Bloody Clash! At Sodom & Gomorrah, 20 Arrested

A bloody riot erupted yesterday morning at Sodom and Gomorrah, Accra’s largest slum, when thousands of residents hit the streets to protest against the destruction of their structures by the Accra Metropolitan Assembly last Saturday.

The rioting spilled over into the city centre, with angry demonstrators vandalising a lot of property.

What started as a demonstration early in the morning eventually turned riotous, as the protesters pelted police officers who were there to ensure law and order with stones and metals and chased them out. It also led to the arrest of over 20 protesters by the police.

Over 1,000 homes were destroyed on Saturday when bulldozers ‘marched’ onto the area, also known as Old Fadama, rendering scores of people homeless. The exercise is expected to continue until the entire slum is completely demolished.

The affected individuals, on Monday June 22, took to the streets to protest against the move which is being spearheaded by the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA).

Among the police officers who were fleeing the scene was the Director of Police Public Relations, Superintendent Cephas Arthur.

All manner of persons including media personnel were screaming and running helter-skelter in order to avoid being hit by the ‘flying’ metals and stones.

The protesters burnt tyres at different locations on the main road that leads to the Agbogbloshie market.

Some also stormed the State House and vandalised some state property.

The spontaneous protest caught the security operatives unawares, causing fear and panic among Accra residents.

Some police vehicles and personnel were attacked and commercial drivers had to flee the scene to ensure their vehicles were not vandalised.

The police had to call for reinforcement in order to contain the situation. Before the police reinforcement team could arrive at the scene, however, the demonstrators had caused a lot of damage and about 600 marched to the State House demanding to see President John Mahama.

The protesters, who as well marched through ceremonial streets, bore placards with inscriptions such as ‘No Campaign For John Mahama In 2016′, ‘JM You Are Disappointed’, ‘No Vote 2016′, ‘Verily Not All Johns Are Wise’, ‘We Are Not Fools’ and ‘No Nana Addo, No Vote In 2016′, with some threatening to bring Boko Haram to Ghana.

The demonstration resulted in heavy vehicular traffic at the National Theatre traffic intersection, causing a lot of inconvenience to motorists.

State House Vandalised
The protesters destroyed flower pots, peeled off the coat of arms at the entrance of the State House and damaged windscreens of some of the buses yet to be distributed for the Bus Rapid Transit project.

They then hurled insults at Northern Members of Parliament (MPs), stating that the legislators had failed them.

Initially, the law enforcement officers at the State House could not contain the growing number of rioters, as they defied the tear-gas-firing cops.

Eventually reinforcement was called in; but by that time, the demonstrators had already made their way to the State House where some of them insisted on seeing the President who they said was their brother.

A few of them who were arrested were later released and as COP George Akufo Dampare of the Police Headquarters put it, ‘We decided not to make any arrests. If they go against what we told them earlier we would take action against them.’

Protesters’ Grievances
The demonstrators were angry at government for allowing the demolition of their structures at a time they were fasting and their children preparing for the BECE exams.

At an earlier press conference organised by Musah Ziyad, one of the leaders of the protesters, he said the action taken against them was a breach of what they and the authorities had agreed upon.

‘They did not tell us that our structures would be demolished. We don’t even know why they have to destroy our properties. During President Kufuor’s era the Odaw River and the Korle Lagoon were dredged but our structures were not touched,’ he said.

‘How can they do this to us when we are fasting and our children are preparing for the BECE exams? How do we expect these children to write and pass in the already traumatised state due to the cancellation of the BECE papers?

‘This has once again demonstrated the incompetent nature and lack of leadership skills of the AMA boss, Alfred Oko Vanderpuije. This is wickedness. We don’t need this John again; he must go,’ he said.

Mr Ziyad called for a total halt of the demolition exercise, asking government to also provide infrastructure to house the displaced people.

26 Arrested
The Accra Regional Police Spokeswoman, ASP Effia Tenge, told the media that 26 of the protesters had been arrested and sent to the Accra Regional Police Command for interrogation.

She confirmed that police vehicles had been vandalised and some officers injured as a result of the riot.

ASP Tenge said some police personnel had been deployed to the area to ensure law and order.

Supt Arthur Denies Fleeing
Meanwhile the Director of Police Public Relations, Superintendent Cephas Arthur, has denied fleeing the scene.

When asked by Citi Fm whether he was running for dear life, Supt Arthur said: ‘No I am not running; I am going to my car…I am not escaping danger…The police are in charge.’

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By Cephas Larbi

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