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Friday, October 7, 2022

Sacrificing Lives For Ramps: The Mfensi Story


“I promise to hold in high esteem our heritage won for us through the blood and toil of our fathers,” a catch phrase in Ghana’s national pledge, could be the most perceivable thought in the minds of residents of Mfensi in the Ashanti region, as they take a solemn gaze at newly constructed speed ramps along the highway where the community lies.

Mfensi is a small village in the Atwima Nwabiagya District of the Ashanti Region. The village appears peaceful as one drives along the main Kumasi-Sunyani highway, but a veritable threat to their lives laid helplessly at their door step.

A good road supposed to ease traffic and bring comfort to drivers was a death trap which residents claimed had taken about 20 lives due to excessive speeding and reckless driving.

Residents had complained severally to authorities about their plight but to no avail. Their pleas and cries had always fallen on deaf ears as a letter they had written to the Ghana Highway Authority and the District Assembly received no attention.

They run out of patience on January 23 2014, when a 34 year old woman, Ataa Lydia, a single mother and a breadwinner of an extended family, was knocked and killed by a Toyota Hilux pickup. The youth and elderly alike took to the streets in the fashion government appears to understand and responds to the most.

Residents of the town on that fateful morning built about 20 heavy speed ramps made of sticks, stones and blocks amidst a spirited demonstration as their own version of introducing restrictive measures to control excessive speeding. The speed ramps essentially disrupted free vehicular movement, causing heavy traffic along the Kumasi-Sunyani Highway.

Police and military personnel in their regular officious and clumsy posturing in such matters descended heavily on residents, arresting and in some cases brutalizing anyone on sight. The irate residents were badly manhandled for what they felt was a ‘peaceful protest’ for a genuine course. With the security force in ready mode to slam any ant with a sledge hammer, virtually all the men in the village including the assembly member for the area, fled into the bushes to avoid police arrest and brutalities. The police managed to cause the arrest of nineteen of them who were later remanded.

Narrating their ordeal to Ultimate Radio’s Joseph Oppong Brenya, a victim of the police brutalities said he heard gun shots and immediately two police men pounced on him.

“They begun beating and slapping me mercilessly and tore my clothes. One of them hit my chest with his gun. They arrested me and some others and took us to the Akropong Police Station from where we were transferred to the Abuakwa police station and later sent to the central police station in Kumasi. We were finally brought to the Akropong police station where our chief intervened to seek bail for us. After the incident, I was hospitalized and had to go through several x-ray tests at the hospital. I should say I have been through a lot” he told his sad story.

Another victim of the police manhandling, also narrated how the police lashed and slapped them with sticks and cables. He profusely enquired whether that was what they deserved for demonstrating for a genuine course.

Back at Mfensi, the women were left wailing and weeping. Some of the women who spoke to Ultimate Radio expressed their displeasure about the attitude of the police towards their young men and threatened that if the issue wasn’t reported properly they were going to move to the extent of poisoning themselves to death.

“We are dying in this town. All sorts of people, from our children to our adults are always knocked down to death on this road because of excessive speeding and reckless driving. Recently two children from the same mother met their tragic death on the same road and their mother who couldn’t bear the pain, died few days afterwards. All these sad incidents ignited the youth to take up such an action and if the government doesn’t come in to construct speed ramps for us, we are all going to die and this town will be left desolate” one of the women bewailed empathizing with young men who were brutalized and bundled away by the police.

The daughter of the deceased whose killing sparked the protest, was thrown into shock and misery at the death of her mother who had only gone to ply her trade as a food vender selling cooked rice.

Esther Antwi lamented to Ultimate Radio that her mother was her only friend as her father abandoned them in her early life. The young girl who had completed senior high school education said she now has no one to help her further her education. A brother to the deceased in tears told Ultimate Radio her sister was “the breadwinner of the whole family and that her loss was a big tragedy to their household.”

The Ultimate Radio news team in its quest to bring a meaningful solution to the impasse took it upon itself to blaze the issue on all fronts. The matter was trumpeted on the News Updates and discussed extensively on the Ultimate Morning Show drawing massive public interest. The Ghana Highway Authority waded actively into the matter after several calls were made by the news team to their outfit.

The Highways finally responded to the reports on Ultimate Radio and assured that they were moving in to see how best the demands of the residents could be addressed.

A week later, the Ashanti Regional Surveyor at the Ghana Highway Authority, Nana Ninsin-Imbeah II, assured the media that the Roads and Transport Ministry had taken notice of the concerns and had given approval for some speed ramps to be constructed in the region of which Mfensi would be given priority.

“The Highway Authority has been given approval from the Ministry of Roads and Transport to construct some speed ramps within the Ashanti Region and we will give priority to Mfensi, especially taking a cue from the report that was carried on Ultimate Radio”.

Thankfully, the markings were done and contractors have constructed the speed ramps along the main Kumasi-Sunyani road through Mfensi. Chiefs and residents were full of praise for government and to Ultimate Radio for consistently reporting their plight. The Chief of Mfensi, Nana Boakye Ababio told Ultimate Radio they were grateful for the construction of the ramps.

“I will first thank the government for coming to our aid and further appeal that the construction should be extended to cover other areas where drivers speed dangerously. I and my elders, the assembly and committee members are very happy with the new development. We thank your station (Ultimate Radio) as well for broadcasting our predicament to the government” the elated chief submitted with satisfaction.

Residents of the town were overjoyed when Ultimate Radio’s Joseph Oppong Brenya visited the town again to report on the construction of the speed ramps. Residents could not hide their joy over the prompt attention given to their plight. Joseph Oppong Brenya told a rather fascinating story different from when he went in to cover the demonstrations where he was whipped by the police before he managed to pull out an identity card to prove he was a journalist and not a protester.

A resident in expressing his excitement said, “Now the vehicles are moving at a slow pace and we’ve not witnessed any accident again. They’ve even assured us they will extend the speed ramps to the other sides of the road. May God richly bless your station for the help you rendered to this community.

Speaking to Ultimate Radio, the daughter of the deceased whose death ignited the protest, said she was satisfied that at least there won’t be more vehicular knockdowns just like her mother and nineteen others were killed.

“It will help us hundred percent because the kind of speed at which drivers were driving here was just perilous and I know this will not only be helpful to us but to those driving into and out of the town. We thank them for what they have done and you too (referring to Ultimate Radio), may god richly bless you for your work,” Esther expressed with appreciation.

Clearly confident that they may never again witness road fatalities, they were full of commendations but condemned the police for acting in the manner they did. Chiefs and residents would however let their misgivings drop into the sea of forgetfulness and take solace in the chronicle that their brave protests yielded the desired results.

This feat surely is a feather in the cup of the Adult Alternative Station, Ultimate Radio. For the Ultimate News Team, we cannot agree less with the famous quote of the English poet Haki Aitoro who said, “Let us all be remembered for the lives we touched, the communities we inspired, the youth we guided, the risk we took and for the world we changed.

Let us write down our stories. Let us tell our experiences and record our tales and struggles for our children, grandchildren and generations to see and hear as a source of hope, wisdom and guidance.”

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