The sun was mid sky. The streets, as usual, were busy. Children barely the ages of thirteen with babies strapped at their backs and with loads on their heads sauntered through the jostling and bustling crowd. Truck pushers with smelly armpits were yelling at the top of their voices for commuters to make way for them. Women dwarfed by the mountains of loads they were carrying passed through the crowd half walking and half trotting. As they hastened to their destination with their clients in tow, they repeatedly wiped out rivers of sweat streaming down their faces. There was a long vehicular traffic. The road has been made much narrower as the public space has been consumed by hawkers and stall owners. Street vendors took advantage of the long vehicular delay to move from vehicle to vehicle selling their accoutrements.
There was clamour everywhere. The most dominant sound were of a preacher man who had strategically situated himself at the busiest part of the market. The second was the blaring music emanating from a loudspeaker buried in a matchbox of a stall. The ghetto disc Joker was playing Natty King, (Kevin Christopher Roberts) Bring No Guns to Town. The song triggered in me, the growing concern I have about gun related problems in Ghana.
Talking about guns, I am no expert and will not claim to be one. Albeit, even a layman like me knows what a gun can do and at least can guesstimate some of the reasons why people keep guns. Gun-related violence and incidence in Ghana are on the ascendency. There is barely a chieftaincy issue in Ghana that a gun is not fired. There is also hardly a day that one will not read of an unpleasant story about guns in both the conventional and the new media. As the festive season draws nearer and nearer, passengers especially those travelling long distances are often in fear of gun attacks. Most of the citizenry in some conflict-prone communities in this country live in constant trepidation because of past incidence of gun-related conflicts. There are instances where towns and villages have been deserted when people choose guns as an alternative to solving their disputes.
Methinks unemployment coupled with the get rich attitude of some people is one of the key factors of armed robbery in Ghana. With the unemployment rate increasing with each passing day, there is pressure on many to meet the basic necessities of life. While some are ready to endure pains and some stress to make ends meet, others opt to use the gun. Daily, as one commute the streets of Accra, hardworking and able-bodied people especially the youth are seen selling all forms of goods to make ends meet.
The women carry any form of load for clients. Under the scorching sun, they walk the road with their wares pestering and haggling with any passerby. As these section of people are struggling to earn a decent a living, we have the other group of people such the pickpockets, dupes, and worst of all armed robbers. Armed robbery has taken a different trend and it is with awe that one can imagine where they get the sophisticated weapons they use. It may be near truth to surmise that these guns are not manufactured in this country. Personal observation indicates that a lot of those arrested by the police are often the unemployed youth.
For one to use a gun, they must, first of all, have access to it. The porous nature of our borders makes smuggling of guns into the country very easy. We should not also discount the contributions of some local blacksmith who might be producing some cheap guns for some of the criminals. However, the recent media reportage of the apprehension of individuals with a cache of arms only suggests that most of the guns used in this country for illegal and evil purposes find their way into the country unlawfully and through the borders.
There are other people who also keep guns for self-protection. This I must add calls for care, self-discipline and professionalism. The story is told of a man who shot himself dead with the very gun he had kept to protect himself. Hunters have had their children killed their siblings with their hunting guns because those guns were kept loaded and unconcealed. Some people have also shot their close relatives dead in domestic conflicts and squabbles.
Bringing guns to town and allowing the guns go into the wrong hands could be very deadly. The Kasena have a proverb which say, ‘A gun does not venerate its owner’. A person who sells a gun even in the black market is not guaranteed where and when that gun would be used and most importantly on whom it would be used. So the seller of that gun is likely to suffer the same fate as the innocent person in town.
Though the security forces and other agencies such as the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP) are doing their bid and working very hard to ensure the peace and safety of Ghanaians by playing a significant role in curbing the proliferation of guns and gun violence in the country, there is the need for government to equip the security forces with modern and sophisticated gadgets to fight armed smuggling, armed-robbery and uproot those behind these atrocious acts. Government should further support the security agencies with the needed technology to meet the growing needs of their profession.
We as citizens should also be on the lookout for people with suspicious character and report them to the appropriate agencies. The security agencies act on information and citizens should not be nonchalant about growing incidences of guns but endeavour to help the security agencies out.
Gun incidence will only be minimal or non-existent in our towns and by extension Ghana if we all play a part in ensuring that guns are not brought to town. Please bring no guns to town.