Monday, August 13, 2012

The Kidnapping and The shooting (Week 10)

The kidnapper struck after sunset. We were riding a tro-tro back home from our workshop at KTI, when the outlaw, probably lured by the sight of a dozen obrunis cramped in to a minibus, decided to make a move. I was sitting on the front seat. Robert had spotted a friend waiting for a car on the stop at Tech junction. Robert leant over me to call the friend, and was crawling past me down from the car as the driver’s door violently flew open, and there was a man in green hanging at the door and by the drivers arm. The petrified driver naturally put the pedal through the medal, leading the would-be assassin to half run, half be dragged along the car for twenty meters or so. Once accelerated, we left the Mate (the tro-tro-conductor), Robert and the Kidnapper standing, shouting, at the tro-tro-station. The driver turned down to the right, towards Campus, passed under the great gate, drove three quarters around the first roundabout and stopped, silent. A small Japanese car did a small turn the wrong way around the roundabout and stopped in front of us, headlights blinding me and our driver. A figure got out a rapidly walked over to us.

This is when I noticed the signs on his uniform. The soldier walked up to the driver and immediately threw a punch at him. Then another one.  After some and some more shouting, the army-guy walked over to my side. Calm as ice as I was, I must have hidden it well since he right away told me to relax and not panic. Then followed a show of military decisiveness: the soldier decided to ride with us, only to hop back down before the driver touched the throttle. Then he ordered everyone to get out until he realized that everyone were foreigners. Whatever the reason of this entire lottery, an officer finally emerged from the small car to break up the discussion and with a few chosen words send the soldier back to the back-seat and us away.

When everyone had calmed down, I got to ask the driver what actually happened. Apparently all the drama was that the soldier had gotten frustrated by us blocking traffic, and came over to speak his mind.  Because he failed to show any warning of wanting to speak before ripping the door open, the first thought in the drivers head was that he has a car full of foreigners and a nutcase hanging by his arm, probably looking for some clandestine financial benefits, so he ran. Overreaction, one could say in hindsight, but also the idiot soldier could have dealt with the situation calmly, for instance knocking on the door instead of resort to violence. Of course it is also understandable that the soldier got so upset, dragged as he was along a moving car for a considerable distance… So thoughtless stopping of traffic and thoughtless reacting (twice, once by both sides) resulted in a short, Hollywood-style car chase, some heartbeats and some dubious evening entertainment.

The next day, our evening meeting (What's wrong in The House, general suggestions and remarks etc.) with chilled beers on the veranda was abruptly called to a halt when Stephen stubbornly decided that the meeting should be moved to inside. Unhappy, everyone moved inside, mumbling about people always breaking things up and making decisions without reason or explanation. Things got more serious tone when Stephen quickly locked the front door and the kitchen door. When told that the meeting could not go on without an explanation, Stephen told us that a gunshot had ringed in the neighborhood and that someone has been taken to the hospital. The planned and normal night at the bar was unanimously cancelled and we stayed inside, drinking what a couple of the guys courageously went to buy and solving riddles. Of course, Kwamo suffered one more blackout with a perfect timing.

The following morning it dawned to us that there had been a failed robbery in a house occupied by a rich lone woman close by. As she refused to open the gate, the villains panicked and took a shot at an assistant of hers. He was hit in the leg. Apparently it's one of the guys playing football with us on Saturday mornings, but I never found out which one.

Even though this is something that many in Finland might even expect to happen in Africa, it has to be said that the locals were at least as shocked and confused as the rest of us. Both Stephen and Sammy were quick to state that they have never heard of anything like this in Kwamo. Also the picture I've gotten so far of Kumasi and my home township is not exactly one of anarchy and warfare.

However rare, the incident is serious because it obviously targeted someone known to be well endowed moneywise, and we have a house full of westerners perceived to be fantastically rich living just blocks away. There is clearly some anxiousness in the air and it is not advisable to move around a lot alone until we've reached some more clearness about what's going on. Most natural is though that the criminals will not return to the scene of crime, as they were seen by numerous people.

These two cases, taken place just a day apart are more than surprising to me, having heard of no such things in the city before. On the other hand it is not unbelievable for these things to happen in a city with more than a million inhabitants and we will surely not gain anything by locking ourselves inside. He did target a house last time also.


  1. Hei, Matias! Kiitos, että bloggasit tästä tapahtumasarjasta näin avoimesti. Miten tämä läheltä piti tilanne vaikuttaa turvallisuudentunteeseenne ja fiilikseenne olla Ghanassa? Asia on merkittävä, sillä AIESEC pohjoismaat suunnittelevat yhteistyötä juuri nyt ( itse asiassa he ovat neuvottelemassa asiasta par´aikaa Moskovassa AIESEC Ghanan kanssa) Ghanan kanssa. Jos kuitenkin turvallisuustilanne ei ole enää niin miellyttävä, niin yhteistyötarjousta pitää miettiä uudelleen.

    1. Kuten merkinnässäkin totesin, ensimmäinen tilanne oli ruma väärinkäsitys joka ei jälkeenpäin tarkasteltuna ollut ollenkaan vaarallinen, ja jolle nauretaan jo täällä.

      Ampumavälikohtaus toki säikäytti, mutta on paljon puhuvaa että paikalliset AIESECIläisest olivat jopa syvemässä shokissa kuin me ulkomaalaiset. Vastaavaa ei koskaan aikasemmin ole tapahtunut. Tämä on helposti uskottavissa ihan kesän mittaisella kokemuksella.

      Lyhyesti: Turvallisuudentunne on pikkuhiljaa noussut samalle tasolle kuin ennenkin tapahtumia. Ryöstöt ja ampumavälikohtaukset eivät ainakaan omasta mielestäni tunnu yhtään sen todennäköisemmiltä kuin vaikkapa joissakin Etelä-Euroopan maissa.