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25.03.2006 General News

Horror In Afram Plains

By Lens

…..Govt Renders Over 8,000 People Homeless

…..They Are Now Refugees In Their Own Country Thousands of residents of Digyah Island, a predominantly fishing area in the Affram plains have for the past several days become homeless courtesy, the cruel and barbaric ejection they have suffered at the hands of the Game and Wild Life Department. While foreign refuges in Ghana at least have shelters over their heads, these poor citizens of Ghana have been at the mercy of the heavy rains that have been falling in the Afram plains district of the Eastern Region.

Emboldened by the ruling NPP's hatred for the communities largely known for their loyal and dedicated support for the NDC, officials of the Game and Wild Life in a recent joint operation with military personnel, stormed the Digyah Island and engaged in a cruel and barbaric ejection exercise characterized by the merciless expulsion of residents from their abode and the throwing of their belongings about.

The exercise, which began on the 11th of March 2006, has left in its trail, very many families becoming homeless, dejected and destitute. The scale of the crisis has reached such alarming proportions that many of the affected families have resorted to the eating of all sorts of things in order to survive.

The island consisting of 30 communities has an estimated population of nearly 10,000 people. The overwhelming majority of these people were forced out their homes without any provision made for tents, food, good drinking water and health care.

When The Lens arrived on the Island last Monday, 20th of March 2006, it was difficult to believe that this horrific situation was occurring in Ghana with the tacit approval of the government of the day. Innocent babies, infants and toddlers could be seen huddling around their anguished parents fully exposed to the vagaries of the weather. Pregnant women, nursing mothers and disabled people suffering from deplorable health conditions lay on the bare ground in open space.

At Manchari, one of the communities on the Island, which was our first point of call, there was a large group of homeless people numbering over 5,000 gathered at the river bank. They sat helplessly under the scorching sun and were exposed to the winds and waves of the river. Many of them especially the babies and the old folks clearly had difficulty breathing. Later in the evening when the rains set in, it was a heartbreaking sight seeing babies crawling on the ground, young children and the aged helplessly huddling each other amidst weeping and wailing.

A tour of affected communities such as Hadzro, Waso, Adakpedzi, Kwayihu, Tsita, Fantikope, Supom and Yamesu revealed scenes of abundance of foodstuff the ejected victims left on their farms at the mercy of the weather.

According to the victims, the government issued a letter dated 17th February, 2006 with instructions that by the 28th of the same month, every one should vacate the land. This was because the land was designated to be used as Digyah National Park by the department of Game and Wild Life. The residents pleaded with the government to extend the time since the notice given was too short.

Ironically, while the communities were endeavoring to find means to evacuate, they received a visit from! the educational authorities from Donkorkrom, which came and presented books and other educational materials to them on the 9th of March, 2006 at Akplahowo and promised to post pupil teachers to the area. The residents were therefore taken aback when barely two days later, military men with AK47 riffles and officials of the department of Game and Wild Life suddenly came upon them.

The victims lamented that they never thought for once that the government could maltreat them this way. “Are we not Ghanaians,” they asked. “Why should we be subjected to such inhuman treatment? No shelter, no he! alth care, no food for the children to eat- we are not even allowed to go to our farms to take foodstuff that was left on our farms”.

Nana Salifu ll chief of Hadzro and Nana Dzata ll chief of Kwaheyehu who spoke to the Lens expressed shock and disbelief at the sudden turn of events. They have already appealed to the government to come to their aid but nothing has been forthcoming.

The Assembly Member for the area, Mr. Francis Ashiagbor described the action of the government as unfortunate, rash and insensitive to the plight of the rural folks.

Mr. Emmanuel Egbenyo, the only Medical Assistant serving the communities condemned the action and described it as an affront to citizens of Ghana. He observed that now that the people have been left without any shelter in an o! pen area, the possibility of contracting diseases is even much higher.

“The solar eclipse will soon be here. On the day of the eclipse of the Sun, it is expected that everyone be indoors in order to avoid the incidence of looking at the Sun directly. What is going to be the fate all these people,” he asked. He appealed to the government to come to the aid of the people to avert a major humanitarian catastrophe.

According to the people every year the game and wild life officials collect monies from them with promises to help them get places if there is going to be an evacuation. Some of them contended that when the AMA asked the traders to vacate the streets of Accra, the government deemed it important to allocate huge funds to build them a market. Again, the government has up till now not sacked the residents of Sodom and Gomorrah. “Is it because we the people of Digyah Island are poor rural folks,” they queried. They also reminded the urban dwellers that lots of the fish sold especially at the Kaneshie market and other urban markets come from the Digyah Island.