected to get the police to provide u with personnel, agreed to do so. There was however some technical efforts by the police to frustrate us from exercising our constitutional right. We are mature enough to be aware of state officials employing bureaucracy to sustain falsehood at the expense of truth.
In fairness to our local police force, they were on site giving us the necessary support as we proceed with our demonstration. We were all happy, hoping everything will go on as planned, where answers will be given at the end of the day without any person or property suffering any misfortune.
It is important to mention that the Nima Gutter is a public asset and it is the responsibility of the state to ensure it is safe for human habitation. It is also our duty as inhabitant of the community to bring to the attention of the state to relieve them of this public hazard. All we wanted is for the gutter to be fixed for us to live in a healthy environment for which we pay our tax.
Hardly have we done about twenty maters when another contingent of armed police officers, in armoured vehicle turned up. These ones were not there to support our democracy and clearly it is not part of their discipline. In fact, one could not mistake them with drugged soldiers camouflaging in police uniform. The armed men use an unimaginable force on us as we were unnamed and innocent. We never planned to fight anyone or even thought of defending ourselves, as we were acting within our constitutional right. A lot of our members ended up bleeding from serious wounds and injuries. Many of us suffered internal bleeding and still go about with this. Most ended in hospitals, paying for medical cost despite our inability to even afford decent house to leave in. Some of us are now bed ridden and incapable of going out to fend for their loved ones as a result of our police brutality.
The most painful part is we were beaten by our own police men. We paid our police to ensure that we are not mislead and exploited. We are openly being misled and when we started seeking for answers, our police force feel it is not our place to do that.
Worst still, our police are now reining us before the court of law as criminals, for asking to know why all the promises made to us on the gutter turned out to be lies. The police now decides whether our constitutional right is what we have to observe in a democratic Ghana or the laws made by policemen?
In a democratic environment, our elected members of parliament are supposed to be those making laws for us, while all our police forces had to do is to uphold the laws. Our law makers of East and West Ayawaso Constituencies are now losing their place to the police.
Our law makers are now finding it very difficult to give us convincing answers on the laws they make in parliament and how they are making sure the laws are obeyed by us as well as the police of Ghana. The police are not elected by the people of Ghana to make laws for Ghanaians. The Ghana police like any other institution in Ghana, other the parliament of Ghana, are expected to carry out laws than making laws.
The only one on exceptional circumstances allowed to make emergency laws over the nation, is the President. The President has not publicly declared a state of emergency in Ghana and has not approached the parliament on this subject, as stipulated by the constitution. The police employing bureaucracy to outlaw all demonstration by asking Ghanaians to apply for permit, only to end up frustrating democratic efforts.
Our MPs are now being replaced by our police as our law makers. Our questionable MPs are now doing what they like and banking on the police to step in, when we could no more be fooled.
The police are now acting with impunity while our politicians treat us as animals. The police stepping into peaceful democratic and constitutional activities with heavy handedness are now part of our life. The police easily employ national security to justify their act of brutality and even have the gut to threaten citizens with court action. This strange development is becoming alarming to our understanding of a lawful society, as our society encourages official impunity and resort to heavy handedness when citizens become fed up.
Our evidence of what happened in Malata Market of Accra New-Town is fresh in our minds. The shocking news of our national police brutally gunning down three unarmed youths, in a broad day light under the guise of armed robbers, says a lot about our police force. Those of us who were not satisfied with the credibility of the excuses of the police who investigated themselves, still nurse our concerns. Interesting enough, what our policemen daily do exposes what they understand to be justice. Our police kill us, investigate themselves and expected us to trust them, while they act as their own judges among their likes.
Ashiama Demonstration was another evidence of police brutality on legitimate democratic concerns. The demonstration was on why the main road was not completed, after residents of the community were told it has been awarded more than ten years ago. What made the whole thing strange was the people were told the contract has been awarded. Tools and building material are brought on site and a form of work commenced. The work then stop just after it has started and in some cases, worsens up whatever was in place already. The work started with construction facilities brought to site, the road was dug up, work stopped and then the site became isolated. It is just frustrating when workers stop turning up and the construction facilities vanish from the site mysteriously. No one tells anyone that the work is completed and whoever is responsible for the work is no more responsible.
The MP, who normally leads at election time to assure the people that the contract has been awarded and work commenced, starts to avoid his people. When the people eventually get the MP to provide some answers, it become obvious nothing is there to expect. The MP even makes it clear that the project is no more his priority but government work. Some even assume a ministerial post negating their parliamentary responsibilities for which their constituency elected them. The people of the community then waited patiently, painfully suffering the inconveniencies until it become unbearable. All the Ghana police do is to lay in ambush waiting for the people, when their patient runs out, knowing that will definitely be the case. This interesting scenario allows the police the opportunity of justifying why we employ them, using huge tax payers’ money to pay their salaries. We pay them to manage us like animals and criminals.
The police action in the Ashiama was indeed a scene. Some of us felt very ashamed of what our police force did to innocent unarmed civilian, without any form of provocation. Like they do at any demonstration, the Ghana Police provoked innocent citizens exercising their democratic right at the Nima Gutter Demonstration. The police were very violent and unnecessarily displayed the use of disproportionate force, to enforce “their law”.
The police are doing everything to ensure we disobey the constitution of Ghana as they have outlawed article 21 and 41 of the constitution that considered the Ghanaian demonstrating as a fundamental right.
Actually we are supposed to take the police to court for violating the constitution of Ghana and seek justice on the basis that the Ghana Police Force is hijacking the constitution of the nation. We could not go to court because we cannot afford it. On the contrary, we in Nima are those who are now being taking to court by our own police force that abuse us. Our state police have denied us our constitutional right, brutalized us and again taking us to court. The police are now exploiting the anomalies in our expensive legal institution, after criminalizing us, to declare us guilty.
We know we are the innocent ones and the police are those guilty. We know justice become a problem because those entrusted with ensuring that justice is upheld, are becoming the very people who exploit the system, to sustain injustice. We have a date in court and we shall stand by our belief of getting to the bottom of the Nima Gutter. We might end up in prisons but a healthy Nima Gutter is our right.
The Democracy of terror and fear is what some people are conniving with the police to propagate on us. All they want us to do is to pretend we are alright when nothing is done to us right. We all agreed Ghana must work but, that will not be the case if lies than truth, is allowed to reign on our beloved land. We believe in the truth and shall not be cowed by falsehood.

Kofi Ali Abdul-Yekin
Chair Coordinator
ECOWAS Citizens Right Advocates (ECRA)