Human Rights in the Slum

Written on Wednesday, 11th of June 2014

Since my last post, I have moved from my previous location in South Doko to live with a man called Phoenix (who, like the legend of the Phoenix, came to Ghana 10 years ago and was reborn) on top of McCarthy Hill, situated in the middle of Accra. I will not bother describing the breathtaking view because I could not do it justice. I’ll take a picture at some point.

Before I describe the work I have done in the past three days, I’ll just note that I’ve successfully avoided malaria so far (although those cheeky mosquitoes keep trying) and I’ve forgotten what it feels like to flush a toilet. At the time of writing, the only light I have is a candle, as we are experiencing another power outage. Yet these are only minor inconveniences (certainly relative to the living conditions in the slum), and I find that it’s quite easy to adapt to Ghanaian life. Every day I take the Trotro (bus) to Kaneshi, where I then switch for a motorcycle taxi for the rest of the way to the slum. My hopeful attempts at predicting traffic are taking a beating by the harsh reality of this place.

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I arrived at Agbogbloshie on Monday, 10th of June around 1pm with Vidette. The sun was boiling, yet people were brimming and buzzing as they dealt yams, melons and phone top-up credits along the side of the main street that runs through the settlement. We were welcomed by Frederick, the main representative of EFOF-Ghana (as well as founder of WISEEP and FLAP) who showed us past the Old Fadama police station, through a maze of muddy and narrow streets riddled with goats, dogs and chickens all the way to the centre where we will spend the next two weeks receiving cases from the residents of Old Fadama.

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Frederick, founder and leader of FLAP, to the left.

Let me explain the purpose of the Fadama Legal Assistance Program. FLAP seeks to assist members of the community by assisting and advising them on issues surrounding wills, human rights, child maintenance, domestic violence and other disputes that may be peacefully resolved by mediation. They have no formal authority, but command some respect with the local authorities, which helps clients stress the importance of their case or present it in a clear and legible way in order to assist lawyers in a situation where the case proceeds to court. FLAP was formally inaugurated last year on the 19th of September (coincidentally my birthday), but prior to this a lot of work had gone into establishing all the forms and procedures. This was mainly done by Jennifer Croker, an Australian lawyer who along with myself and 3 others form the International Advisory Committee for FLAP.

During my internship here, I will be assisting in two main cases. The first concerns a man who was run over by a truck and severely injured (over 7 months ago), but left without any compensation by the perpetrator to pay his hospital bills. Although the man behind the wheel was arrested, he was released within 48 hours on bail by the police. Although inconclusive, it is possible that an element of corruption was involved. Our work so far has involved calculating and documenting the man’s medical costs (evidence of which has been partly destroyed by the rain) and visiting the police station, to push for the compensation that this man deserves.

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Taking a case, me (right) and Vidette (middle)

After visiting the police station (there’s a new sheriff in town since when the incident occurred – always wanted to say that first part), the perpetrator and bailor have been summoned to the station next week. We were assured that if they did not appear, an APB and arrest warrant would be put on the vehicle and the man. Meanwhile, I will be putting together the details of his case with medical evidence of his injuries and the full calculation of his costs. A witness to the accident who was apparently the intended victim (this may not have been an accident) will support the man’s case.

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The second case I will be dealing with involves a woman who refused to have sex with a married man. Since then, he has beaten her several times and threatened to continue to do so. She seeks compensation and prosecution. As she does not have a phone number, we are awaiting her return from the police station where we advised her to report the case together with medical evidence of her injuries, and to return with the results of her visit so we could proceed with putting together her case should the police require any further details.

These are the current cases we are dealing with. Later this week we have planned to hold a presentation on domestic violence to children in a local school, and to conduct a survey of a solar panel installed in that very same school. I will also be visiting the lagoon and electronic waste site. I’ll make sure to have my camera with me as I predict words won’t be sufficient.

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