The fate of over 1000 members of a Ghanaian fishing community and their families is currently hanging in the balance unless a miracle occurs to change their vacillating fortunes before the deadline given them by the authorities to quit their homes in the Lomé Port expires on June 1, 2004.
The ill-fate that awaits the Ghanaian fishermen, and fishmongers follows a decision by the Lomé Port authorities yesterday to move into action at the end of May 2004 to enforce a quit notice which was served on the Ghanaians about four years ago.
Harbour Master Colonel Ali Nadjombe said yesterday that the order to relocate the fishermen from their homes in the Lomé Port was made in the year 2000.
But subsequent appeals for extension of time by the Ghanaians delayed execution of the order, he explained.
The 1,000 Ghanaians whose homes are under siege form part of a bigger armada of fishermen who largely dominate the flourishing fishing industry in Togo.
Some of the fishermen and their families reside within the vicinity of the harbour in slums - huts and shacks - described by the authorities as “eye-sores incompatible with the status of a modern African sea port.”
The Togolese authorities say that they have continued to tolerate the presence of the illegal squatters due to the growing improvement in diplomatic and bilateral relations between Ghana and Togo.
“We do not want to do anything to rock the boat of friendship with our Ghanaian brothers because of the improved relationship between our two countries,” Colonel Ali Nadjombe, Deputy Director General of the Lomé Port Authority assured yesterday during a peace meeting at the Harbour with the Ghanaian fishing community attended by top-level officials of the Ghana Embassy in Lomé.
Colonel Ali Nadjombe told the Ghanaian fishermen and fishmongers who had anxiety written all over their faces that the Togo government has allocated an alternative site for them at an adjacent location called Katanga.
He promised that the relocation of their homes would not in any way affect their fishing activities at the Lomé Port.
“Toilet facilities and schools have been provided at the new site by the Togo government so that you and your families can live under more hygienic conditions”, the Harbour Master said.
Colonel Nadjombe said that the decision to relocate the Ghanaians was partly due to security concerns in the Port, and programmes drawn up for the expansion of the Lomé Autonomous Port.
The Deputy Port Director General said the unsightly presence of the slums, and their subsequent over-crowded population have created serious security problems for the authorities.
Colonel Nadjombe said development programmes aimed at providing expansion in stevedoring and dry-docks facilities of the Lomé Port also influenced the decision to relocate the fishermen.
The conciliatory tone of the Deputy Director General received scattered applause.
But some of the fishermen were dissatisfied that the new site provided for their relocation was already saturated and over-choked.
Remarked Mawuko Avinou, a canoe-owner, “I think the idea is welcome.
Mawuko Avinou said that other people have already occupied the new site the Harbour authorities are talking about.
“But there is no place over there for us. Our problem is that we want them to extend the time for us so that they can find a suitable land for us to settle and enable us to continue with our fishing activities,” Avinou appealed.
But for now, barring the unexpected, bulldozers, which threatened to demolish their illegal structures and slums four years ago may come rolling back into action, once again come June 1, 2004.
The Togo flourishing fishing industry in Togo is dominated by an estimated 3000 Ghanaians fishermen and them dependants who migrated to Togo from Ghana's coastal towns like Keta in the Volta Region, Accra and Ada-Foah in the Greater-Accra region, and Elmina in the Central region of Ghana.
Some of them have lived in Togo for decades but choose to reside in ramshackle structures in slums within the Lomé Fishing Harbour.