in ghanaian society (2 of 6): THE MEDIA ON STREET & SEXUAL VIOLENCE:
I recently posted on street and sexual crime statistics in Ghana/Africa, to explain the seriousness of seismic increases in various forms of violence and general corruption in Ghana. This second part of the essay presents the reality of street and sexual violence from media sources. For brevity, each news report will be immediately followed by critical analysis.
VICTIMS OF STREET CRIME
The following violent incident titled, Innocent Man Taken for a Thief and Lynched, is a sneak-preview of what mainly occurs on a fairly regular basis in the major cities of Ghana. Clearly the spark that tolled the alarm bells leading to the young man's unfortunate death, was the resentment that had built up in the resident, "whose house had been burgled about the same time". Many Ghanaians have had some experience of crime. Therefore, like the alarmist above they keep a pressure cooker of vengeful resentment against criminals. A resentment compounded by an all too frequent experience of police inaction to crime resolution. This is evidenced by the level of unrestrained violence against alleged criminals who get caught:
"A 25-year-old man mistaken for a thief has been lynched by a mob at Nii Boi, a suburb of Accra. The young man was said to be loitering around the area at dawn, prompting a resident whose house had been burgled at about the same time, to raise an alarm. The victim was later discovered to be innocent after the lifeless body was paraded in front of a house identified as the family house of the deceased".
"Assembly member of the area Michael Zigah told Joy News the Tesano police is investigating the case. 'Unfortunately, information that I am also getting now, tells me that the person is not a thief but he is somebody who lives in the community, sells at Lapaz and has family in the community.' He confirmed that the police have been in the area to pick up some people they suspect of killing the young man". (http://news.myjoyonline.com/news/201105/65706.asp).
This violence is often perpetrated by both male and females with equal gratuitous violence and self-relish. Sadly this phenomenon has come home to roost in Ghana. It only requires an alarm, "awi!" or "julor!". Someone is pursued, caught and beating to death. Nearly always the police appear to lack the logistics or inclination to successfully investigate and arrest the perpetrators of the mob crime. This reality of instant justice is indicative of public lack of confidence in the professionalism of the police or criminal justice system.
Unlike metropolitan centres of the industrialised world, with rapid police response times, the Ghana police service tend to respond too late. The cumulative result is that mob justice has sadly become a regular feature in Ghana. It would seem that this is a pervasive African problem. In the mid 1980s I observed many people being burnt alive in the streets of Lagos, Nigeria. Their apparent offence: running after being called, "ole!" (thief). Pursued and caught, they were ringed with vehicle tires and burnt. The police mopped up the carnage weeks later – they always come too late!
THE WRONG DIAGNOSIS OF CRIME
In a recent article titled, Mass Unemployment Is Contributing to Armed Robbery, Ghanaweb.com columnist, Alex Bossman Baafi wrote:
"Many concerned people are worried and trying to find out what is causing the upsurge in armed robbery because the state of insecurity these days had become a topical issue nationwide. In my opinion, the increase in armed robbery is due to multiplicity of factors. These include the influx of foreigners from our West African sub-region, increase in drug abuse with substances like marijuana, which is common in our society, effects of increase in dehumanizing conditions emanating from slums settlements in our cities, idleness and poverty arising out of mass unemployment among others".
"In my opinion, joblessness is also contributing in no small measure to the current upsurge in crime including armed robbery and rape causing insecurity in the country. In search for the solution for this unacceptable social ill, the government should not discount unemployment and sweep it under the carpet. The government must accept the responsibility to tackle the problem of unemployment head-on and must be one of the main priority areas as part of its Better Ghana Agenda dispensation". (Ghanaweb, Feature Article of Thursday, 4 August 2011).http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=215422)
Baafi corroborates what I have said about the meteoric rise in crimes in Ghana. He is right about its the multiple reason: the effects of slum living, idleness and poverty - links between crimes and unemployment. However, I am not so sure of his other causal analysis. The jingoistic (anti foreigner) assumption, that Ghana is somewhat being swamped by criminals teaming from the West African sub-region, is the same argument used against Ghanaians and other West Africans by the Nigerian media during the "Agege Years" of mass Ghanaian out-migration to Nigerian.
Yes some non Ghanaian criminals have been apprehended and been successfully prosecuted by the law, but there is no valid 'foreign' crime data to support Baafi's allegation. Baafi may be scapegoating here. He also stereotypes the issue in stating, "substances like marijuana, which is common in our society" causes crime in Ghana. In the West where major studies have been done on the link between drugs and crimes among the "under-classes", there is abundant information to suggest a causal link between crime and stimulant (opposed to sedative) drugs like, cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin, mephedrone, etc. The A-Z of Drugs, Chilling out on the job on 'weed', informs us:
"Cannabis: It is a mild sedative (often causing a chilled out feeling or actual sleepiness) and it’s also a mild hallucinogen (meaning you may experience a state where you see objects and reality in a distorted way and may even hallucinate). The main active compound in cannabis is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)". (http://www.talktofrank.com/drugs.aspx?id=172).
Taking cocaine makes users feel on top of the world. Its effect is like the stimulant ‘amphetamines’ (speed) but is stronger and doesn't last as long. People taking it feel wide-awake, confident and on top of their game:
"The effects of crack [cocaine] smoking...Users feel alert, confident, euphoric and talkative, and some feel greater empathy with those around them...Mephedrone: A stimulant drug belonging to the chemical family of cathinones...the family of amphetamine compounds. The amphetamine-like drugs include amphetamine itself (speed), methamphetamine and ecstasy (MDMA), among many others. Mephedrone produces euphoria, alertness, talkativeness and feelings of empathy. It can also cause anxiety and paranoid states and risks overstimulating the heart and circulation" (http://www.talktofrank.com/drugs.aspx?id=7513).
So science, not non-science (nonsense) speaks: sedative drugs like marijuana equal sleepiness, distortion of reality. Stimulant drugs like crack cocaine and amphetamine-like drugs equal users feeling "on top of the world", euphoric and alert. If I was a thief I would rather be euphoric, alert and keep my faculties sharpened rather than sleepy and lacking of reality - would you not? Marijuana users are more likely to fall asleep (chilled out) on the job or eat a lot(have the 'munchies') than want to speed down the motorway on a hot tropical afternoon to commit highway robbery!
It is certainly true drug usage can contribute to criminal activity. But we must reject the common-sense social notion in Ghana that links all aggressive or wayward behaviour to marijuana ('wee'). Like the statistical data given in the first seam of the essay, what we need in Ghana is a detailed study of the causes and solutions to the rise in crime. The blame game, as Ghanaian political protagonists tend to do, will only confuse and frustrate genuine attempts at finding solutions.
What is generally correct about all crimes, is that they are rooted in poverty, unimaginative national programmes for jobs and career opportunities for the youth and unemployed, material fetishism (unreasonable greed and worship of material things in society) low nation administrative checks-and-balances that causes corrupt leaders to side step professional and ethical practices, etc. It can even be argued low national export earnings is the fundamental that cause of high crimes. The necessary Development and Modernisation Programme (DMP) that ought to be launched, to comprehensively industrialise and modernize Ghana, is held at ransom to the bankrupting IMF-SAP programme.
The next essay is titled:
T O F I A K W A!: SEX CRIMES, STREET VIOLENCE & CORRUPTION IN GHANAIAN SOCIETY (4a OF 6): SEXUAL VIOLENCE AGAINST AMINA AT THE UNIVERSITY OF GHANA, LEGON.