Tag: Ghana Police

Melcom tragedy – will we learn?

Out of tragedy must come hope that lessons will be learned



Upon hearing of the collapse of the Melcom building in Achimota on the morning of Wednesday 7 November 2012, I immediately rushed to call my mother – she owns a shop close to the six storey building and often frequents the area around it with other members of my family. So I was glad to hear that she and my extended family were okay and had not been caught up in the collapse. However many others were not so lucky; so far 18 people have been confirmed dead in the tragedy that has shocked Ghana.

Not surprisingly, the inquest has already begun with a section of the public pointing the finger of blame at the Melcom Group. Negligence is a word that has been used by many people who say the group must be held accountable for the collapse of a building that is not even a year old. The Chairman, Directors, Management and Staff of Melcom Group of Companies themselves have deeply expressed regret about the tragic incident.

What I was comforted by was that those in authority refused to play the blame game in the way the public did/are doing. Whilst vowing to make anybody responsible accountable, President Mahama also pledged full support to various rescue/disaster agencies to ensure they could do their job in the aftermath.


On a slightly negative note the disaster exposed Ghana’s lack of preparedness for major disaster of this magnitude. For almost 24 hours after the disaster struck, the rescue team that stormed the disaster scene was almost left clueless about how to locate and extract the trapped victims in the rubbles. Heavy earth-moving equipment was moved to the scene and the heavy slabs that formed the floors of the collapsed building were moved but many argue this took too long. On the plus side 69 people are reported to have been pulled from the wreckage of the building since it collapsed. However a rescue team from Israel has had to be drafted in to help with the search & rescue effort as many people are still missing and feared dead. This says as much about Ghana’s good international contacts as it does about their lack of internal solutions.

Ghana has of course experienced disasters before from earth tremors to flooding, but most of them pale in comparison to the Melcom disaster.  The only tragedy of recent times that surpasses this one is the May 9, 2001 stadium disaster that killed over 100 sports fans. After which time lessons in stadium security were learned which enabled Ghana to build more stadia and host the CAN 2008 football tournament seven years later.

One can only hope similar lessons are learned from the Melcom building collapse. The Melcolm group, Ghana Armed Forces, Ghana National Fire Service, Ghana Police, National Ambulance Service, Ghana Red Cross and other Private Construction companies will all need to work together to try and ensure that this type of incident is avoided. However if such an incident is to happen we can only hope that many lessons have been learned to ensure loss of life is kept to a minimum.

Our thoughts and prayers are with all the families who have suffered the loss of a loved one as a result of the tragedy.

Ben JK Anim-Antwi (@Kwesitheauthor)

Language mistranslation or…

Lost In Translation


In the ‘90s when the airwaves was liberalised in Ghana, scores of private radio stations sprung up as a consequence. With talk shows everywhere, people who had been unable to publicly express their views now had an avenue to make their thoughts known. Peoples’ views on the radio were raw and unchecked. But we could allow that to pass, but only for a period of time. People had just been given that freedom, so it was understandable people would initially abuse it.

Fast forward to 2012 and politicians and “social commentators” (whatever the hell that job title is!), have not improved their decorum on radio one single bit. Apart from parading themselves as experts on every issue under the sun, their choice of words shows very little respect for each other and their listeners, and the issues they discuss are petty. They are constantly on radio at each other’s throat, and they tend to speak in a combination of English and Twi. Now that’s a very deadly combination when you think of the dangers of improper translation of words and phrases and the consequences it brings.

Not long ago a politician made pronouncements on radio that the law enforcement authorities deemed to amount to treason and was charged as such. Various supporters of this politician thronged the HQ of the Ghana Police and got in a scuffle with the law enforcers. This is not an issue you would expect people to be fighting over. It’s one for the law to decide if he’s guilty or not. I tried to understand why the supporters would go fight the police like it would cause them to release this politician.

I wanted to understand the supporters, so I used a method I’ve found quite effective. I engaged a couple of taxi drivers in conversation over a period. Three different taxi drivers from Osu to Ofankor Barrier. They all had their radios on and this particular issue was under discussion. I asked all three the same question. So why was this politician arrested? The first and third driver shocked me with their answers. They told me the politician had said if people keep beating up supporters of the opposition parties it would cause a civil war in Ghana! They argued many other politicians had said words to this effect and had not been arrested so why has this man been held up in custody? This was what had infuriated supporters to rebel against the law enforcement authorities.

But that was hardly the charge against this politician. Do I blame the supporters? Yes! But I do blame these “social commentators” even more. They have unwittingly incited people into violence. They had translated “I declare war”- from the words this politician is said to have uttered, which was “there would be war” in Twi!! These people on radio have created a very volatile situation for violence to occur with their loose translation. As the news passes from one person to the other, the meaning of the treasonable words uttered has been entirely changed. This is dangerous, especially in an election year. I would hate to wake up one morning see Ghana appear on BBC or Sky News for all the wrong reasons. Let’s watch how we translate words in-between the languages we speak.

By Maclean Arthur