''All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing'' - Edmund Burke


S I E R R A  H E R A L D

Vol XI No 7

The tendency sometimes to protect perpetrators for the sake of peace...doesn't help society. Impunity should not be allowed to stand. - Kofi Annan on Waki report

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Wednesday June 10, 2015 - The people of Ghana end 3 days of national mourning after floods and fires left more than 150 people dead. Our prayers are with you Ghana that the Good Lord will comfort you in your hour of grief and pain.The face of grief in Accra. Photo: BBC video report.The BBC's Sammy Darko reporting. Photos from his video reportage are mainly used in this narrative.

It first started with an unusual downpour as reported by the BBC's Sammy Darko in Accra with rising and raging waters getting higher by the minute and angry floods sweeping away all that got in their way.

One eyewitness compared it to the Biblical floods that are often associated with Noah in the Good Book, the Holy Bible. And then came reports of an explosion at a fuel station and with the ensuing raging fire, it seems all hell was let loose upon an unsuspecting population that had gone to seek shelter from the raging waters - giving the sad episode and even Biblical tinge of fire and floods hitting those the Good Lord was keen on punishing.

On the scene, the BBC's Sammy Darko reports - "Two days of heavy rain has brought much of the city to its knees. There are chaotic scenes with cars being carried away by the water and many roads blocked off. Hundreds have been trapped in their offices and some have been forced to spend the night in their cars as traffic came to a standstill. Parts of Accra have been left without power as electricity sub-stations have been damaged in the flooding, which is making the ongoing energy shortages even worse."

However floods in Accra, according to one news outlet is nothing new.

Year after year residents have been complaining about the need for governments to do something about the drainage and sewerage systems of the country's capital. True to form as with a number of African governments, those in power will promise, promise and promise to do something about it but in the end will do sweet nothing.

The recent tragedy is a manifestation of what happens when governments pay lip service to the needs of the people and continue to fool them using each and every trick in the deck of cards to deceive, hoodwink and lead the poor by the nose. The Ghanaweb online has noted -

"Flood occurrence in Accra is not exactly news. The predictability of government leaders in assuring that something will be done to make the current year’s flood the last on their watch is also not news.

What is news is not only the casualty levels, but also the apparent lack of preparedness by the various levers of government to deal adequately with the immediate aftermath of floods in terms of displaced persons, injured persons, collapsed buildings, debris, you name it. The lack of preparedness to deal with the June 4, 2015 floods is exemplified by Mr. Oko Vanderpuije, the Mayor of Accra, who was busy hosting Mayors from around the World during the week of the floods."

"On July 12, 2010, an 11-member Task Force headed by Commodore Steve Obimpeh (then Senior Presidential Advisor), that was established to look into the flood situation in Accra, among others, presented its report. The Task Force had been set up by President Mills on June 24, 2010.

The Report, according to a statement that was signed by the then Minister of Information, Mr. John Akologu Tia, was received by the then Chief of Staff, Mr. Henry Martey Newman. It was reported then that the Task Force, per their Report, had made recommendations for short-, medium-, and long-term measures to curb the perennial flooding situation in Accra. Mr. Newman assured that government would act on the recommendations.

Did they?

On November 6, 2012, Ghanaians were informed that the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), in partnership with Conti Infrastructure Ghana Limited was to start work on a $595m Accra Sanitation, Sewer, Stormwater and Drainage Alleviation Project to control the perennial flooding and sanitation challenges in the city.

Parliament, Ghanaians were told, had already approved the loan facilities with the EXIM Bank of the USA and Standard Chartered Bank. A number of fanfare and public sensitization exercises followed that ended with President Mahama cutting a sod in January 2013 to signal the commencement of the project.

As at the time of the sod cutting, the project, dubbed Accra Sanitary Sewer and Stormwater Drainage Alleviation Project was estimated at $663,299,496 and was projected to be completed over a five-year period.

Nothing at the sod-cutting site today reflects this project. What happened?"

While Ghanaians hope that lessons could be learnt from the tragedy, though the true figures for the dead, wounded and traumatised are yet to be verified, we do hope that what passes for a government of the people in Sierra Leone will take due note.

We have been receiving reports of the large scale deforestation that continues to be encouraged around the hills and catchment areas of the capital Freetown. Those who can afford it, are allowed to build in areas that were meant to provide the necessary environment for precipitation to be harvested for the dwindling reservoirs of the capital as the 1960's Guma Valley project can no longer cater for a growing population whose water needs appear to be increasing exponentially.

As the competition for getting structures up around the Hill Station and other areas including those around Fourah Bay College, we would again want to warn about the dangers being courted.

A heavy and unpredicted downpour could well be the catalyst that would ignite a disaster just waiting to happen.

This observation on the BBC website sums up the challenges the authorities in Ghana face as residents of the capital audit the damage after the floods and fire -

"But as the waters recede and the sheer scale of the death and destruction become clear, there is growing anger and consternation among the people.

This is a city that is choked with plastic. If we did not know it before, our city has been exposed as an overgrown village with pretensions of grandeur. Many parts of the city look as though there was a tank battle fought in the midst of an urban war.

The flood waters deposited motor vehicles of all kinds in the most unlikely places - atop walls and trees, inside drains and piled on top of each other. Many fence walls around grand homes in Accra have collapsed. A surprising number of people had to take shelter on the roofs of their homes and watch as the flood waters entered their rooms and their belongings floated away.

Here's part of what Ghana's President Mahama told the nation at the special service at the end of three days of national mourning. There are lessons to be gleaned from his remarks.

"I went, as President, to visit the site of the disaster. As I stood there in the midst of the debris and saw the extent of the destruction and the number of lives that had been claimed by death, I found myself utterly speechless. Yet as I stood there, the words that came to heart and mind were those from Scripture: “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons.”...One of the injured

...And while I know that despite whatever sorrow we feel, our pain cannot surpass that of those whose friends, companions, mates and relations have been taken away from them, we nevertheless stand with all of you as one united family to share the burden of your grief. The loss that our nation has suffered is incomprehensible.

...There are those who will wish to apportion blame and, quite truthfully, there is plenty of blame to go around. But when we list, one by one, the various mistakes and failings that contributed to the catastrophe, I hope it is not for the purpose of pointing fingers but rather of making certain that something of this nature never again happens in this country. The conversation should not be centred on what past governments did not do but, rather, on what this government must and will do.

...Government has started clearing all the illegal structures obstructing our waterways. The relevant authorities are being enjoined to ensure compliance with the safety codes for buildings and the enforcement of our sanitation by-laws.

...We have commenced an urgent clearance of filth and waste from our storm drains and lagoons. We have also commenced the design and implementation of a more adequate and efficient drainage system for Accra.

In addition, funds have been provided for the reconstruction of the roads and other public infrastructure that were destroyed by the floods."


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