The Ghana Chronicles 09-The Journey- The Volta, Tamale, Kumasi, Cape Coast

20 GREEN CARD AGAIN (PR_ BOSCO)August 2009

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Have Patience with all things but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in discovering your own imperfections, but instantly set about remedying them. Everyday begin the task Anew.

As I landed in Ghana & began the journey thru the different regions, this quote has become my mantra & reminder of exactly why I am here & must continue thru all obstacles & doubts of what my future & the future of Ghana can be. The journey began in the Volta Region– home of the Ewe people. I have never been there before & now I know why. It is a different world from where I come from (Accra & Awukuga, Eastern Region via New York). The roads are beyond deplorable, if you can even call them roads. Most of Ghana has infrastructure problems with the roads, gutter systems & just the idea of being able to have clean or just continual running water, especially hot water, being a luxury for the majority of Ghanaians;however the people of the Volta seem to be way behind most Ghanaians on these things that most Americans couldn’t imagine being considered a luxury even though in the deep south & a few other areas in the US, you can find places with these same issues.

Traveling thru the Volta Region which should take minutes or hours from town to town takes days because the roads consist of rocks, huge potholes & areas where you are basically driving thru mini rivers from rain fall or just the plain fact that the infrastructure in this area has been completely overlooked & underserved, even though Ghana’s former president/dictator/military coup leader, J.J. Rawlings, who ruled over Ghana for 20 plus years hails from this part of Ghana & is the pride & joy heralded by the people of the Volta Region. What makes a horrible situation even worse is the fact that for mere survival some people of the Volta have decided to set up a system very similar to an accepted form of organized crime where there are only certain cars that can take you from town to town. If you want to get thru the Volta to the next town & you do not have your own 4X4 or SUV, you have no choice but to succumb to a system where only a few literally taped together vehicles are the only form of transportation & you must stop in every town, pay another fare to take a different one of these taped together vehicles even if you are willing to pay to take you straight to your destination because they all have their own territories where only their cars can operate. A 4-5 person car insists on packing in around 7-10 people & leaves you with no choice but to entertain this because it is the only way you can get to the next town. If you wish not to be packed in a car like sardines or wait minutes-hours for the car to be packed with passengers, then you have no choice but to pay for the extra seats in order to be able to have any breathing room on the hot roller coaster of a ride because the idea of these cars having air conditions will have people looking at you like you were from another planet. This is why I call it an acceptable form of organized crime because it is much like the Mob or your average block drug dealer where someone from another town/territory can not & will not be allowed to operate their business in another’s territory & there is a system where they have to tip the person who controls the business in the area as well as the police, or do favors for the police such as transporting goods for them from town to town before they are allowed to proceed with their business. I had the privilege of this experience of basically putting my life in danger by sitting in these vehicles a few times trying to get to the Northern Region , which is only a few miles away but took days to get to, with hotel stays in between because this was the only way. These vehicles really have no business being on any road let alone the barely there dangerous roads of the Volta, which would give even a hummer a challenge.

This experience wasn’t all bad because I was allowed to see the beauty of Ghanaians in the fact that when our taped together vehicle broke down on the road there was such a wonderful sense of everyone stopping in their cars, on bikes, on foot etc. trying to figure out how they could help or just offering an apology for our unfortunate experience or a sweet smile to brighten up a dark experience. There was even a family whose home we broke down in front of who graciously offered to feed one of my companions, on their very menial means that they were surviving on with about 6 children living in a hut like house. This is what I see as innately Ghanaian regardless of what tribe one represents.

After about 2-3 days of traveling we finally made it to the Northern Region of Tamale, which is a large bustling city much like Accra with a mostly Muslim population. Tamale is the home of the Larabanga Mosque, Mole National Wildlife Park & Paga Crocodile Pond-where the people are one with nature so much that they can swim with & ride on top of the crocodiles. We moved on from Tamale to the historic Kumasi, homeland of the Ashanti tribe -the historical Kings & Queens who ruled the Gold Coast (Ghana’s former name during colonization), heirs to the golden stool & rulers who were complacent & compliant in the sale of fellow Ghanaians/Africans in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. What struck me most in Kumasi in its historical irony is the fact that Chinese contractors/investors who come stock piled with their own Chinese workers with just a few locals on staff were in full force in their so called partnership without political interference in the development of Ghana & most of Africa, which I see as the takeover of Africa/African resources by a new modern day colonizer- with little or no regulations or standards set to ensure that the overwhelming amount of Chinese investment in Ghana goes toward actually benefitting the everyday Ghanaian & the country as a whole. Once again in unplanned irony we proceeded from Kumasi to Cape Coast, home of the Fanti tribe & the historic Cape Coast Castle, the dungeon that held millions of slaves from Ghana & all over Africa awaiting transport across the Atlantic to the Americas, Caribbean, & Europe. The sad part about this journey was to hear from the tour guide at Cape Coast Castle that a large majority of the slaves were taken from the Volta region & Northern region after I had just been told by the Ghanaians of Tamale & the Volta that they still felt like second class citizens in their own country & not fully accepted as being just as Ghanaian as the Ashantis, the Fantis & other fellow Ghanaians from other regions.

I realized through this journey how far back Ghana had gone since the days of Independence. It seems not much has changed since the days of Dr. Nkrumah except for undoing much of the greatness of the Black Star Nation, which was truly the leader of Africa, with priorities such as education with a focus on the sciences, infrastructure, universal healthcare, agricultural development, the arts & culture, job creation particularly for the large population of young people, women’s movements & a great sense of pride & love for nation & continent that was to unite Africa as a self contained & sustained independent & thriving continent. Don’t get me wrong because you will find your modern day luxury 4-5 star hotels, luxury multi million dollar homes, luxury cars etc. but this is still exclusively a lifestyle afforded to members of parliament, footballers, drug dealers, foreign businessmen & some Ghanaian entrepreneurs who have earned their wealth from legitimate means.

Classism in Ghana is the ultimate divide & is extremely prevalent in every day life. You can clearly see the haves from the have nots. The haves make it a point to let everyone know just how much they have with excessive grandiose lifestyles giving rise to armed robberies by some who are just fed up with with an unchanging system that seems to never benefit them as well as envious individuals who just seek easy money-many of which are foreign nationals & not Ghanaians because the vast majority of the have nots of Ghana are extremely hard working happy people who just beg & thirst for the opportunity for a better life. The haves even have their own areas & nightclubs such as Citizen Kofi & Rhapsody catering exclusively to the wealthy & elite visiting & of Ghana. Now the Ghanaian or African dream for most of the have nots on the continent is to be able to get a visa to go abroad for a chance at opportunity, which costs in upwards of $700 if you are lucky & do it thru the legal process, which offers no guarantees of passing the interview test to get a visa nor is your money refundable if you do not past the test even though on average a Ghanaian who is making a decent wage makes about $100 a month. It seems for the average Ghanaian the only opportunity that seems to be knocking here is to bombard tourists to buy their goods, hope to befriend an “obroni aka white person or foreigner” who will hopefully give them some money for whatever services they provide, or at the most sinister, getting involved in armed robbery or internet schemes, or the new get money quick scheme called “Sakawa”, which involves murder, armed robberies & fetish rituals where children & other things are given up as sacrifices in order to bring wealth to individuals. Where has Nkrumah’s Black Star Nation gone & how do we get her back!