“Though Ghana is a democratic dispensation, Kumasi alone is under the military dictatorship under the reign of Major Kojo Bonsu Hon. Fully Armed soldiers led by Captain Boachie and W. O. Morro are harassing some transport operators all in the name of decongestion.”
These are not the words of a coup junta but the charged Industrial Relations Officer of the Ashanti regional GPRTU which has given the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly a seven-day ultimatum to withdraw military personnel stationed at various lorry terminals in the city, or expect a five day long massive demonstration to hit the streets of Kumasi.
The ultimatum was given by Transport unions in the Ashanti Region made up of the GPRTU, PROTOA, and others at a news conference held Monday at the Mmrom offices of the GPRTU.
This latest challenge by the transport unions follows a long drawn brawl that has existed between the transport unions and the Kumasi metropolitan assembly since it begun its decongestion of Kejetia and other bus terminals in the central business district in January this year.
The exercise was to ensure that long distance travelling vehicles left the choking business district to designated spots including the Abinchie Market and the Suame Hill Top Areas.
It was however faced with much resistance from the transport owners who were unwilling to leave the terminals with the complaint of losing their customers. The KMA in its bid to enforce compliance deployed armed soldiers to some bus terminals notable among which were the Kwame Antwi GPRTU, Murom station and the Kejetia terminal to ensure that the relocated drivers did not return after the exercise.
But at a spirited news conference Monday, the three recognized unions forcefully registered their displeasure at what they described as persistent harassment and extortion of money from drivers perpetrated by the soldiers supervising the ongoing decongestion exercises at the various terminals.
Addressing the conference, Industrial Relations Officer of the GPRTU, dared the KMA to pull out the troops within the seven days with a caution that “If after the seven days nothing is done, we are going to stop all our cars from other regions from entering Kumasi and those in Kumasi from leaving the city. This also will come along with a massive demonstration which will continue for five good days nonstop to let people know our grievances”.
Rev. Ellis Owusu Ansah described the whole decongestion exercise as unduly targeted at the three largest transport unions who operate at a common location in Kumasi.
“We say that the KMA mayor and his armed soldiers are decongesting a city centered on a particular place and targeted at a particular group because traders who have taken over the main dual carriage from Kejetia to Dr. Mensa making vehicular movement very difficult are left untouched.
Some drivers are also aided by KMA guards to load along the road from Kejetia to Asafo interchange to various places like Accra Koforidua et-cetera are not touched but GPRTU, Co-operative who operate from the GPRTU office frontage and to House of Faith are being intimidated” he alluded.
He indicated that travelers and drivers alike were “scared by armed military men scattered all around the city intimidating and beating and harassing drivers and passengers. They have made Kumasi very insecure.”
Rev. Owusu Ansah also named one Kwame Boampong a major competitor in the transport business for highhandedness in the whole military personnel enforcement agenda.
According to him, the private man had developed his own terminal at Suame, one of the places the KMA is asking some of the drivers to relocate to. He alleged that this private developer was the financier paying the soldiers a per diem to conduct the forceful exercise so that his terminal will receive attention and patronage.
Charging the KMA to come out clean to refute the allegation and prove the source of funding for the “so called decongestion exercise”, he inquired, “why is honorable Kojo Bonsu forcing us to move to that terminal for which the owner is our competitor if there was nothing hidden in it?”
Meanwhile, the KMA says it will not bow to any pressure from the transport unions. Spokesperson for the KMA Mayor, Samuel Gyamfi, speaking to Ultimate Radio contended that the exercise was in the best interest of residents in the region. According to him the assembly doesn’t see anything wrong with “a state institution with a state metropolitan authority to engage other state institutions like the police and the military in enforcing its bye laws and ensuring that sanity and law and order prevails in the city for all to have a peace of mind”.
He added that the KMA’s task force wasn’t adequately staffed to man all terminals and stations in the city considering the large numbers of cars and people moving in and out of the region on a daily basis.
He said the KMA was going to dialogue with the transport unions to stand down their resolve.