Thursday, January 01, 2009

The Wound Part I (Ghana Elections 2008)

Let's start with this: they almost killed my uncle.

I really can't write much more than that. When I look at what was done to him, when I look at the pictures, there really isn't much more that can be said: they tried to kill my uncle, they almost killed my uncle.

For an election.

My mother was the one who received the phone call from her brother telling her to come quickly, that they were killing him, that she should bring help.

I was back in Accra at a remove of 200 kilometers. I only saw the text message that read

"Dr Ohene beaten to pulp at Dededo polling station, Ho West. He has been sent to Trafalgar hospital. It's time to stop these gung ho moves"
True I heard the almost primal sound that my cousin had raised when she received that message, a terrifying sound that had made me stop whatever I was doing on this, my dad's birthday, and rush her way. I felt the same wound. I still feel it.

My mother had been talking to my grandmother and grand-aunts when she received that frantic phone call. I can't imagine what those women must have felt in that instant and in the subsequent fraught hours. Is it possible to wound anyone more?

I don't know what my 10 year old cousin, my uncle's son, who was in that house with those women, must have felt. He had been arguing throughout the previous day that he should accompany his father to watch him be a polling agent. Would they have killed his father in front of him? Is it possible to wound anyone more?

The threat had been raised in 2000 and 2004 that "There will be blood on the ground". There was certainly violence and intimidation back then but we have seen things this time in 2008 and now 2009 that are chillingly close to what transpired in places that no one should ever emulate, in countries that people use as cautionary tales.

The cynical people who incited, who fomented, who organized the political violence are as much to blame as those who attacked, who beat, who kicked, who threw stones, who threw planks, who sprayed acid and sundry powders, who held people hostage until they signed, who chased people off, who surrounded cars that arrived in their villages and towns, who shook cars, who spat, who came with cudgels and cutlasses, who threatened to burn down our family home and many others, who stole watches from bleeding men, who searched for cement blocks to take lives, who heeded the call to slaughter the strangers in their midst.

I had promised myself that I wouldn't write during my holiday in Ghana. I knew that I would have prime material with these runoff elections and indeed my home has been plum center of the election strategizing and campaign. Sociologists, historians and political scientists would die for what I've witnessed.

Since 10am on election day when I heard that awful news, things have been clarified for me. The deeply political animal that many of you who read me know is simply in pain.

I have written about my uncle before in these pages, noting that he was one of three psychiatrists tending to the mental health of 20 million Ghanaians. These days he might well be the only psychiatrist in Ghana since almost everyone who trains in his discipline seems to leave the country. My favourite uncle, I don't know a gentler man.

I will write more later on this and other topics and more in my customary style. I will share two things now, I hesitate with the first but I recall having written on the necessity of permanent outrage and certainly there has been outrageous behaviour here.
  • Photos of my uncle after the attack on him that my mother somehow thought to take (warning these are graphic).
  • My mother is more sober perhaps, and certainly calmer when emergencies arise. I don't know where she has found the time given the tremendous pressures of the past few days but she has written an account of things.

    Look On At Your Handiwork
I hope these wounds will heal and that I'll forget these things. But for now I'll end with this: they tried to kill my uncle; they almost killed my uncle.

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18 comments:

Chris said...

I'm so sorry to read that, Koranteng. The way people treat one another, I just don't understand it. Here's wishing your uncle and family safety and healing.

Anonymous said...

That Pre-Madonna of a coward thinks he is back...I am really sad about your uncle...peace ..

Abena said...

I saw the horrific pictures of your uncle in the Daily Guide newspaper. Things like this make me question whether this election truly demonstrated the ideals of an African democracy in practice and also showed Ghana's political maturity (as some have been saying) when violence and intimidation still appear to be the order of the day.

kwasi said...

Wow, I am really sorry to hear this man. I hope he makes a full recovery.
Its stuff like this that makes me extremely worried about these people being back in power. Hopefully calmer heads will prevail

John said...

Sorry to hear this Koranteng. I hope you are holding up amid this mindlessness.

Here, There, Elsewhere... and more said...

I'm so sad to read this - we have only received reports here in France praising this election and how Ghana is truly an example to other African states...
I only hope it is the doing of a few black sheep and not the norm.
Bon Courage and all the best to you and all your family..:)

novisi said...

this is definitely a sad story by whichever angle it's looked at!

i just hope the perpetrators our found out!

our society is sick...this is beyond politics...it's a sick society!!

i feel your pain man!

okiemute said...

This is a gruesome act. It is indeed the end of an era in Ghana politics. To have attacked a gentleman like Fo Sammy is to say the least very disgusting. I am thankful to God that the 'Sko-Ohene' clan are not singing dirges. It could have been worse. The attackers' ultimate aim is best left for us all to imagine. To my devoted psychiatrist , am at a loss .What can I say .... you are lucky ,I am aware of the hurt,pains and disappointment . It only shows that you never know how far people can go in pursuit of power, and who is really looking out for you. Ohene family, be strong , keep the faith . IT IS WELL.

okie said...

This is a gruesome act. It is indeed the end of an era in Ghana politics. To have attacked a gentleman like Fo Sammy is to say the least very disgusting. I am thankful to God that the 'Sko-Ohene' clan are not singing dirges. It could have been worse. The attackers' ultimate aim is best left for us all to imagine. To my devoted psychiatrist , am at a loss .What can I say .... you are lucky ,I am aware of the hurt,pains and disappointment . It only shows that you never know how far people can go in pursuit of power, and who is really looking out for you. Ohene family, be strong , keep the faith . IT IS WELL.

Jane Rubio said...

"the necessity of permanent outrage"

I'll be praying for your uncle and your family.

Jane Rubio said...

"the necessity of permanent outrage"

I'll be praying for your uncle and your family.

ethanz said...

Koranteng, I was so sorry to hear about the attack on your uncle. I hope his recovery is proceeding well and I'm so sorry that your family's experience of this election was such a painful one. I hope you'll update us on his recovery when you are able.

Maxine Mosley Totoe said...

wow! it's my first time reading your blog and this just really makes me mad! The senseless mob lynching and beatings in Ghana have got to stop. when are we going to realize we can not just take "justice" into our own hands.no wonder they still think we're barbarians! I pray your uncle is doing well...Ohfrom your name, I imagine you are from the Eastern region?

Nii Djan said...

I'm deeply sorry for what happened to your uncle. From oceans away, we only read of the patronizing praises written about Ghana's success in holding an election that did not devolve into chaos. Sadly missing in all the gloating is the coverage of the intimidation and real violence that occurred. I pray your uncle will make a complete recovery.

Thanks for all your insightful and amusing writings.

Nana Kofi Acquah said...

I'm so sorry about your uncle. I hope he is fine now. The good thing is the local media didn't shut up about it and for that alone, I am proud of them.

Keep up the good work Koranteng, your blog rocks.

MLJ1954 said...

When you see your Uncle Sammy, please be sure to give him a huge hug and a kiss on each cheek from his "family" in North Olmsted, Ohio, USA.

He stayed with us when he was a participant in the Cleveland International Program many years ago.

I hope he is recovering well.

Dave and Mary Lynn

Dorothy Faller said...

Dr. Ohene was a participant in a US State Department sponsored program some years ago in Cleveland, Ohio, USA. He was in training for substance abuse prevention and treatment. Such a kind and gentle man, always helping others. I visited Ghana for a follow up conference on this topic, and visited his hospital where he worked to help mentally ill people. I pray that the politics of Ghana will not go in this violent direction. My very best regards to Dr. Ohene and all of his relatives. Sincerely, Dorothy Faller

AG said...

Brother, my strength goes out to you and your family. This sort of wanton violence is horrific. I often wonder why people who are struggling for the same place at the table seem to dwell in self-hatred? Why not share and accept thoughts that are different than your own?