Street Behavior in Accra: What’s Going On?
Today, I learned secondhand of one episode of violence that took place on Accra’s roads, and was witness to another. The first violent event was an event recounted by a female acquaintance of mine, who was literally slapped in the face this morning by an aggressive pedestrian as she was in her car (her young son was riding with her in the backseat). The second violent event was this afternoon in the harassment of street vendors by the AMA’s “Rapid Response Team,” who seek to clear the street of these informal workers, usually through harassment. I’ve copied the word-by-word account of the first event, and have video (thanks smartphone!) of the second.
Professional Female, Her Son in Tow, Slapped by Pedestrian After Traffic Row
The content below is copied from an email I received from her this morning, and is re-posted at her request.
“This morning, at about 7.38 am, I was physically assaulted in my car, on the Mallam-Weija Highway by a man of about mid-thirties, about 5’11 tall, toughly built … dressed in balck office shirt and tucked into black denim trousers, black belt, black office shoes, holding a black briefcase. I did not see his face very well though. It all happened in under 1 minute.
I was sending my son to school, and you all might know that there is major construction going on in that part of town (the highway).
Traffic was moving in short, fast spurts and normally, traffic wardens stop the vehicles to permit masses of people to cross at points in time.
This man was standing WITH a large mass of people all in SAME spot, and we were moving at about 30kmp/h, when just about 10 metres before I got to him, he dashed across my car. Nobody else made any move to cross.
Needless to say, I had to stop abruptly. He had looked at me before dashing across, and had expected me to have screeched to a halt, so took his time. By the time he realised that 10 metres was too short for this to be a safe calculation, he was left with no choice, but to hop and leap …. into the middle of the road, where the cars to my left were also passing by without stopping.
He was trapped in the middle, I has made a sharp brake, the car behind me was blowing his horn like crazy, and next thing I knew, this man swings in my direction and flies his hand in through my half-open window and strikes my face with what seemed like all his might! His parting words were “You fool!”
I was instantly down, my head was on the steering wheel, my son burst into tears in the back seat, and my face hurt like crazy. I could not see anything and there was blood in my mouth. The man was nowhere to be found, and cars just kept passing me by, especially the ones behind me who saw it all. Several passersby chased after the man though, and tried to catch him, but he was already over the other 4 lanes of the highway and in the tro-tro huddle.
I had to move off the road and park, but for 5 minutes I was unable to do this because my right eye was fairly swollen, and both eyes were tearing up. My mouth was like “tsofi” and bleeding. Cars honking like mad behind me, and my son wailing …. the passersby talkgin me through it all.
I decided to leave it be, and drive on slowly …. I did have to get my son to school on time after all.
The police team (of 4) standing about 20 metres fro the scene did not notice any of these in all the 5 minutes it happened, nor the traffic jam it caused.
I feel so safe in this country. This is not my first time of facing abuse and harrasmment as a woman, a woman who drives, and a woman who is perceived as successful and independent in this country … from men. But this is my first physical abuse.
If anyone can spread this message, I will appreciate it. If you know of any friend, co-worker, acquaintance who fits this bill for today, was in the Mallam area this morning, seems a bit out of sorts this morning, etc … find out for me. If you can, pass this on. If you know anyone on the social platforms …. do share to them. I’d like to meet this man and ask him why he did this, and if it felt good … striking a woman in the face, and leaving her and her son in tears.”
AMA “Rapid Response Team” Harasses Street Vendor at 37
The second event, becoming more and more common these days, was the harassment of street vendors at the 37 area by the so-called “Rapid Response Team,” sent out by the AMA to accost, harass and prevent street vendors from selling their wares on the sidewalks and streets of Accra. In this particular instance, a young man selling keyboards had the entirety of his products taken away from him and was strong-armed by the AMA representatives. The event took place just near the Golden Tulip hotel, where of course, there are “no hawking” signs that abound (and are usually adhered to). I’ve discussed my views on the AMA’s actions on street vending previously, although it looks like nothing is really changing.
I used my phone to record some video of the second event, which you can see here (apologies in advance, the phone is new, and didn’t realize I was recording sideways!). The first few seconds are the first noteworthy, with the street vendor and AMA reps arguing in Twi, then one AMA rep sees my phone, and I conveniently distract him by buying some phone credit (irony of the situation: AMA reps focus on the wares of one street vendor, although numerous ones had gathered, and in my instance, continued to flout the AMA policy on street vending, right in front of them).