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22.09.2005 General News

Decongestion of Accra - Which way?

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Accra, Sept. 22, GNA - Beatrice screamed, "Is that all my sister died for?" Tears trickled down her cheeks and she wiped them with the end of his cloth.

What was it? She moved on raving. Her sister Christine collapsed and died on February 8, this year when she came to work and saw the kiosk in which she had been selling goodies and drinks was demolished the previous night of February 7, this year, together with other unauthorised structures serving as "stalls" at the Kinbu Gardens in Accra during the exercise the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) embarked on to decongest Accra. The exercise was aimed at ridding the streets of hawkers and preventing people from doing traders in unauthorised places, especially on the pavements and streets in Accra.

Beatrice screamed because the sister's death was in vain. The hawkers are back to the streets even more frighteningly in all shapes and shades. The law has gone to the dogs. The pavements have been taken over. Wears of all descriptions are spread on the pavement even to the streets and on the roads.

When the decongestion exercise was being enforced, scores of recalcitrant traders were hauled before the courts, fined and jailed. Those who could not pay the fines, ranging from 500,000 cedis and one million cedis were jailed for two months.

The exercise cost the AMA more than two billion cedis. And on February 8, this year was how the GNA captured it: .... The Accra Metropolitan Authority (AMA) on Monday evening began a decongestion exercise of the city by pulling down unauthorised structures along designated streets and on pavements within the centre of Accra.

The combined team of AMA Task Force and personnel of the Ghana National Fire Service under police protection razed to the ground all tables, chairs, and stalls that impeded free movements of both human and vehicular traffic during the day.

Mr Stanley Nii Adjiri Blankson, the City Mayor who led the demolishing team, which started the exercise at 2200 hours on Monday night, said the programme would last for two weeks.

Starting from the street in front of the General Post Office, the decongestion exercise went through the Pagan Road, Kojo Thompson Road, Liberty Avenue, Independence Avenue, and the streets on the sides of the Rawlings Park.

The exercise, scheduled to go through the Central Business District of Accra, would also go along the street on Cocoa House, Kwame Nkrumah Avenue, Merchant Bank, the Old Parliament House, Swalaba and then back to the General Post Office.

A large portion of the broken chairs, tables, stalls and wooden structures, which were yet to be carted away to the Kaneshie Waste Management Yard, laid piled up on the pavements along the streets. The men of the task force went about the exercise without violence or threat to life as they were cautioned prior to the commencement of the exercise by the Mayor, "therefore do not use any cane, belt and gun, for these are not the times of the "Aaaba ei," when guards molested and harassed people who sold on the streets," the Mayor advised. "We want to claim what belongs to the AMA," Mr Blankson told the task force team in a pre-departure encounter.

He said the gutters too would be de-silted, and as part of the exercise, the defaced walls would be repainted to give the city a facelift.

Mr. Blankson said the exercise had the support of the Ga Traditional chiefs and the churches, adding that, he would step on some big toes with the exercise, but he would continue to fight, and pointed out that " it is better to offend some few people, than to incur the displeasure of the four million people" in Accra.

Mr. Blankson said permission had been granted him to set up a special court to deal with cases in the aftermath of the decongestion exercise. Mr Noel Arcton-Tettey, Public Relations Officer of AMA said the exercise was sponsored with funds from the AMA and support from the banks that operated within the business centre part of the city. The exercise that, all right thinking men of society saw as good got muddled in partisan politics. A section of the media alluded that the NDC was happy about it. The NDC replied immediately saying if the exercise was done without having an alternative solution to the traders relocation why is it being smeared with the exercise.

So, that was that, and if one held the view that , the traders or hawkers were making a livelihood out of their activities and needed sympathy, then it is wondered whether any economic activity a citizen engaged in could be carried without respect to law and order.

Invariably, it is said that motion is development, but then it is not always valid that every motion is development. If that were true, armed robbers could also claim that they were in motion and engaged in "lawful' economic activity because it gave them livelihood!

No one could claim that while the decongestion exercise was initially seemingly successful, pedestrians and motorists had free movement. Traffic was smooth and human traffic crossing zebra crossing was unimpeded. One could fix his or her time to move from a spot to another in doing business smartly without any let or hindrance. Hardly had numerous pedestrians and motorists heaved a sigh of relief that Accra was "smooth sailing" with the hawkers off the streets when the exercise got another political twist - Odododiodoo bye-election bared its teeth.

It was said traders affected by the decongestion exercise were mainly from the constituency and that the ruling government had found disfavour with the hawkers and so and so and that the party would lose. A few days to the election the traders began trickling into the streets and before one could say jack, they had flooded the streets! With all things said and done, the NPP ruling government lost the bye-election and then what next. That meant that for losing election the citizenry or the electorate were free to do "anything" to maintain a government in power?

That President Kufuor had told Parliament in his second State of the Nation Address that, had it been because of political expediency his government would have not increased the price of fuel and surely, he won applause from the gallery .and was greeted with hear, hear from the Majority..

Was it a political decision that the traders should flood the streets once again?

The Daily Graphic of Tuesday, September 20, reported that Mr Adjiri-Blankson said AMA would not rescind decision on hawkers. In that same esteemed paper was the front page picture of how traders have taken over Kaneshie-Mallam road with the inscription " ...when our photographer visited the Kaneshie Market yesterday, everything had taken a turn for the worse as the traders had taken over the pavements and parts of the roads between the two overhead bridges on the Kaneshie - Mallam road, forcing the motoring public to operate in a single lane, instead of the three-lane road.

"The situation is so terrible that pedestrians are forced to walk on the road, struggling with commuters who wanted to board tro-tro buses.

If immediate steps are not taken to bring sanity into the area, accident could happen anytime in the area."

The paper has played its Constitutional and religious role, drawing attention of the powers that be of dangers inherent in the activities of traders. The painful fact is that what is happening is simply injustice and lawlessness

As the hawkers/traders defiantly spread their wares all over the streets and pavement impeding free flow of vehicular and human traffic, a concerned citizen watching the return of the hawkers said: ":If I were Blankson I would have resigned on principle!"

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