Several months have passed since I left Ghana, but while I have safely returned home, my mind remains with the tens of thousands of people displaced as a result of evictions and demolitions in Agbogbloshie. When I visited the area on the day before departure, demolitions had occurred that very morning near the Agbogbloshie market, clearing a space of roughly 20-30 meters along the river.
Although our own organisation was affected by the demolitions in the sense that our store location was demolished, we secured all our goods in time, and have now moved into a location outside the slum. Whilst this guarantees our store safety, it is a clear obstacle to servicing urban slum dwellers with solar electricity. And for the people still living in Old Fadama and the surrounding community, the situation has scarcely improved since the June and July evictions, with electricity being restored only to some areas. Below follows an account of what happened to different individuals on the different days of demolitions. The questions were kept deliberately short and open ended in order to secure fact-based answers, avoid leading the answers in any directions and to avoid triggering traumatic memories. The aim was for people to speak on their own initiative about what had happened. One student from Queen Mary University of London, Y Minh Le, conducted several of the interviews with women from the community.
All of the people pictured below agreed to have their names and photos taken and published.
Name: Alhassan Iddrisu
Profession: Company driver apprentice
“I wasn’t aware of the demolitions and wasn’t told by anyone I know. The government hasn’t provided any relief, we’ve got no water for a bath or anything. My house was destroyed when I was at work, when I came back it was just gone. Cash, clothes, TV-set, fan, radio, refrigerator, power generator etc, all worth about 3000 GHC. When I arrived at the scene a military man pushed me and told me to go away. I saw police beating people and firing teargas. The police had heard me and a few others talking about how we weren’t happy with the government and so they started firing teargas and beating people. Only one soldier sympathised with our situation. It was raining when it happened and I had nowhere to go, I had to sleep outside and my phone was destroyed by the rain.
I was affected by the teargas but I did not have to break my fast, but my mosque was destroyed.”
Name: Mutawakil Abdullai
Profession: Fashion designer, shop owner and landlord in Old Fadama
“I had heard of the demolitions. They have been giving dates for the past year. I heard about this one on television the Wednesday before the demolitions. We expected them to come on the Friday, not Saturday at 5am. They didn’t say what time they would come. The notice issued by the mayor (Alfred Oko Vanderpuije) covered 50 meters, the government came and marked a 50 m area. But when they came they changed the amount. All this happened because of Oko. Before they came out with the 50m notice, Oko had said they would demolish 100m from the river, but community leaders said it was too much and agreed on 50m instead.
I don’t stay here (in Old Fadama) but live in Zungo. I heard from others in the area about the demolitions. I was renting out a room, the person had rented it for 12 months and was only 7 months in when they destroyed it. He managed to get most of his belongings out but they were in a hurry so he couldn’t get everything. His fridge, radio, TV-set and mattress were destroyed, worth about 1000-1500 GHC.
When I came to the area I saw policemen collecting phones from people, and a lot of police brutalizing the residents. They were hitting them with sticks and handcuffing them for no reason. I was not assaulted myself, and was far away when they shot teargas so did not have to break my fast.
Some of the policemen tried to help us, but because we were panicking and saying things like “the government was doing this, the AMA was doing that”, the police couldn’t handle the pressure of people yelling and so started using tear gas.”
Name: Saibu Seidu
“I was around at the time of demolitions but my brother wasn’t, so I tried to save his belongings. When I tried to go inside the military wouldn’t let me. I tried anyway and one of them beat me. They had batons, and he hit me on the back twice. I can’t turn my back to the side and it hurts when I breathe. The military official who beat me asked the police to arrest me but the police said they wouldn’t. I didn’t hit him back or anything, I was just trying to get the belongings inside. In the end, they destroyed my brother’s TV, speakers, radio, mattress, fans… It was all destroyed. Maybe 4000 GHC worth of things.
I breathed some of the teargas but I didn’t break my fast.”
[Author’s note: I took Seibu to the hospital myself one week after the incident, him lacking the funds to do so. He was diagnosed with a bruised rib and given painkillers.]
Name: Abubakari Abdul-Rahman
Profession: Scrap dealer
“I did not receive any notice and have received no compensation. My house, two rooms, was destroyed. I saw the demolitions begin on the Saturday morning as I was on my way to work. I was at my worksite at 6am when my wife called me to come back and collect our things. I managed to get all of it but I had nowhere to store it and, since it was raining heavily, my TV-set, cheque book and clothes were all destroyed. Maybe 1000 GHC worth of things.
I saw policemen collecting people’s phones. I was trying to take a picture but wasn’t allowed to and they told me to go away. I wasn’t assaulted nor did I see anyone assaulted, but I was affected by the tear gas. When we were getting our belongings, there was chaos, and people were asking the police and military ‘Why are you doing this’ and they responded with tear gas. It was a big crowd but I did not see any aggression towards the police. I don’t know of anyone injured.”
Name: Mohammed Abdul-Rahim
Profession: Scrap dealer
“I did not hear about the demolitions until they happened. My house was destroyed with my laptop, stereo, fan and TV system. Maybe 1500 GHC’s worth. The police wouldn’t let me go and get it, and said they would beat me if I did. I saw others being beaten for trying to take their possessions. I built a new place out of plywood about twenty meters further away but they destroyed that too.
I had to break my fast because of the teargas and because they destroyed my things I have no financial means. I do repairs as well as scrap dealing and was keeping people’s things inside my house, now I have to pay them back because they were destroyed.
I took pictures, but the police took my phone away and deleted all the pictures, and I hurt my leg running away from the teargas.”
Name: Yussif Idrissu
“I didn’t receive notice directly myself but heard from friends saying something about a thirty meter clearing from the lagoon. My friend said the mayor issued the notice. We haven’t been given any alternative accommodation, but some trucks arrived with water supplies the other day. [note: these were Japanese government water relief trucks.] My house was destroyed so now I’m staying with some friends in the area. I took some things but left others, nobody told me to stop but they kept saying ‘hurry, hurry’ and once I got back to get more things everything was torn down. My TV, speakers and fan were destroyed, worth around 600 GHC.
I was not assaulted but saw others being taken away by police. When there were demolitions going on people said they would not accept it, and because they were saying things like that they got were handcuffed and sent to jail. Maybe 10 people I saw handcuffed, I haven’t seen them since. When people were speaking to police they started firing teargas, one guy was hit in the face and wounded by a rubber bullet too. I also saw the police take away phones from people taking pictures.
I did not break fast myself but many people had to because of the teargas. I saw small children affected by the teargas as well.”
Name: Abdulai Humu
Profession: Water salesman
“I did not hear anything about a notice. My house was torn down. Now I’m living with a friend, seven people in one room. We haven’t received any compensation whatsoever. Goods aren’t coming into the community as before so I can’t work as before.
They kept telling me to hurry up so I could not take everything out of my house. My mattress, speakers, fan, refrigerator, some clothes. About 1000 GHC worth of stuff destroyed. They did not confiscate my phone but saw people’s phones taken away and their pictures deleted. They kept shouting at me to leave when I was trying to take my things.
Because of the teargas I had to break my fast. They shot it at us when we were collecting our things. Some people had thrown rocks at the police and they shot teargas back into the community. I saw two children affected, their eyes were irritated because of the gas.
People did not understand why their homes were destroyed, they were angry and the police was scared, then they shot teargas. Some people bribed the police so they wouldn’t destroy their homes, but then they destroyed them anyway.”
Name: Issah Suleman
Profession: Kayaye (head porter)/landlord
“I heard nothing about a notice. The property I was renting out was about 50 meters away from the lagoon but it was destroyed, two rooms gone. One of the people renting was in the north, the other guy was around when it happened. All of their things were destroyed. TV, fans, mattress and clothes. They had paid half of their rent, I won’t ask them to pay the rest.
I saw one of my friends [Author’s note: Saibu Seidu, listed above] get beaten by military. He was beaten with a stick when he was walking away and fell down. It was just one military, he beat him four times on his back and on his arm.
I heard about phones being taken away and police taking bribes but I did not see it. I did not have to break my fast because of the gas but I saw children affected, blinded by the gas. I think they were abusing their power to shoot teargas.”
Name: Suleman Ziblin
“My house was destroyed, it was about 40 meters away from the river. This is the second time they demolished it. The first time they did was in 2008, there was an agreement between the Accra Metropolitan Assembly and the local chairman [Author’s note: local chairman of OFADA is member of ruling party] that they would clean the river and expand it, so I moved all my things and took down my house. But then they never came, so I moved back, and a week later when I had gone to work, they demolished it. I was surprised, I didn’t think they would actually tear it down.
This time they came and did a measurement and said my house wouldn’t be affected. It was a task force issued by Vanderpuije who came and said they wouldn’t destroy it. They had drawn a line and were shouting with a megaphone. The line they had drawn was 50m, I was just on it but they said it was okay. First they said they would demolish in May but then they [author’s note: ‘they’ = the AMA, Accra Metropolitan Assembly] came back and said they wouldn’t do it at all.
I now live in a tent on the same spot where my house used to be. It’s just a plastic sheet. When I got back one day all my things were gone – my friends said looters came and took them.
They haven’t provided me with anything. No accommodation or compensation. A bus service started yesterday for people wanting to go home [author’s note: ‘home’ = back to the north, mainly Tamale].
I saw police beating people and shooting teargas. I was not affected by it, but many people stepped on nails and fell in the gutters when running away from the teargas among all the rubble. A little kid, maybe three years old, was affected by teargas. He wasn’t breathing well so people were clearing his throat and eyes with water.”
Name: Awal Alhassan
“My house was destroyed, it was 100 meters from the water bank. I didn’t receive any notice and they haven’t given us any help. My brother went back home to the north and told me to stay in his house so that’s where I am now. A lot of people have already gone back home, when they realised people were going back they started providing buses. But they only started yesterday [author’s note: according to various testimony, a bus service began on the Wednesday following the beginning of demolitions on the Saturday].
When my house was destroyed I had to sleep outside and it was raining a lot. I was cold and wet and I saw a lot of children also sleeping outside.
I saw a lot of people being assaulted by both military and police. When they started destroying properties, if you tried to go in you were beaten with sticks or they hit you with the butt of their guns. Some people were seriously injured and bleeding. I heard about phones being confiscated but I did not see it.
My TV, clothes, speakers, fan, mattress and some of my friend’s and sister’s belonging were all destroyed. About 2000 GHC’s worth.
I was affected by the teargas, my eyes were itching badly. I saw children affected as well, some were just babies, another was maybe four years old, a pregnant woman was affected too. They all left for the north. People were falling when they were running away from the teargas and got trampled. Some people had bruises and had stepped on nails because they had to run away quickly.
They treat us like animals. At first, this place was just waterland – my tribe [author’s note: Dogomba tribe] came from the north and put sand on it. Then when the government saw that the land was habitable, they tried to take it away from them.“
Name: Mohammed Abubakar
Profession: Construction worker
“My home was destroyed on the Saturday when I was at work, it was just one room. I was staying with my wife and my child, there some other people living there as well. I’m staying with a friend now, my wife and child went back to the village in the north. I did not receive any notice, I didn’t hear anyone talking about it in the community either.
My family was at the market when they demolished the house, the house was demolished before I got back from work. A friend carried some of my belongings out of the house, but he couldn’t save the TV, fan or mattress. Maybe 500 GHC’s worth.”
Name: Musah Mohammed
Profession: Construction worker
“My house was destroyed on the Saturday, it was about 50 meters from the river. Me and my wife had been living there for two years. Now I’m living outside, my wife is staying with other women in a room. I did not receive notice and we haven’t received any compensation, no alternative accommodation, no message from the government, nothing.
My wife managed to save some things but she had to leave the cooking equipment, fans, TV, radio. About 1200 GHC’s worth of things. Military and police were blocking me and telling me to go away, they tried to shock me [author’s note: few reports of tasers being used] so I ran away. I saw many people get shocked. Some tried to stay because they had their babies in the house, but when the police threatened to shock them they got their babies and left. They were even taking away people’s phones when they tried to take pictures.
I saw children, even babies affected by teargas. I had to break my fast. They were using teargas on the Saturday so that people would go away. In the morning before the demolitions, they shot teargas into some crowded areas where they wanted to evacuate people. Some people stepped on nails running away, others were hurt when they ran into the destroyed buildings, their faces were cut. I stepped on a nail.
I am surprised because we are all Ghanaians, we are not strangers from another country. We are just surprised that the government is doing this to us. It’s very bad. I moved here in 2007 and have been working hard to help my family in the north. Some of them are studying so I’m sending money to support them. My brother died a few years ago and my father died in 2000 and so now I am the head of the family. I have to take care of them.
Name: Adisa Mohammed (wife of Musah Mohammed)
“My house was destroyed, I had been living there for two years with my husband. Now I am staying with three others in a room, but my husband is living outside. We were at work, thinking we wouldn’t be affected because we do not live close to the river. At work I saw people running home, I asked why and people said they were demolishing. I didn’t worry because I did not think it would be a problem for us. When I went back so much had been destroyed, so I ran home to see if it they had demolished it too. It wasn’t destroyed yet, but the police was preventing me from getting to the house. I went in anyway when they looked away. Then I heard people yelling “They are coming! They are coming!” so I got scared and left. My friend had taken the TV out but I left my phone behind and other things like clothes, cooking ware, fans.
On that Saturday after the demolitions people crowded together, shouting that they would not accept this. And then tear gas was used to make them go away. We were affected by the tear gas, but I did not break my fast. This mother with a small girl was crying that she could not see, and asked for someone to come and help her. When people came to help they realised that she had died. She was maybe two years old.
This has affected me too much. I was working so hard just to get something, and I already had some things, but now it’s all gone. I am not happy, this is very bad.”
Name: Wasila Alhassan
[Wasila with one of her daughters to the right.]
“Our house was demolished, it was maybe 25 meters away from the river. We didn’t receive any notice, I did not hear anyone talking about it. We were five people living there, my children and me. We have lived there for two years. Now we are staying in Old Fadama with another family, we are thirteen people in one room. We haven’t received any compensation or help.
We managed to take some of our belongings and left the rest. Our refrigerator, TV and fan were destroyed, we couldn’t get it because of the teargas. It was worth maybe 600 GHC but we had to run away. My daughter was affected by the teargas and had to break her fast, she’s only twelve years old.
I am scared now because I think they could come back anytime. I feel very anxious.”
Name: Zeinabu Ayuba
Profession: Head porter
“My house was demolished, it was about 25 meters away from the river. I live with my husband, we had stayed there for the past two years. Now we stay with friends, three people in one room. I had heard from a friend who had heard from another friend that it was going to happen, that was the day before the demolitions happened. She didn’t say what day or what time they would come, I had no idea at all. I was at the marketplace when they started demolishing, when I came back I tried to get my things but the police said no. My husband was there at the time and managed to save almost everything, I tried to get the refrigerator but they had guns so I didn’t force it. Only the refrigerator was destroyed, it was worth around 250 GHC.
The military cut my brother with a knife [note: she pointed to her left shoulder blade], I haven’t seen him since. He was hurting very badly when I saw him. He had heard the police were demolishing people’s homes, he was renting out a property and staying next doors. They destroyed both.
Because of the demolitions I feel very nervous whenever I go to the market. We can’t work properly because we are always looking back, worried that the government will come back and continue destroying our homes.”
Name: Habibata Musah
Profession: Head porter
“Our house was destroyed, I had lived there for ten years with my husband, we have a three year old child. It was located close to the Sikkens bridge, near the road close to the river. We didn’t receive any notice, not from friends or anything. I was out working on the Saturday morning when they came, so when I came back it was all destroyed. We sent our child back to the north to stay with my parents, it’s not safe here. Now I am living in a room in Old Fadama with four other people, my husband lives outside.
We haven’t received any help or compensation, no play to stay. My husband managed to get our TV and a bag, mattress and fans. Everything else was destroyed. I had 400 GHC cash in my room, the rest was just clothes. The police were telling my husband not to go inside, but when the police were looking away he sneaked inside.
We weren’t affected by the teargas but I heard from friends that children had been affected and that people had their phones taken away, I also heard that the police had accepted bribes. I did not see it happen but I know some people stepped on nails when running away, I was also told the police had thrown rocks but I did not see that either.”
Name: Kwame Bashiru
Profession: Driver and landlord
“My two houses were destroyed. One house was located about 35-40 meters from the river, the other house more than 80, maybe 90 meters away. I did not hear about any notice, I had not heard anyone mention it. I bought the room 5 months ago and rented it out to kayaye [head porters] but I have been staying in my own room for three years with my wife. She went to the north, but I’m still here, working. Now I live outside.
They have given us nothing. Some people said they would move this place to Ajei Kotoku on the way to Kumasi, I saw it on TV, after they had destroyed the properties. Since I heard that on Tuesday they haven’t said anything else. As they were demolishing, my friends said my house would be fine because it was far away enough, but by the time I got back everything was destroyed. My wife was away working so she could not get anything in time. The mattress, the TV, the laptop, clothes, refrigerator, all of it was destroyed. All I have is my phone and this t-shirt I managed to save.
On the Sunday we were demonstrating, a lot of us together, just in a crowd, not like the Monday. [Note: protests reached a peak on the Monday] They thought everything would be demolished so they were walking together and shouting. We decided to put a car in the road and light it on fire to prevent more military from coming, but Chief Zaachi and others told us not to. When I was taking the car away, another protester pulled a knife on me.
I have no place to sleep now, nothing to protect me from the mosquitos. Normally I light a fire and lie close to it to prevent the insects from hurting me.”
Name: Ziblim Adam Baba
Profession: Scrap dealer
“I have been staying in this community for seven years, and I lived in that house for one year and two months. It was forty or fifty meters away from the lagoon. My wife and one year old daughter were staying with me, but on Tuesday after the demolitions I sent them home to the north. I packed my things and put them in a room, but right now I am sleeping outside.
I was sleeping when my wife woke me up and said ‘Come out you won’t believe it’, I saw an AMA task force demarcating a line about twenty meters from the river, then the machines passed by and demolished all those houses but passed us by, so I thought we would be fine. But my wife said we should pack our things, so we started packing and then they came back and destroyed our house as well. I hadn’t heard anyone mention the demolitions, I did not think it would happen. We managed to pack a few things but a lot was destroyed, our clothes and our fans.
I saw the police shooting tear gas on the Sunday after demolitions. Because police had destroyed our homes, people gathered in groups and were telling the police and military to stop. Some people were so angry they threw stones. I didn’t, but I saw others do. Because women were carrying their children to go to the market at the time, everyone was affected. They [the police] knew people were going to the market, but they shot anyway. It was very cruel. My wife and I were both affected, pregnant women and children as well. Some people had their phones taken away from them, people were hurt running away, and one guy was shot in the eye with a rubber bullet.”
Name: Nindow Iddi
Profession: Second-hand clothes salesman
“My house was about 35 or 40 meters away from the lagoon but it was demolished. I managed to save all my things in time. I didn’t hear anything about the demolitions until the day itself. They announced it on a megaphone and said 10 meters would be demolished. It was an AMA information van around 6am. They haven’t provided any help since, I heard they gave some food somewhere but I didn’t receive any. I have lived in the community for twelve years, the past five I lived in that house with my wife and my son who is three years old. They both stay with a friend in Accra, but I stay here, outside.
My entire family was affected by the tear gas, and a friend of mine was slapped in the face by military for taking a picture. His phone was confiscated as well. When I was walking past the demonstrations I was shot in the foot with a rubber bullet. At one point a guy came into the community and showed something to the rest of us asking what it was, he didn’t realise it was a teargas can until we all yelled ‘Teargas!!!”
I used to sell my clothes to my brothers and sisters here, but because of what happened either they have left or they aren’t working, so there’s no one here to sell to.”
Name: Shahadu Alhassan
Profession: Scrap dealer
“My house, just one room, was demolished about 40-45 meters away from the river. My wife and I had lived there with our child for six years. They both went back to Tolong, and I’m staying outside. I didn’t hear anything about the demolitions – I just woke up early in the morning and saw the big machines. I managed to save all my stuff but now that so many people have left and people are afraid they will continue to demolish, no one will buy any scrap metals.
I’m confused. I don’t know what to do. Maybe I should go back north, but there’s no work there. I’m just thinking what to do.”
Name: Eric Isaac
Profession: Computer hardware engineer
“I heard about demolitions the Wednesday before it happened. There was a car with a megaphone announcing that they would come on the Thursday and said that anyone who had things along the lagoon should remove it, and that they were coming to remove structures and clear the Korle Lagoon. They did not say what time and they did not say how much they would remove, just that those who were right next to the river should go.
My house and shop were destroyed on the Sunday, it was about 40-45 meters away from the lagoon. I lived there together with a friend of mine for four years, he went back home to the north but I sleep here, outside. They haven’t given us any help whatsoever. I tried to go inside my house and get my things but a soldier beat me on my bottom with a hard stick so I ran away. They yelled at the women, they didn’t beat the children, but they beat us. No one was allowed to take any photos, if you did they would come and collect your phone.
I had system units, laptops – loads of things inside my store I was repairing, now people are coming to me asking for their money back, but all of my things were destroyed as well. TV, clothes, fans, stereo and speakers, woofer, lights – everything gone. With the store and my house, the value of everything was maybe 5000 GHC. I would have earned 900 GHC for all the work in my store but now there’s nothing. I’ve had to stop work completely. Unless someone helps me, I have nothing, no money, no nothing. Only God. I am from the Dagomba tribe and I came here because there were no jobs where I was, I send back money to my family all the time. Unless I find something else, I think I will go back.”
Name: Mohammed Alhassan
Profession: Scrap dealer
“I have lived here for 10 years in the same house with my wife and my two children. I am of the Dogomba tribe and came to Old Fadama because I could not earn enough where I came from. I thought I would come here and start a new life, then send back money to take care of my family back home. I am supporting 15 family members with money. My wife and child have gone back home to the north, but I am still living here with a friend.
When they started demolishing on Saturday and Sunday, I was not afraid because our house was so far away from the lagoon, at least 80 meters. They did not say anything about where they would demolish. On the Wednesday both me and my wife were away, and when we came back it was all destroyed. Our TV, laptop, fridge, fans, clothes and mattress, worth about 1500 GHC at least.
I saw the police shooting tear gas and rubber bullets, I was even there when someone was shot in the eye. Demonstrations had already finished by the time that guy was shot. There were bullets and teargas all around Sikkens [note: paint shop near Sikkens bridge, leading into Abose-Okai road and the onion market] and as I walked past he was shot. He took himself to the hospital but he was not fine. I myself was affected by teargas but I did not break my fast. A lot of children were affected by tear gas as well. People’s phones were confiscated by military as they were trying to take pictures, the military didn’t say why.
I still work but now but I sleep outside. I can’t keep my things anywhere and the storage space where I had my scrap metals was destroyed. I haven’t received any compensation.”
Name: Adam Mahamadu
Profession: Truck pusher
“Back in the north I have six siblings, some of them are students. I worked on a farm but the work depended from year to year, sometimes there was no rain so everything was spoilt and there was no yield. So I came to Accra in 2008 to earn a living so that I could send money back home. I worked hard and could pay for my brother to finish university, now he was able to help me. Right now I send money to nine people at home.
The AMA had said they would demolish 100 meters. My house was the furthest away in the demolitions – my neighbour was not affected. It was demolished on the Tuesday. On Sunday they said they would do it on Monday, the same week as the real demolitions. But then they didn’t come, even though people had gone home from work and were expecting them to come. I did too, because some people had said they would demolish all of Old Fadama. And then they started on the Saturday instead. I saw someone had his phone taken away by military. I still didn’t think they would demolish my home because it was so far away from the lagoon, over 100 meters away, so I went to work. Then I came back and it was destroyed.
My mattress survived so now I rent a room and sleep with that. My TV, my wife’s clothes, refrigerator, my own clothes. I sent my wife and children back to the north, they are six and three years old, a boy and a girl. The only thing I have left is what’s on me.”
Name: Kassim Abdul-Razak
Profession: Scrap dealer
My house was 50 meters away from the lagoon. It was demolished on the Saturday, I woke up when it was happening. I lived there with my friend, but now I am staying with my older brother here in Old Fadama. I had heard about the demolitions from some people, but they said they would only demolish a small bit. Then they started, so I tried to save my things. But the military were pushing me away. I saw them beating some people, others were handcuffed and taken away, my friend said he was tasered as he was running away from the military. Now, my TV, speakers, deck, fans are all destroyed. I only took my clothes. They haven’t given me any compensation.
I have not gone to work since it happened, because I keep hearing and thinking that they will come back tomorrow, they will come back tomorrow. There’s still police and military present so I am scared that they will continue. They shot tear gas everywhere before, some children were affected and I was too. But I did not break my fast.”
Name: Husseini Alhassan
Profession: Fashion designer
“I’ve been living here in the same place for 10 years. I came to learn how to do fashion and tailoring and started off as an apprentice, now I work for another place. My house was very far away from the river, over 100, maybe 150 meters, but it was demolished anyway. My children have lived there since they were born, they are 5 and 9 years old. They are with my family in the north now, me and my wife are still here, but we are sleeping outside. I can’t go back home unless I take something with me.
Yes I heard about the demolitions. The leaders of the community and the party chairman had said they would demolish 100 meters and that they would come on the Thursday. They said this two days before but then they didn’t come. When I saw that they were coming on the Saturday I took my things out, but they didn’t destroy it. So I put them back, and then on the Sunday they came again and demolished it all. They were keeping us from getting our things back so I could not save everything. My TV, fan, deck, mattress and clothes were all destroyed. It was worth around 400 GHC.
I heard about military taking away people’s phones, and when people ran away from the demolitions and tear gas they would stamp on nails. I ran away when they started to shoot rubber bullets and I saw some children who had been affected by the tear gas.
Because of the demolitions, there is no electricity and no customers. I have not worked since they started. “
Name: Abdul-Wahab Abdul-Wahab
Profession: Computer technician
“I have lived in Old Fadama since 2006, in the same house. I came because I wanted work, and I learned how to work computers here, inside Old Fadama. I lived with my with and my child, only one year old. They went back north but I am staying here, outside.
I heard them talking on the Tuesday before demolitions about clearing 100 meters, but I did not know when. On the Saturday my house was destroyed with everything in it, computers, mattress, clothes, TV, fans, so many things I don’t even know. It was worth a lot, 2500-3000 GHC.
The government provided some buses to Tamale, but that was it. There were not enough buses for everyone. If there was a bus I would take it, but I hear a lot of people are just stranded in Tamale with no way to go home. My work and life have been destroyed so I don’t know what I will do next. Maybe I will go back north but if I find work, I will stay. I am supporting eleven members of my family back home.”
Name: Abdul-Rahim Karim
Profession: Computer technician
“I have lived for 8 years in the same house, I came here because I needed to support my family back in Tamale, there are eight of them. I lived about 50 meters away from the river, but it was demolished on the Saturday. Someone called me to say they were demolishing and so I came home around 9.30AM and managed to save one computer. When I came back for more the room was already destroyed with eleven monitors inside. They did not tell me in advance that they would come.
I was living with a friend but I have three children who are staying in the north, Tamale. Now I have rented another room in Old Fadama, but I am scared, some people said they would come back again. I was planning to go home and celebrate the end of Ramadan with my family with the money I made from repairing the monitors. I heard they are providing buses and that some people are leaving for Tamale, but I can’t go back without anything to give them.”
Name: Mohammed Alhassan
Profession: Scrap dealer
“I have lived here for 15 years, 7 years in my last place. It was demolished on the first day even though my house was 100 meters away from the river. I came here to look for work and money so I could support my family back in the village, there are twenty of them I am supporting. Now I stay in a room in the area with my wife and my kids.
They came on the day before demolitions and announced through a megaphone that those who had structures close to the water had to take them away, but they did not say when they would be coming. They haven’t given me any help, no compensation, no buses, no water. My wife was around when it happened, she saved as much as she could but our TV, mattress and clothes were destroyed. There were a lot of clothes, maybe worth 1500 GHC.”
Name: Zilfau Alhassan
Profession: Banana salesman
“I am from the north, I came here to learn to be a dress maker. But I had no money so I started selling bananas, until I can buy a sewing kit. When I get money I will send it to my family back home, but I have family here as well. I have been here for three and a half months.
I lived near the lagoon with my husband, now I live in a room nearby but my husband sleeps outside. They had not told us about the demolitions, I went to the market and heard some people living close to the river saying that there would be demolitions, that was the day before it happened. No one said how much they would destroy but nobody thought they would destroy where we had our house.
When they came on the Saturday, the military said that they would destroy three lines of houses. We were on the fourth line so when I heard that I was not afraid. But they destroyed it with our fan, clothes and mattress. I managed to save the TV and my smallclothes, but the military were caning people who tried to get in.
My husband’s brother’s phone was confiscated, he was just making a phone call but they thought he was taking a picture so they took it. Because of the teargas I had to break my fast, my child as well. I have not been able to sell bananas because of the demolitions. A lot of people have gone away, and I am always scared that they will come back. I will stay for a while, maybe a year, until I learn how to make dresses. If I have enough money maybe I will go back north and start a new life.”
Name: Bamunu Fatawu
Profession: Kayaye, selling Batik and drinks
“I have been living here for the past 23 years, in the same house. I came from Tamale, but there was no way of supporting my family. Too much poverty and struggle, so I decided to take a journey to the south and support my family. There were not a lot of people when I first came, only a few.
My house was 80-100 meters away from the river. It was demolished early on the Saturday morning. I was living with eleven friends in one big room. My husband was staying in another room which was also destroyed. I have been living like that for 23 years, I was the owner of the house and took care of it. My three children are still with me but my husband has gone back to Tamale because there is no place to sleep, he was sleeping in a mosque for a while. Right now I am living with friends, but once I have sold all my things I will go back home. If I go back and receive some commercial support, I will rent a store and start a business.
In my 23 years here I have never been threatened with demolition, no one I know was talking about it happening. We have not been given any help or support, a few buses before but no more. My clothes, money, money my friends had asked me to keep, all destroyed. I had 300 GHC cash and 600 GHC worth of other things. We managed to say the TV but my phone was destroyed.
A lot of people were injured, some because of blocks falling down during the demolitions. Others ran away and hurt their feet on nails, people were panicking and running everywhere so some people were trampled and would run into each other. I was affected by the teargas and had to break my fast. A lot of people had to.
Yesterday they came back and marked where they would demolish, they pushed the line even further in. I think they will maybe destroy all of it. I am very scared that my new place will be destroyed.”
Name: Huzeima Abubakari
“I lived in a village called Tuburu, not far from Kombogo next to Tamale, but poverty was too much and I have a family of thirty, so I thought if I come to Accra I can find work and support them. They are cotton farmers. Now I am staying with friends, my husband is in Kumasi to buy scrap metals.
Our house was about 80 meters from the river, I lived there with my husband and two children. I was not told about demolitions. When demolitions started on the Saturday they did not destroy our house, but I took all our things out. The neighbours said they were demolishing so far away that we wouldn’t be affected, so I took everything back. The next day it was all demolished. We were too afraid to go and ask them to stop or to get our things out, they had big guns. They destroyed our TV, DVD player, handbags, clothes, cash bank, fan and small fridge. I had 1000 GHC cash and the rest was worth maybe 1000 GHC more.
A lot of people were injured when they ran away from the demolitions, stepping on nails that had fallen to the ground. My children and I had to break our fast because of the tear gas. It was so sudden, people were crying and then running away. I am still working here but every time I go I am scared that my property will be destroyed, I can’t stop thinking about it. I keep all my things on me and bring it to work. Maybe I will go back home and become a groundnut farmer, but I don’t have the money right now.“
Name: Adisah Inusah [lives together with Bamunu, above]
I had heard about demolitions, but we thought they were very far. I heard it from young guys around the community, saying the government would clear along the canal and clear the river so the water could move free.
They haven’t provided any help and there is very little water at the moment. All my money was destroyed in my house, it was about 500 GHC, so I have very little.
I was arrested because I was part of the demonstration. We went to the president’s house to ask what was happening, why had he given authority to the AMA to destroy our homes – he is from the north himself and all the southerners are insulting us in this community so why would he do it. We were shouting insults at the police and the president and when we did started to chase us. They put me in jail but released me in the evening and told me not to go there again. They took my phone away but I am scared to get it back.
A lot of people were injured. Some were vomiting because of the tear gas, I was affected too and had to break fast. There was teargas during demolitions and demonstrations. In the demonstrations we were making a lot of noise, drumming and dancing.
After what happened I did not go back to work for a few days, and when I went back I found out they had replaced me so I lost my job. But the people organising the demonstrations said no one should go to work and that we should all unite together to demonstrate, so I did.
Name: Moshie Mohammed
Profession: Works day to day, currently Kayaye
“I have only lived here for two months. I come from Yurunai in the northern region. I wanted to earn money so I came to Old Fadama, then I could go back home to support myself and start a business. I had heard from friends that you could make money in Accra.
My house was about 40-50 meters away from the river. They destroyed it on the Sunday. After they had started demolishing on the Saturday, I still didn’t think they would destroy mine. I had heard that they would demolish from friends and family, but they didn’t say how much. I lost all my cash, about 450 GHC, they haven’t given any compensation. I need to find a new job, probably I will be a kayaye.
I saw police and military beating a lot of people who tried to get their things out of their homes. They were using batons to hit them as they were getting their things. They used tear gas to evict people and remove them from the area.
We are no longer free to move around the market. If you use a particular place, and something happens and you move to a new site, life is different. People are different from the ones you know. Moving within Agbogbloshie I have to adapt to new conditions, it is distressing and difficult to work. I don’t have a steady job, it’s just day to day business to get by.”