Opinions Fri, 10 Feb 2012

Gargantuan Discrimination Against Amputees


By Rexford Abel

Much has been said about society’s discrimination against the disabled and under-privileged in our country but very little seems to be done to stop this negative trend that is not helping us to live cohesively as a nation.

The ongoing African Cup of Nations (AfCON 2012) in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea has once again exposed the nation’s discrimination against the disabled who deserve more support to make life more comfortable and worth living, in view of the challenges that come with disability.

Not too long ago, Ghana hosted the 3rd Cup of African Nations for Amputee Football (CANAF 2011) in Accra, with Liberia winning the cup at the expense of Ghana’s Black Challenge, the National Amputee Football Team, who placed a respectable second to pick the silver medal.

To many, it was the first time seeing amputees play football, more so in a competitive manner as was done in Accra, where six (6) nations from across Africa gathered to compete for the coveted cup. Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Niger and Angola demonstrated true sportsmanship to the delight of the international community at a tournament that was covered by the major news organizations in the world-Reuters, Radio France (France), Der Spiegel (Germany), Documentary LLC (USA), China News Agency, Australia Broadcasting Corporation and a Spanish media firm, among others.

This indicates how far Ghana’s name went as a result of the successful organization of the CANAF 2011, spearheaded by a person with disability (PWD), Mr. Francis Adjetey Sowah, President of the Ghana Amputee Football Federation (GAFF), who doubles as the President of the Amputee Football Federation of Africa (AFFA).

Some three months after the successful organization of the tourney that witnessed the Black Challenge’s splendid performance, management, technical team and the playing body are yet to be paid allowances and winning bonuses, besides a total of some GH?500.00 intermittently given to each player prior to the tournament, leaving them frustrated and disillusioned; some of the players have even resorted to negative media publication against their leaders, whom they erroneously suspect of conniving with government to deny them of what is due them.

In a rather sharp contrast, the Government of Ghana has doled out a whopping amount of over GH?50,000.00 to each member of the senior national team, the Black Stars, for getting to the semis of the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations (AfCON), and if they had qualified to the finals and perhaps won, they would have taken some GH?100,000.00 each; this promise was made before and during the tournament.

Whilst some Ghanaians are against the doling out of this fortune to the already-rich and comfortable members of the Black Stars, others have expressed joy at the act they believe would motivate them to win the elusive cup (Ghana has not won the African Cup since 1982).

On another front, observers are worried about the apparent discrimination against the disabled, and in this case the Black Challenge, who have been left to their fate after sacrificing for the nation. The reason for government’s failure to give the gallant players something was that the tournament was not budgeted for by the state.

However, government gave indications of its full involvement in the event through the Minister of Youth and Sports, Hon. Clement Kofi Humado’s conspicuous participation in the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as the sponsoring and presentation of the trophies and medals to deserving winners. If government did not budget for it, then the question that arises is, did government budget for the late extra allowances it promised the Black Stars? If government can fulfill this gargantuan promise that runs into billions of cedis, why not do same for those who do not have the kind of income the Black Stars earn in Europe and elsewhere? After all, the Black Challenge won silver, whilst the Black Stars failed to reach the grand finale, thus unable to do what the disabled did for Ghana.

The tacit disregard for the disabled in all spheres of human endeavors leaves much to be desired. If we can spend that much on Black Star players, most of whom are millionaires, then fairness demands that we do more for the less-fortunate. Much as it would be out of place to call for equal treatment for the Black Stars and the Black Challenge or any other disability sport, there is no gainsaying the fact that, the latter deserve a better treatment. As at the time this article was being written, there was no indication of what the players would receive for winning silver for Ghana in the last CANAF. Their request for $8000 was reportedly ridiculed, whilst the final proposal of $3,500 has not yet been given to them.

It would be recalled that some of them recently called for the head of their leader, Mr. Francis Adjetey Sowah, over this issue, apparently perceiving that he was being used by government to give them a raw deal, whilst enjoying some kickbacks from its officials. But for his denial, Mr. Adjetey Sowah would have been painted black by all who read the story about him. He has on countless occasions shielded the players from going on demonstration against government.

What is government waiting for to give the unfortunate players of the Amputee National Team something good to set themselves up in viable ventures that would make them self-sustainable in this difficult system of ours?

It is very unfortunate that, we can do too much to those who do not need, whilst denying those who do not have of the little that they deserve for lifting the flag of Ghana high. Delving into the past mistreatment meted out to them would be superfluous at this moment but the little said, the better.

The Amputees deserve a better treatment.

Columnist: Abel, Rexford