signs of the times

April 3

 Signs I saw today:

“No parking, no defecating”

“No parking, here is not a washing bay”

“Curses are real, have knowledge and overcome”

“IMT Designs Consultant:

quantity surveying, draughtsmanship, architectural design, construction, astrology.”

 Travelling in Accra at night is always epic. Today I spent a record 2 hours getting across town in the worst smog since I arrived. It’s preparing to rain, and the clouds keep the fumes close to the ground. We crawled home across town in a single traffic jam that lasted from South to North Accra. As darkness falls, all the drivers in the city begin a competition to see who can go longest without turning their headlights on. Mine won: he used his horn instead of his lights until well after complete darkness, swearing energetically at all the near misses.

 Today it became apparent the Liberians in the refugee camp just outside town are really going to be deported. This has been threatened for a while, but now it seems to be real. The Ghanaian government has issued a press release with a rather confused story about troublemakers in the camp: men who fought in the Liberian war, and who have been hiding behind the women and children to pursue their “illegal dealings”. It doesn’t specify what these might be, or why this has resulted in the arrest and forced movement of hundreds of women and unaccompanied children to what are essentially concentration camps in other parts of southern Ghana. All the refugees are accused of ingratitude because they don’t fancy being flown to Monrovia and given $5, as the last wave of refugees were. They’re asking UNHCR to give them $1,000 per adult to help them restart a life in Liberia, or to be resettled in the US. It may sound reasonable, but Ghana is offended by it and has revoked their refugee status on the grounds that their protest is threatening national security. It plans to start deporting them tomorrow. Some of the activists involved in the protest have gone into hiding, fearing they will be arrested. I’ve been talking to one of them, and am amazed by the resilience and resourcefulness he shows. He’s very young, but he plans to go back to Liberia (avoiding the Ghanaian government on the way) and start an NGO to offer credit and technical assistance to other young people who want to start businesses. He took a copy of the Economist to read on the way – he’s on a quest to figure out what derivatives are and how to trade them. I hope he’s ok – he’s travelling tonight and I wish him a safe journey, wherever he is.  Some people have more to deal with than smog and dodgy cabs.

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