The CNN Backlash & The Danger of a Single Story

 

 

After peaceful and successful elections, I woke up on a bright Sunday morning to the #CNNGetItRight hashtag. Like many Ghanaians, I have been worried about the way some international media organizations always portray Africa in a negative manner; some even go to the extent of telling stories that are untrue. The article on the CNN website claimed that Ghanaians had elections in 1998 (which is false).

The report also stated that : “Ghanaians are struggling to obtain food and day-to-day services. Rolling blackouts are common and citizens often stand in long line (correct expression being long queues) to obtain products”.  These words attempted to paint a mental picture of famine and hunger to the rest of the world especially to those who never have the chance of experiencing the good things in Africa. Today, the tales of the hunter are over and the lions have decided to tell the tales of hunting because we have our own historians (figurative).

There are a number of things wrong with the CNN article hence the reason why Ghanaians must not stay silent :

1.The CNN reporters who wrote this particular article were in Nigeria and Atlanta hence they were not reporting from Ghana at the time they were writing.

2.Ghana holds elections every 4 years and there is no way we could have conducted presidential elections in 1998.

3.There was little or no research done about our country (Ghana) before reporting hence the huge number of mistakes in the report which has now been edited

4.The desire to report on the negatives of Africa. Growing up, CNN has been one of the major news networks in the world (there is no doubt about that). However, I have noticed an unpleasant trend – the network is usually one of the first (if not the first) to report news concerning Africa especially when it is negative. They reported the May 9th football disaster as well as the June Flood and Fire Disaster which occurred in Accra. There were a number of things CNN could have reported on concerning Ghana’s 2016 election – conduction of a peaceful election, Ghana’s infrastructure and so on. Yet they chose to focus on irrelevant information most of which were invalid.

Dear Friends, this is a clear misrepresentation of Ghana and Africa at large. We must rise up and condemn such negative reportage. People in Africa do not live on trees, neither are we in a state of perpetual poverty and hunger. We live just like any other country does. Africa is not a place of disease and good things come from Africa too. If we do not correct some of these negative perceptions, people begin to believe and associate them with us. In the words of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie,a Nigerian novelist, “That is the danger of a single story”.

By : Naa Adzoa Adzeley Boi-Dsane

Eric’s Diary IX : I am on death row

ix“You are on death row” is the statement that was blurted out from a classmate of mine after we had a heated argument. I will not say that I blame him.

However, when people decide to use certain aspects of life that cannot be altered to enable them win an argument then the matter at hand does not seem worth discussing because of the myopic reasoning involved. Of course, I was enraged because I knew I was right and my family history of ALS had nothing to do with the argument.

I stormed out of the class and went into hiding to reflect on my life.

My name is James.  I’m only 16 and I love to play basketball. In fact, I met my good friend Eric on the court so don’t be alarmed to see me writing in his diary. Now, back to the wonderful sport.

I have no idea what keeps my love for the sport alive despite the risks involved. Maybe it is just the thrill of one day becoming a LeBron James. I used to do long-distance running too but I put that on hold so that I could concentrate on my studies alongside being able to play the sport I love.

My father had been diagnosed with ALS five months ago. He had to urgently seek medical attention after a lot of people complained of his nasal tone and his boss once reprimanded him for being too slow with his tools while working as the lead engineer on the Electrify Africa Project.

Then he started to have a ‘slapping’ gait and would involuntarily laugh or cry without provocation.  During one of our family tennis games, he kept missing the ball and fell to the ground five minutes into the game. I was scared that he might have had a heart attack.

He did not want anyone to know what was going on after he was diagnosed so he quit his job to divert attention and went into teaching. But he could not endure standing in a classroom for close to 3 hours because his involuntary motor actions gave him away. He still persevered despite the illness and when anyone asked how he was doing, he would reply: “Never been greater”.

I was really curious about what was going on so I decided to research on the illness. Not like I was eavesdropping but I overheard him discussing it with our family doctor over the phone. That was the first time I had heard the acronym – ALS.

Given that I live in an era where information is easily accessible, I resorted to my best friend (Google) who never disappoints me and sometimes even overwhelms me with information. Here is what I found.

Image result for als disease

ALS stands for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (also called Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and it is described as a fatal and degenerative motor neuron disease.

It could be inherited (due to the A4V mutation) with a mean survival of 12 months after onset or it could be sporadic with a mean survival of three years. Patients with the familial form have early onset at ages 46-55 while those with sporadic origin have theirs around age 65. The risk factors for the sporadic form include smoking, sports (mainly boxing and Amerian Football) as well as military service.

Some patients may experience the following symptoms besides the ones that I have already mentioned regarding my father’s case – wrist drops, muscle cramps, muscle wasting, drooling, tripping, stumbling and awkwardness when running.

ALS is very difficult to deal with aside the fact that it is incurable at the moment. A drug called Riluzole only slows the progression of the disease but it does not halt it altogether.

Regardless of these gloomy facts, I draw inspiration from great people like Prof. Stephen Hawkings, a theoretical physicist and cosmologist, who has won many awards including the Albert Einstein Award and Medal alongside being a lecturer despite being struck with this illness.

With this evidence, I can confidently say that having tendencies to develop ALS in the future or battling ALS does not mean that there is nothing to life anymore.

I will not allow the thought or the probability that I may develop it in the future deter me from what I want to achieve. ALS cannot imprison my future so I am definitely not on death row.

Image result for als disease stephen hawking
By : Naa Adzoa Adeley Boi-Dsane

Montie 3 : When the executive is at war with the judiciary

Two weeks ago, I watched a discussion on the Celebrity Fan Zone show where the issue of a female porter (kayayo) suspected to have transported illegal drugs across the Ghana-Togo Border and was handed a 10-year sentence without adequate representation in court.
From the discussion, it can be insinuated that the trial was not as fair as it should have been. Also, the evidence should have been analysed critically before any conclusions were made. Looking at the nature of a female porter’s job, it was always going to be difficult for her to know what she was carrying without losing any customers because others would want her services without asking any questions.
Yet, once this woman was caught with the illegal goods at the border, she was sentenced without thorough investigation.  After hearing this on television, I decided to surf the Internet  to find out the details of the issue.
However, to my dismay, I found little information on what the whole issue was about making it seem as though it was not a matter of interest.
No one is willing to investigate further into the case in order to find out what really happened or if indeed the woman was a culprit. Like Albert Einstein said : “The world is a dangerous place not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing”.
The recent news cycle has involved the ‘Montie Three’ when three males believed to have been radio presenters and panellists threatened with impunity to kill judges and rape the Chief Justice of Ghana.
When brought before the court, they gave certain flimsy excuses as to why they made such uncouth statements on air.
They were then given a prison term of four months each, which I believe is too small considering the magnitude of their offence especially in a country where judges have been murdered before. So here they are, with a four-month-sentence for conspiracy to commit murder while there are people in prison who have been on remand for ages concerning crimes they may not have even committed.
After the sentence, there was an outcry that the President of the Republic of Ghana H.E John Mahama should exercise his prerogative of mercy by freeing the trio. There were several prominent people like Ama Atta Aidoo and Lawyer Tony Lithur who spoke against this saying this while others like  Nana Oye Lithur (Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection) went as far as signing a petition for their release.
The council of state came to a consensus that the trio should be freed and the president heeded to this decision to the shock and dismay of most deep-thinking Ghanaians.
That was when I decided to analyse the implications of the situation.
1. Of all the approximately 2,000 prisoners in Nsawam Prison that may have applied for Presidential Pardon, only these Montie Three were worthy enough to get a pardon that quick without taking much time to follow due procedure. What about those who have been on remand for years concerning offences they may not even have been involved in.
2. Prerogative of Mercy is exercised when the prisoners have served some amount of jail time and have proved to be of good behaviour, therefore are recommended for a pardon. How long did the Montie Three stay in jail?
3. Looking at the nature of the offence, does it mean that the democracy in which we live in automatically offers the opportunity to exercise our freedom of speech at the expense of other’s rights to life?
4. Would the judiciary fight back in government cases after its verdict has been trampled upon by the president’s actions, albeit constitutional?
5. Does the executive’s absolute power override that of the judiciary to the extent of interference with its cases and if so where lies our concept of separation of powers?
6. Have party matters overtaken our love for Ghana?
Juxtaposing the Kayayo story with that of the Montie Three, I would like to agree with Karl Marx’s theory once again.
Here, we see class oppression as well as social inequality. The Montie Three spoke for a powerful party and when the repercussions came, they were redeemed despite the fact that they were proven guilty leaving the country in a state of unrest. The Kayayo had little or no representation in court, yet was given a sentence of about ten years.
There are flaws in every system. However, it is in patching up our flaws that make us stronger. The purpose of this article is to stir up our spirit of patriotism once again and not  to politicise any of these occurrences. We can not afford to have our executive and judicial arms at war around this crucial time when they are supposed to function as one body.

Leopard in a political suit

Enter a caption

Black and white. That was what he wore for the rally. Details—white shirt, black suit and tie.

Introducing Abrantie the Leopard. As noble as his name sounds, he stands on the stage canvassing for votes. His manifesto in hand with outstretched arms (not forgetting his trophy wife who literally stands by him the whole time).

Unfortunately, feminism was not much of a popular concept then so patriarchy was the order of the day. Well, his wife’s name is Obaa Yaa. She is also a member of the leopard family.

Kyei is the Cheetah. Just like Abrantie, he is running for president. Despite the well-known swiftness of a Cheetah, no one knows how Abrantie was able to beat Kyei to it. Some Kyei-fanatics were obviously disappointed when Yaw the Squirrel announced the results.

Being a lover of peace, Kyei conceded defeat and officially gave an acceptance speech that acknowledged Abrantie’s position.

Now, Mr President gets to elect members of his cabinet and makes Nii, the parrot, the leader of his cabinet as well as his special advisor. They say everybody has skeletons but, when those skeletons begin to walk out of their closets, there is no stopping them.

Let’s just say the parrot lived up to its known traits that not even the housefly could escape his daily reports to the president.

Soon, the country had to elect another president because Abrantie’s term of office was over. All the previous candidates that stood during the previous election stood again. Abrantie won again marginally. However, Kyei decided to challenge his win in court. The court ruled that there should be a re-run of the presidential election.

Abrantie was advised by Kwasi, the Eagle (who was the acting United Nations Secretary General) to allow democracy to take its course for peace to prevail. Abrantie agreed to do so.

It is said that a leopard cannot change its spots. So the election was rigged and Abrantie won marginally once again. There was every proof that it was rigged but he refused to step down.

When he was advised to engage in power sharing, he blatantly refused and when Kyei decided to take what he felt belonged to him, he sent some serial killers to wipe his family off the face of the earth. Enraged, Kyei decided to go after Abrantie’s only daughter, leaving the President and the First Lady childless. This war went on for long.

Nii the parrot was actively doing his job and he did not stop feeding the president with gossip, alongside evil ideas on how to deal with Kyei. Well, Kyei was also ready to risk anything in the battle for the Presidency because he had already lost everything. So Nii advised the President to send an arsonist to Kyei’s house. The plan was to smoke him out like a rat and then let the fire deal with him. “That way it would look like an accident,” Nii said.

Abrantie was sent on tour in a foreign land to make it look like he had no idea about what was going on. His wife did not want to go but faked sickness saying she would go within the next hour. Nii was to stay until they were sure that Kyei was dead.

There is one thing they forgot about fire – a good servant but a bad master. So whoever set the fire did not seem to hold the reins because the fire became violent and began to cross over its boundaries till it had burnt every single thing in its path. Many people who caught a hint of the fire run and some got burnt before they could even lift a foot. Nii and his accomplices were also caught in the fire.

When Abrantie returned, he could not handle the shock of seeing his wife’s face burnt beyond recognition. He saw it in the news but could not believe it so he came down to verify. There was nothing he could do. All this while, he had been so drunk with power that he did not even realise that he had been left alone to rule himself in a jungle.

“Ghanaians are peaceful”: that is the popular opinion of people. Though this is true, I would like to state that peace is not inborn. It is learnt and we have to make a conscious effort to maintain that peace before, during and after this upcoming election.

Though this is depicted in the animal kingdom, it is not far from us if we do not make a conscious effort to vote for peace. Animals act on instinct only and live in a jungle—that is what distinguishes us from them. But if we can look each other in the eye to hurt or kill one another, then it would be like living in a jungle, not a democracy.

So in this day of civilisation, I implore our human conscience to prevent and suppress any act of violence before it becomes a full-blown war. It is not worth shoving a knife down someone’s throat or putting a bullet in someone’s head or bathing a person with acid or setting a place ablaze over pieces of papers called ballot sheets.

Yes, pieces of papers they would forever be till we all decide to make them more valuable than human life – which would not be a wise thing to do.

Finally, leaders who get too drunk with power lose it in the end because like they say, “power is like an egg, when held loosely, it slips away but when held too tightly it crushes.”

Let us learn to handle it right!

Justice: The truth is just an opinion


Whenever we walk into those white buildings situated along the busy High Streets in Accra, we do so with so much hope. We do not just hope but we are more than certain that we are bound to receive justice; not because those walls of the High Court can give us justice but the people that bear the title ‘justice’ preside over those courts being bound by oath to deliver justice based on evidence and nothing else.

For years, I have held the attire in very high esteem until I was proven wrong on September 9, 2015. Ace investigative journalist, Anas Aremeyaw Anas had done it again.

This time, the revelation was more shocking. In the video, there was evidence of Judges collecting sums of money as low as Gh¢300 for murder cases and ruling in favour of the suspect and in the end disregarding the facts of the case.

Some decided to trade justice for one or two goats (not to say that this deal is more classy than the former). Some even collected the money and asked with impunity for more to be added.

When I first watched it, I could not believe what I was seeing so I had to replay about three times for it to sink in. As for the rape cases, they were thrown out of the courts like paper bags of no value.

This is not to say that all the judges in Ghana are corrupt. But since too many cooks spoil the broth, justice is getting hard to find and as for evidence and truth they are becoming just like opinions.

We dare not consider the evidence because once it is handed over to ‘our lords’ they would do justice to it to the extent that it seems null and void.

‘Scandal of our time’ isn’t it? Hold on, there is more to come!

About a month ago, news broke about a boy who was allegedly battered by some policemen whom they went to dump at a hospital after he died. Autopsy report claimed that the boy had died of natural causes and Dr Sampene (the pathologist) challenged the boy’s family to produce their own autopsy if they doubted his report.

Well, in this case, you and I were not there but there is one thing I know; “In the medical field, we are encouraged to take history whenever we are seeing any patient because whatever happened in the past may have a link to the patient’s current condition. Dying of natural causes means that a person’s death is attributed to an illness or an internal malfunction but not due to any external causes. I rest my case.”

DCOP Kofi Boakye also categorically stated that his men were innocent and he did not even see any reason why his men would beat the boy up. Some of the policemen also claim that the boy had already fainted while they were chasing him so they caught him and put him in the back of their truck. If the commander is already supporting his men in an alleged case of police brutalising a civilian, then who is going to conduct any investigation into the matter? It would be like using the law to fight against THE LAW.

At the boy’s funeral, he was buried with a huge cutlass in hand, drinks and some knives around him. The family said the knives were to be used by him in the next world to take revenge on all those who caused his death. But will this “famanyame” attitude (leave it to God/ the gods) help us in such cases?

I believe the answer is a big NO!  That is why we have a whole Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection which is supposed to fight for the vulnerable in society. Yet here we are with people whose political positions may be causing lip-locking to the extent that they cannot even advocate like they used to anymore. Some may be so power-drunk that they cannot even differentiate what is true from what is false.

I dare say that if Ghana did not have an Anas, the bad people would always be crowned as angels while the good suffer to even die just like it was before the Osu Children’s Home exposé that brought many to tears due to the cruelty and barbaric nature of most of the activities there.

A few weeks ago, there was a story on embezzlement where a group of people from the Accountant General’s Department were freed to assume normal duty on condition that they work to pay all the money that they embezzled. Yet, some people are imprisoned for many years for stealing goats.

Several people have even been on remand for years due to similar circumstances. Is this not all stealing? Or is it because the former had a white collar job and used his pen to aid him or her to amass wealth unlawfully? Does that make him/her different from the one who steals manually/using his physical strength?

I used to disagree with Karl Marx because I don’t usually swallow everything I read hook, line and sinker, especially when it deals with generalisation. He believed that there was a lot of social inequality and that the poor needed to rise up against the capitalist society. Also, Marx believed that laws are the product of class oppression and mostly in favour of capitalists. In Ghana, the legal aid system is defunct, therefore how are the poor supposed to have access to justice Pro Bono? All these issues corroborate his theory.

Ghana has to wake up because the aroma of the corruption coffee has been lingering on for far too long.  Let us uphold the oaths that we swear and tell the whole truth before the truth loses its value.

June 3 : The yearly menace called water

 

What now after June 3?

Today is exactly one year after Ghana experienced her most destructive and tragic flood. Over 150 people died in that preventable disaster. I use the word ‘preventable’ because I believe we could have avoided this if we had just adhered to the ‘keep the city clean’ rule.

I think monotony is setting in.

‘Monotony’ because Accra sees flood every year such that it’s no longer breaking news to see a house buried in water. Who do we blame?

Do we blame the people who build in water ways or the authorities who allow illegal structures to be erected? Is it any easier to blame those who litter or maybe those who do not speak up in order to ensure that the law takes its course?

Or do we simply shift all the blame on those who have the audacity to litter and be bold enough to ask if it is your room that is being littered when they are confronted? On analysis, it seems that all the above are at fault. Let’s quit the blame game ; the damage has already been done.

So what now after June 3?

I vividly remember the chronology of events after the incident. There was media coverage which included interviews of victims and their families. Then there was the BBC debate on the Accra Floods where several brilliant ideas were suggested to curb a certain menace called water.

Water is not the enemy here; when its pathway is blocked it becomes aggressive to the extent of becoming a menace qualifying it as flood. “It’s an engineering and sanitation problem” was one of the suggestions that I heard as I sat in the auditorium amidst the debate.

Almost everyone made a contribution that day and I must admit that most of the ideas that were put forward were brilliant.

Interestingly, the mayor was awarded ‘Best mayor of Africa’ and soon after his award and the erection of his billboard, this tragedy occurred. He was interviewed several times concerning this issue and I heard him in one interview saying that “he assures Ghanaians that his demolition exercises and clearing up of the ‘Millennium City’ would not just be a nine-day-wonder”.

Quite charismatic but promises without action are empty and I am beginning to believe that this is more than just a nine-day-wonder because it’s been a year since the incident and there has been no significant change. Now where should I begin – should I start with the enthusiasm with which we were told about the ban on plastics or should I talk about the futile attempt to regulate the construction of filling stations?

The government promised to compensate the victims and their families but I was shocked to read online that as at now, several people still have to cater for their own hospital bills aside coping with the ridicule they face as victims.

I still haven’t answered the question I posed in the beginning. This is because moving on after June 3 requires more than one individual. It takes more than just talking and sharing ideas.

Definitely, it would take more than temporary enthusiasm to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. Yes, enthusiasm is good but if it is unsustained then it weans of in a short while and poses a threat of a similar occurrence lurking. Clean up exercises once a month are good but if we don’t solve the problem from the origin it does not matter how many we organise ; the origin here signifies those who dispose off waste indiscriminately.

I believe there is one solution to this – we need working institutions and systems not just beautiful by-laws in books that are not enforced. People need to be made accountable for their actions(the act of littering )and inactions(not reporting someone who was involved in the act) concerning waste disposal.

My condolences to all those who were victims or who lost a loved-one during the June 3 disaster. Let’s make this memory count by keeping our city clean and ensuring the right thing is done. Almost everyone in Accra may have been to Circle at any point in time so it could have been anyone including you.

By: Naa Adzoa Adzeley Boi-Dsane

naabd61@yahoo.com