Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A most unusal punishment...

pic: an inscription on the back of a trotro that reads 'Bumboclate Buffalo' - posted just for the Jamaican massive!

Drove past 37 Military Hospital yesterday and had to chuckle in terms of how easy it was to navigate traffic in the area. Usually, it's one of the obstacle courses where you have to dodge the trotros which would seem to materialize out no where. Though there is a bus stop, this was seldom used, with drivers preferring to stop closer to the entrance of the Hospital. Not anymore it seemed.

The reason for the sudden disappearance was reported in the media last week. Apparently, some of the military personnel stationed at the hospital had gotten fed up with the usual congestion and decided they were going to use a most usual way of punishing the traffic offenders. They 'arrested' the trotro drivers and their mates - the ones who collect fares and generally elicit one to board the vehicle - by putting them to work in the mortuary! Here they would be 'assigned' various chores including arranging the bodies, mopping and sweeping the floor, weeding the grounds around the mortuary etc! Even more disturbing, one person reported that he was ordered to fondle a dead woman's breast!

I must that admit that at first I had a good laugh. After all, any one who drives on the roads of Accra and who does not fall into the category of a trotro driver would see this as a just reward! Been mulling it over though, and wondered if while the offenders deserved to be reprimanded in some way if another and more appropriate form of punishment couldn't have been selected.

A number of journalists have looked at it from different angles - violation of basic civil liberties, the authority of the military to be arresting and treating civilians in this manner being the two most popular. I also thought about it from the angle that in a country where though the majority of persons are Christians, there is a high level of superstition around death and how that is handled. One can only begin to imagine what a psychological trauma this must have been.

One paper stated that the President has already condemned the actions, and an investigation is to be launched. I guess finding out what really happened in the absence of any credible third party witness will be a tad difficult though, as naturally dead men tell no tales.


Nana Yaw Asiedu said...

When I remember all the hair's breadth moments the tro-tros have given me in my short life, I almost forget that nobody deserves certain forms of punishment no matter what they have done. That is why even capital punishment (if it should be carried out at all) should be carried out solemnly, respectfully and with minimal pain.

Denise said...

Agreed Nana Yaw. Sometimes I think those who are in power forget what an enormous responsibility comes with that power. How one exercises this is a true indication of character, or lack of it.