On the Accra Mall Panty “Thieves” and The Rule of Law

1. This is not a gender issue for me

2. This is not even really a human rights issue for me

It’s about the rule of law. “The Rule of Law is the foundation of a civilised society. It establishes a transparent process accessible and equal to all.”

I’ve read reactions to this Accra Mall punishment-by-crawling case, even from young lawyers and law students, and I’m thinking.. should I be worried? A few declarations, in case you’re going to allow yourself to be overcome by emotion or whatever it is that fuels your departure from civilised reasoning.

1. I do not condone stealing.

2. I have been robbed before. Twice actually. Read about  my most recent experience here.

People, we have laws for a reason. That constitution thing – it’s not for decoration. CEO of Mr. Price has already come out to condemn the actions of the security staff because in the world of big boys and girls, when you take the law into your own hands, even if you’re right, chances are, you get punished. Sometimes, the person who “wronged” you even goes scot-free.

As I mentioned earlier, I have been robbed before and when Evans Mensah of Joy fm asked me if I would have supported the police if they shot my attackers instead of arresting them, taking them to court.. etc.. I said NO.

I’m not Mother Theresa or Gandhi, but laws are laws. Catch a thief, take her/him to the police. Simple.

Are you still holding on to your dreams of instant justice? Here’s a scenario for you.

You are at work when you get a phone call – your child has just been knocked down by a vehicle and is being rushed to the hospital. It’s that hospital where they won’t treat you if you haven’t paid yet, so you get into your car and head in that direction, tears streaming down your face and prayers on your lips. You are breaking the speed limit and since you forgot to put on your seat-belt  AND you’re on the phone with your spouse/parent, you’re breaking other laws as well. You are approaching a traffic light at Nima. It’s going to turn amber, and then red soon, so you make a dash for it. At the same time, a little child making his way home from school dashes across the street, because, well… he’s a kid. Your 2008 Toyota highlander smashes his little body, the force of impact lifting him up 1.5 metres from the ground. You hit your brakes.. too late. He’s dead before he falls, his brains spilling out of a gaping hole where half of his face used to be. His mother rushes to her son’s body, her guttural screams piercing the air.

It’s Nima. There are young men around, you see them coming for you and yet you can’t move. You’re paralysed by shock.

Rule of Law or Instant Mob Justice?

Now, here’s a quick IQ test.

If you catch someone stealing from you. What do you do?

a. Bash the person’s face in with a fufu pestle like the neanderthal you are

b. Make the person crawl out of your house.. (for the vine) and so the person comes back to steal another day. Ahiaa for crawling?

c. Make a citizens arrest without abusing the “thief”, and take her/him to the nearest police station, because you are civilised, and because you are wise.

d. Tweet about it.

Text your answer to shortcode 4007 for your IQ test result, and you could be the winner of a slightly used space shuttle.

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How I got my iPhone back and Other Stories. (Part 3)

February 1st, 2014.

Madina, Accra.

After a night spent tossing, turning, crying silent tears and making promises to my guardian angels and ancestors on duty I woke up with almost no hope of finding my phone. Then I heard that Vanessa’s iPhone was stolen at the beach on Saturday AND THE THIEF RETURNED IT. With my vim renewed, I made some other phone calls, and eventually ended up speaking to the Don of stolen phones at Kwame Nkrumah Circle. Let’s call him Pappy Show. Pappy Show said my gold iPhone hadn’t shown up at Kwame Nkrumah Circle yet, and that I should not worry, because no fence in her/his right mind would take an iPhone 5S. “You will get your phone back if it enters Circle”, he ended.

Angel Vanessa to the rescue.

I called Vanessa earlier to comfort her when I heard her phone got stolen. She didn’t answer, I guess she was too miserable to, but she called back after she got it back and I told her about my own missing iPhone and what I planned to do. That’s when she introduced me to two of her friends; the very well connected Kofi and the Buffalo/Panther Unit Policeman Daniel. I called them and we agreed to meet the next day to go and look for phone in Sowutuom. Charley, it’s never just twitter oh. Vanessa and I met through Twitter interractions! 🙂

On Monday morning, as I sat in front of Living Room, East Legon, waiting for Kofi and watching happy young couples pass by, I wondered how much I would spend on taxi fares. I certainly wasn’t going to make Kofi and Daniel take troski to Sowutuom. A phone call interrupted my money matters calculations. It was Kofi, “I’m in the blue car across the street.” Ladies and gentlemen, What a car it was! I couldn’t believe my luck as I clambered on board Kofi’s fully “nyanya’d” (air conditioned, to the uniformed) SUV. We picked Vanessa up from work (Yes, she actually left work early to join us!), then we picked Daniel the policeman up.

On our way to Sowutuom, I got a strange call from a person who was trying to reach a “Frank”. After initially dismissing it as a wrong number call, I thought again, considering the circumstances, I called back to find out who this person was and where he got the number from. He gave his name as Sellas and he said he was calling from Koforidua. I stored his number as “Suspicious Suspicious” and put that on the back burner.

At Sowutuom Agenda, we went straight to the area macho man, who I had befriended on my previous visit, to ask if he had heard anything new or seen our number one suspect Kwasi Takyi the taxi driver doing anything suspicios. During this conversation, “Suspicious Suspicious” called me.

Me: “Hello”

S.S: “Hello, I called you earlier”

Me [pretending not to remember and signalling Kofi, Vanessa, and Daniel over]: “When? I don’t know this number, sorry”

S.S: “I called earlier and said it was a wrong number”

Me: “Oh okay, I remember now”

S.S: It’s about your phone. My sister found it in a trotro and she’s scared. Can we meet tomorrow so I give it to you?”

Me: “Where are you now? I’ll come and get it today?”

S.S: “Koforidua, you won’t get a bus at this time, let’s meet tomorrow”

Me: “Don’t worry, I have a car, I’ll drive to Koforidua right now. God Bless you so much for calling!”

S.S: “Okay, I don’t want you to worry so lets’ meet halfway”

Me: “Okay, Aburi, in an hour and a half? Take a taxi, don’t worry, I’ll pay”

S.S: “Okay”

Of course we had no intention of going to Aburi, so we went to Madina Zongo junction and I called, told him my car had DV plates and the police were giving me a hard time so he should come to Madina instead.

I won’t write about those tense moments when he wouldn’t answer my calls for thirty minutes, or how when he told me he was at Madina, it took another thirty minutes to find him. I’ll fast forward to giving him fifty cedis because he said the taxi fare came up to thirty cedis and he really didn’t want my money.

The phone was a little scratched, because someone had tried to remove the back. I don’t know, perhaps the person was trying to find the SIM card slot. The person had also attempted a Hard reset, but it was stuck on the screen where it asks for you to log in with your apple ID and password. I ignored all this. My new found police buffalo squad friends were furious. They wanted to go and get the taxi driver and question him, but I had no concrete proof that he was involved, and I knew of police interrogation techniques. I don’t have the necessary hardness to sanction that sort of thing. I also felt Sellas was just a messager, he was a little scrap of a thing, a teenager, by the looks of it. So even though the squad commander thought otherwise, I elected to let it go.

I still talk to Sellas. I even sent him money. Eventually, we’ll talk about the phone. We’ve tried to reform “criminals” with beatings and torture. I don’t know of a case where that method hasn’t resulted in a more hardened criminal. So I’m trying kindness. If Sellas is a thief, or linked to thieves, perhaps I can get him out of it. He might turn out great.

And that, friends, is how I got my iPhone back. And I spent 83.5 Ghana Cedis in total. 55 for Sellas,15 on credit for various gossip girls and boys I selected in Sowutuom Agenda, and the rest on troski fares. Not a bad deal at all. I would have spent that on a phone cover and a screen protector, so I got 5 cedi ones from Madina market to make up for that cost instead. Not bad. Not bad at all.

To God Be The Glory. We are pencils in the hands of the creator. Of course there’s a part four. I’m not a learner. 

Watch out!!!

How I got my iPhone back and Other Stories. (Part 2)

February 1st, 2014.

Madina, Accra.

 

At exactly 3:17 am, I gave up on trying to fall asleep and decided to map out my iPhone retrieval strategy. I had calmed down somewhat during the night, and remembered that I would have to pay Madina Police if I took them to Sowutuom to find my phone. This wasn’t a desirable situation as I had left my job and I would be travelling to Cameroon (I’ll post about this later) in 2 weeks. Of course I had a budget for this trip, but my budget was a cedi budget and you guys know what happened/is happening with the economy. If you don’t know, read Efo Dela’s blog for an interesting non-expert analysis. In short, na money be problem waa and I could not afford to pay any policeman.

My mind started doing that thing that my architecture professors loved so much; connecting pieces of information I had come across from conversations with all sorts of people.

This is where I chip in a piece of advice – No matter how smart/wealthy you are, please don’t assume 1. nobody can teach you anything, 2. nobody can help you. Your salvation may come from the most unlikely place!

I remembered a friend I made in a troski once, a jack of all trades, let’s call him Onipa. Among Onipa’s several pick-up-line attempts was a line about being connected to people who “acquired” phones at Kwame Nkrumah Circle.

Piece of Advice number 2, for ladies, even if a guy trying to chat you up is repulsive, if he’s not being rude, there’s no need to be rude or mean to him. You can say no politely and part as friends.

Anyway, I called Onipa and told him about my phone, about the area from the email being Anyaa or Sowutuom. “Ah!”, he exclaimed, “If it’s Anyaa then you have no problem, I know a guy there who can help you. He knows a lot of “guys” in Anyaa. His name is Pince, call him. I’m not in Accra, I would have helped you myself, but with Pinch you’re in good hands”

That is how I found myself waiting for Pince at Awoshie Market bus stop at 6:30 on Saturday morning. Pince turned up, saw the map and said that area was called Sowutuom Agenda, out of his “jurisdiction”, but offered to take me there in his pick up truck! This was great because then I would save on taxi costs. On our way to Sowutuom, we picked up Pince’s friend Fire, an aspiring actor. Did I mention that Pince has directed a movie? The movie hasn’t been released yet because of financial constraints.

At around 9 o’clock Pince, Fire and I arrived at Sowutuom Agenda, and the map led us straight to an uncompleted building. There were 3 taxis parked in a 15 metre radius of the uncompleted building. I didn’t have the car number, I didn’t know the make or model of the taxi, and only vaguely remembered what the driver looked like (dark, tall, perhaps heavy). Remember, I was dizzy and in pain during the taxi ride…

We asked around for the taxi drivers, found number one and eliminated him because he was fair-complexioned. The 2nd driver had just washed his car, gone down the road with his friend and should be back soon, and driver number three was still asleep. At this point, I didn’t feel I was dealing with a hardcore thief, just someone who had found an expensive phone and was reluctant to return it to its rightful owner.

While waiting for driver number 2 to return and number 3 to wake up, I got a 2nd email at 10:30 with a 2nd location in the direction where driver number 2 was said to have gone off. I thought it was good news and expected to get my phone back, but in the meantime I walked round the area making sure to tell people about my missing phone. One of the points I stressed was that it was locked and nobody could unlock it but me (This is true, there’s no jailbreak for the 5S). I also told them that anytime it was turned on, It would send me an email with it’s exact location (This is not entirely true. Location email will only be sent if there’s a working internet connection). I got the opportunity to explain Google maps to 4 or 5 very amazed and impressed inhabitants of Sowutuom Agenda, taking delight even in my misery in showing them their houses and even the heaps of sand infront of some buildings. “Ah then this phone can buy a land”, one hairdresser said. Well, actually, yes, it can.

At about 12:45, driver number 2 showed up. I saw him coming from afar and asked the hairdresser if that was the driver because he looked kind of familiar. He walked straight up to us and said he heard some people were looking for him.

I asked “Do you remember me?” He responded in the negative.

“Did you pick someone up around Madina yesterday?”

” No, I worked in Kaneshie”

[NB. Kaneshie was flooded the previous day]

“Well, I took a taxi and dropped my phone in it. This phone has a tracking device in it and it has led me to your house. Do you live with another taxi driver or did someone else use your car yesterday?”

All this while, I was being very pleasant. I was smiling and using my friendly you-can-trust-me voice. Unfortunately, this didn’t work. Taxi driver number two, Kwasi Takyi exploded in anger! He yelled at me and said I was calling him a thief and said i could take his keys and go and search his room, among other things.

Sigh.

After trying to talk to him calmly and eventually realising he was drunk, Pince, Fire and Kofi’s dad (who showed up to help find the phone) suggested that I should go home and wait for the phone to show up online again. When it did, the plan was to go with the Sowutuom Police to retrieve it. I didn’t think it was a good idea, but after driving to location two with Kofi’s dad and finding no leads, I accepted defeat for the day. Day 2 without my iPhone- I was disappointed and very sad, but what could I do? I got in a troski and went home to Madina. One the way back, the phone was turned on twice in location number 2.

A guy tried to chat me up in the troski on the way back. I didn’t take my own advice. I eviscerated the poor guy. Sigh

The phone showed up at 6:45pm for the last time. I slept for about two hours, woke up around midnight and cried on my mother, who just wanted her laughing concert girl back.

On Sunday morning, she asked, Now will you go to church? I didn’t go.

 

 

All hope seems lost, but remember that the stone that the builders rejected became the chief cornerstone. 

What happens next? Find out in Part 3

How I got my iPhone back and Other Stories. (Part 1)

January 31st, 2014.

Madina, Accra.

I lay in bed with a cold compress on my head to battle my old friends the migraine demons, and a hot water bottle on my abdomen to ease the cramps. It wasn’t a good day. I was reading a novel on my new iPhone 5S, a gift/prize from Nana Aba Anamoah for being her Twitter person of the year 2013, but from time to time, I would refresh my twitter feed on my trusty Sony Xperia S.

I was still coming to terms with the fact that I had an iPhone, so all I did with it at that point was to read on iBooks. Both phones were below 40% on battery power, and I was too comfortable in my dealing-with-the-pain position to go through the laborious process of looking for my chargers and plugging them in. Occasionally, I would drift off to sleep, but then a sharp pain would remind me that sleep is for the weak.

Now, the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) has as part of it’s mandate, a task to “remind” people in Ghana to always keep all gadgets fully charged. My friendly reminder came that afternoon, and after lying down for close to 45 minutes with no power, my room getting warmer, and my phone batteries quickly running out of juice, I decided to go over to my friends’ place to charge my phones and hang out till my power got restored. In 20 minutes I was standing at the roadside trying to get a shared taxi to Agbogba, but after about 15 minutes of fruitlessly flagging passing taxis, I decide to spend 7 Ghana cedis on “dropping”. At this point, my legs were really weak and I sank into the front seat of the taxi with relief. Usually I would make conversation with the taxi driver, but today I wasn’t in the mood at all. I got to Jude’s house, dragged myself inside, collapsed on the sofa and lay there for a while, forgetting the reason I went there in the first place.

As I have previously mentioned, ECG knocks sense into silly Ghanaians from time to time, and promptly in 45 minutes or so, the power went out at Jude’s place to remind Kuukuwa to always charge her phone(s). I couldn’t believe my bad luck and I belatedly fished for my phones from my bag. Now of course, bad luck comes in sets of three, so while I successfully retrieved my Sony Xperia S from my bag, the iPhone was nowhere to be found.

Adrenaline is the best drug for any ailment, and my cramps and headache disappeared as I frantically searched for my phone, both at Jude’s and back at home, realizing with a sinking heart that I had dropped it in the taxi. I dialed the number (I had a Glo SIM card in it), and nobody answered. Finally at about 6pm, the phone went out of coverage area. To put it mildly, I was devastated. What was I going to do? I just lost 1700 Ghana Cedis, a gift from Nana Aba! What was going to become of the blog post I had drafted talking about Nana Aba and the iPhone?!

I don’t have an extensive vocabulary of swear words, so after exhausting the 3 words I know well, I began to cry. I called my friend Kwabena, who was one of the only people I knew would understand the degree of devastation and be able to comfort me accordingly. As usual, Kwabena proved why he’s really extremely so awesome and to cut a long story short, he set up the Find My Iphone feature for me. Now, as soon as the phone got turned on, I would get an email alert with the time and location where it was turned on. I only felt a bit relieved however, because though I love maps (Google and Apple), I know the country I live in. More importantly, as an architecture student in the country, I learned that Satellite maps don’t work very well here. Still, it was a start, and a ray of hope pierced through the doom and gloom.

At 8:06pm, I received the first alert. “Kuukuwa’s iPhone was found near Accra” The attached map showed a spot around Sowutuom/Anyaa, an area I wasn’t familiar with. My first impulse was to rush to the Madina Police Station, write a statement or whatever and get some police personnel to go with me to get my iPhone. My mother and friends thought I should wait till morning, and so I did.

I did not sleep. I could not sleep.

End of Part One. Watch out for Part Two.

Accra is killing me!

I moved back to Accra some months after spending almost all of my life as an adult in Kumasi.

It is good to be finally able to go to all these events that never get organized in Kumasi. It is good to meet and ‘re-meet a lot of people. It is nice to be able to go to Ci Gusta anytime I have a craving for frozen yoghurt. It is nice to be able to buy a jam doughnut or a muffin every morning before work. It is nice in Accra, and there are many great things happening here, but Accra is killing me!

I don’t know why, but it seems to me that most of the people who have given up on Ghana live here, and I keep meeting them or overhearing their conversations. It’s everywhere on radio (except with Bernard on Citi fm), and I’m getting exhausted with my efforts to stay positive. I am sick of hearing things like “Ghana dier”, “This country is so messed up” etc. Now I’m not saying it’s not messed up, I’m saying I’m tired of hearing it everywhere. Perhaps it’s because there are more borgas here. I understand that it’s difficult to move from Aburokyire (where everything works well) to Ghana (where nothing works well), but the negativity hurts me. Accra is killing me.

I also think it’s because I live in Ashalley Botwe and I go to and through Madina Market a lot. That place is pretty depressing – the smell, the filth, the heat… I used to live in a green patch around KNUST in Kumasi and the switch… from walking to work through an alley with a profusion of flowering plants and fruit trees and berries to jumping over rubbish heaps, dodging sellers that grab your hand (as if that will make you buy their wares)… is horrible! Accra is killing me.

Again about radio, I used to listen to Ultimate Radio and Luv Fm in Kumasi. Ultimate Radio has (had?) a fantastic morning show that focussed on things happening in Kumasi especially positive stories. Luv would transmit Joy Fm’s super morning show for a while and then switch to other things, so I guess I wasn’t hearing as much bad government corruption news as I am now. And with many of the twi language radio stations, they did give bad news, but they made it so funny that it was difficult to actually get angry about it. Here, there’s so much anger, which I understand, but Accra is killing me.

I hear Christmas in Accra is great. People are so drunk and happy from all the weddings and parties that they forget to complain. Unfortunately, I probably won’t experience this wonderful change, because I’ve made holiday plans to be AWAY from Accra, because you know, Accra is killing me!

I miss Kumasi, and as Sarkodie said in his Versace cover, someone please give me money so I can go back to my Kumasi. Last week I had a Barcamp meeting and I didn’t want to leave because I had missed “drinking” positive energy. When’s the next TEDx?

On Nerdy Girls, Girl Power,Turbo Divas and the World Robotics Olympiad

I like girl nerds and I cannot lie!

Two days ago, I was super excited because I heard two teenage Ghanaian girls talking about the robot they built and programmed (themselves oh) on Citi fm. I wasn’t as excited by the fact that they had built their own robot as I was by the absolutely casual attitude they had about the whole thing. They spoke about programming Baby Diva the robot to pick up Komodo dragon eggs like it was easy and I thought my heart would burst from excitement!

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Leslie and Maia on the Citi fm Breakfast Show

The host of the show, Bernard Avle, seemed to be reading my mind as he asked them the questions I really wanted to know the answers to. “So, why are you doing science in school at all?”

Paraphrasing

Leslie: Mainly because of my future career aspirations.

Bernard: And what is that? What do you want to be in future?

At this point, I braced myself. I said to myself, I will still love them no matter what they want to be.

Again, paraphrasing

Leslie: Genetic Engineer

Bernard: Ei! Really?!

Me at home: Ooooo whoa! Wow! Hahaha! Yes!

Bernard: And you Maia?

Maia: Aerospace Engineer

Bernard:

Me at home:

And that’s not all, when Bernard asked them what Genetic & Aerospace Engineers do, they answered perfectly, beautifully, awesomely and intelligently.

It was a great day.

Serious Business

Maia Effah Kaufman, Ingrid Ohene-Nyantakyi, Miriam Eyram Gakpey Nigella Lawson, Leslie Goloh and their coach Ms Levina Ansong from Aburi Girls SHS are in Jakarta right now to participate in the World Robotics Olympiad. The name of their team is “Turbo Divas”. (cute huh?)
There are teams from Bishop Herman SHS and St. Augustine’s SHS representing Ghana as well, but an impartial inside source told me this when I asked him if the Ghanaians can win. “The other countries have been participating for years, and they take it very seriously. Our kids are brilliant and have a good chance of winning something, but if I had to pick one team, it would be the girls from Aburi”

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Team Ghana!

The Turbo Divas had this to say when they were asked what they expected from their teammates.

“At the end of WRO I expect that my team members and I would be extra confident, be very meticulous and extra careful and strategic. We should know how to work with people from all walks of life and believe in ourselves.Team members must come to appreciate the fact that hard work really pays.” – Ingrid Ohene-Nyantakyi

“I expect that after the WRO competition i will acquire more knowledge and skills in programming as well as building .Also i expect that, after the competition working together with people in a team is going to be an easy task and learn to take their opinions and views. Finally i expect my team to emerge victorious after this competition.” – Miriam Eyram Gakpey Nigella Lawson

“As a result of my participation in WRO i expect that there will be a boost in my self-confidence and self-image. I also expect that my problem solving ability will improve. I expect to be smarter and more precise in my way of thinking and doing things. After working with my fellow team mates in the past months, i expect to be able to live with and appreciate those around me. Finally i expect an astonishing victory for my team as a reward for our hard work, dedication and sacrifice.” – Leslie Goloh

“Considering the great amount of time and energy my team has put into the preparations for WRO 2013 over the past few months, i am expecting us to excel.
I strongly believe that we are going to leave a mark and make our beloved country proud. I also hope that our team will be able to use this opportunity to motivate more Ghanaians to show interest in science and technology.” – Maia Effah Kaufman

“After coaching the ‘Turbo Divas’ from Aburi Girls S.H.S. for WRO 2013, all I expect is an excellent performance by the team. My girls have worked so hard and I know they are the best and would do anything in their capacity to remain on top .After the team’s participation in WRO 2013, I look forward to seeing my girls gain more confidence, be problem solvers, be innovators, become more aware of their potentials and learn to connect theories learnt in the classroom with the real world around them since that is what Robotics is all about.One other thing I expect is that after thier excellent performance in the WRO, the world would in no doubt accept the fact that girls are as capable and intelligent as boys and can even be better.” – Ms Levina Ansong

(Source, Ghana Robotics on Facebook)

In conclusion, Turbo Divas, Go for Gold! You have all my support!

Damn the man! Save the Rex

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Charley my people you know me…

1. I love to support the vim squad. Akosua Adoma Owusu is proper vim squad ankasa.

2. I love it when people in Ghana just up and do stuff instead of waiting for the government to fix stuff or simply complain and forget about it…

3. I love Ghanaian history so much I managed to relate my architecture thesis to Asante history. Akosua Adoma Owusu wants to restore a historic piece of the city of Accra. Yay!

4. I’m a HUGE Kweku Ananse fan. It has nothing to do with the fact that I was born on Wednesday, or that some misguided people call me mischievous.

Amanfo) … Akosua Adoma Owusu wants to save the Rex Cinema from being turned into a warehouse or something horrible.

Read more here >>>  http://blogs.indiewire.com/shadowandact/help-akosua-adoma-owusu-damn-the-man-save-the-rex-fundraising

This blog post is especially for people like me. We don’t have credit cards but we have some five and ten cedis to contribute. If this is you, let me know. We’ll perch on someone’s credit card.

Oh… and Akosua, or any other interested person… My friend Sarpong did a conceptual design for a Kweku Ananse Cinema. When you become disgustingly rich, holla!