May 19, 2011

From Ghana with Love

It's day 3 here in Kumasi, day 2 at Luv FM and day 7 in Ghana.

I'm still adjusting to the heat but the move to Kumasi has certainly made things easier. The heat was constant and high in Accra. Here in hilly downtown Kumasi, the air is mostly cooler and drier.

My first day at Luv FM was full of excitement (at least, for me it was). I got to meet the lively staff at the station and two inspiring journalists who have done some amazing human rights stories.

The first is Ohemeng Tawiah, a small, soft spoken and somewhat shy guy. He showed me a video documentary he produced about a girl who was involved in a car accident and had had both her legs amputated while the driver of the car remained free. Thanks to his work, the driver has since be charged in court and the girl's family was awarded 6000GHc in compensation. Talk about power of the pen.

The second journalist is Kwabena. I was told by the station manager, Saeed, that I will be working with Kwabena as a start. Kwabena wasn't in the office at the time because he had gone to Agogo to investigate a story about Fulani herdsmen who have been ravaging local farmlands with their cattle. The Fulanis came from the Sahel region and are hired by influential Ghanaians to herd cattle. They graze their cattle on farms run by Ghanaian farmers, destroying acres of crops at a time. Locals can do little as these herdsmen are often armed with guns and AK47s. They also pollute water sources and have been known to harass and assault local women. Local authorities, in the meantime, have done very little to help.

Having heard all this, I imagined Kwabena to be a giant of a man. The person that walked in at the end of the day instantly reminded me of Malcolm Gladwell with glasses and darker skin. He did not look like someone who would be seeking out men with AK47s. But he is. He reported that he had to take a bus to Agogo, and then had someone transport him on a motorcycle to get to the farm that had been hijacked by a group of Fulani herdsmen. Whenever he needed to record sound, he and the driver would pretend that there was a problem with the motorcycle. The driver would pretend to fix it while Kwabena discretely held out his recorder.

He's planning to speak to the Chief District Officer of Agogo tomorrow. It will be an hour's drive out of Kumasi and he warns me that I might not be able to handle it. I can't wait to go.

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