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Opinions Thu, 21 Jul 2011

My side of the ‘yam sellers and AMA taskforce’ story

Raymond Ablorh

On

Monday, July 18, 2011, the police and personnel of the Accra

Metropolitan Assembly task-force clashed with yam sellers on the Graphic

Road in Accra. The task-force went to the area in the

morning to stop the yam sellers from plying their trade on the streets,

but this resulted in a scuffle. Police officers who were

called in to intervene arrested 12 of the yam sellers for allegedly

assaulting personnel of the AMA task-force. The traders claim several tubers of

their yam were taken away in the raid. Some

of the yam sellers in an interview with a radio station in Accra said

they tried to beg the AMA officers to return their seized tubers but all

to no avail. According to them, the police also failed to

listen to their side of the story when they arrived and hastily

arrested 12 of their colleagues. But, before or after you listen to their side, this

is my side of the story. Until

about a decade ago, what our politicians used as a campaign case was

the dog chain seller’s story. They claimed they would take all of them

from the streets and create more jobs for them. But, just

after the campaigns, the dog seller too joined the chain seller on the

street for complimentary sales. Then, the dog house seller came with the

dog cage and feeding bowl to complete an industry on the street. What I don’t know

is where those behind this industry stay in Accra. As

for these yam sellers, many of them illegally stay in the Ghanaian

replica of the Biblical Sodom and Gomorrah where all the evil activities

under the sun are undertaken. The Ministry of Water

Resources, Works and Housing, for instance, has always maintained that

the delay in the achievement of the set objectives by the Korle Lagoon

Ecological Restoration project (KLERP) is due to the activities of these

squatters living at the sprawling Sodom and Gomorrah settlement. Even

though their stay there has created an ever expanding money wasting

hole in government’s resource keeping sack, the state hasn’t been able

to evacuate this squalor of them, and continue to pour a lot of money

measured in thousands, if not millions, of Euros and American Dollars

into the effluvium emanating Korle Lagoon to dig the solid filth these

illegal slum dwellers create daily. These squatters know

government hasn’t got the gut to show them the exit of the slums. Also

they are very much aware of the lackadaisical approach with which both

central and local governments have dealt with street hawking and its

associated ugly derivatives. Are they not in this country

when hawkers are sent off the streets in the central business district

of Accra, and are virtually begged to come back later? Perhaps,

these AMA guys always come and get them off the streets only to allow

them there again during elections’, and their tired of this ‘going’ and

‘coming’ business. Opposition parties enumerate more than

thousand and one reasons why government must employ measures with human

countenance when getting these people off the streets to allow free

passage, among other conveniences. They define, describe,

explain and discuss how wicked and heartless government is for taking

these day light law breakers from our streets with the ultimate purpose

of gaining admirers from that constituency; and, only to come into

government to face the same problem. This is what happens

when subscribers of democracy reduce this otherwise active development

vehicle to mere elections, and, nothing but electoral mathematics. It

seems government here are only good at passing laws. One can’t blame

those who break the laws more than those whose duty it is to enforce

them, because, over here, many a citizen doesn’t know the laws they are

supposed to abide by, let alone understand them. Ignorance

of the law is no excuse, people often argue, but, the citizens aren’t

the state’s ‘enemies’, hence, it’s wrong to virtually ambush them with

‘unknown’ and ‘incomprehensible’ laws. Governments ought to inform and

educate their constituents on the laws and the regulations governing

them to promote such laws and facilitate their acceptance and compliance

to them. How many Ghanaians know public begging is a

crime and why? How many understand why they shouldn’t sell or buy on the

streets? Many people here are too ignorant of the law. Recently,

a man was seen easing himself on a beach in Accra and when he was

questioned by some of the people who had gone there to have fun, he

ignorantly argued that he’s rather doing the state some good by reducing

the work of the men who carry human excreta from homes into the sea. This man

simply doesn’t know, nor understand, why he shouldn’t defecate there. He’s doing us

some good, in deed! Moreover,

while common sense might tell us the wrongs with our action and

inaction, present pressing economic needs make us defiantly object the

thoughtful dictates of our conscience, which is why force must be

applied instead of searching for undefined human-faced measures to

employ. But, more importantly, in the case of the slum

dwellers and those selling the tubers and everything on our streets, we

need, as a nation, to spread growth in such a manner that people would

find less reasons to leave where they are completely to settle in slums

in urban areas. And, when they come, the authorities

shouldn’t allow them to settle and develop roots in generations before

they try to uproot them. After all, merely allowing them

to settle should be part of the broad definition of breaking the law

against their illegal settlement, hence, those authorities who permit

them to squat in authorized places, as in any serious jurisdiction,

ought to face the law for implicitly aiding crime through their

inaction. We need governments that could go far beyond

enacting laws to ensuring their pragmatic enforcement; governments that

are prepared to wash and dress these aching socio-economic sores of the

nation without fear of being voted out of power for doing the right

thing. After all, democracy isn’t just about the next election; it’s about solving

problems and meaningful development. Raymond Ablorh

Writer’s Email:

raydelove@yahoo.co.uk
Columnist: Ablorh, Raymond