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Spreading fear and panic

There is a saying in my language which translates literally as, “The monkey says it isn’t the man who has perched him on his shoulders and is parading him around that annoys him so much as the man who shouts: ‘heh, look at that monkey’.”

That is probably the way I feel about the Americans and the British issuing travel advisory messages and warning people about travelling to Ghana.

Reading these advisory notices takes my mind back to August 1998 when the US embassy in Nairobi, Kenya was bombed and American journalists arrived and stood on the streets in Nairobi, dressed in full body armour adding insult to injury. Their governments then issued so-called travel advisory notices which almost collapsed the tourist industry in Kenya.

I have lived through and the whole world has watched many Western countries endure horrible terrorist attacks. When such attacks occur in the UK, France, US, Germany and elsewhere, the authorities usually urge their citizens to be defiant and not succumb to fear but rather go about their lives as normally as possible. The citizens are told that the terrorists aim to make them change their way of life and to do so would mean the terrorists have won.

Two young Canadians on an internship programme in our country have been reported kidnapped in Kumasi. We are all praying that the security agencies will soon have a breakthrough and end the ordeal of the young women.

Nobody can say that this is the type of thing that happens in Ghana and that is why everybody is so shocked. It is also true that our neighbour Burkina Faso has been the target of a number of attacks that make us worry and security has, therefore, been increased along the borders.

But there is absolutely no reason to suggest that ours has suddenly become an unsafe country. It gives no pleasure to point out that kidnappings and terror incidents are sadly regular occurrences in the US and UK. Should we be giving travel advisories that people should not go near schools in American towns and cities because there might be an “active shooter” opening fire on schoolchildren?

When such incidents occur in these countries, it is noteworthy that their media toe the line of the authorities and do not spread fear and panic, but rather urge citizens to take sensible measures, behave as normally as possible and defy the terrorists.

 

I was, therefore, scandalised to find our leading newspaper, the state-owned Daily Graphics Online team at the weekend so casually amplify the British High Commission’s warning to British citizens.

I wonder if the Americans and British are suggesting that we in Ghana should succumb to the fear and panic that the terrorists want to plant here.

We know that unfortunately, the world has lost much of its innocence and Ghana is part of that world. We are expecting that the security agencies are alive to their duties and we would keep our country the safe and happy place it has always been.

The loud silence in Accra

I have been trying to hear the silence of Accra these past four weeks when the ban on noise making has been in effect. I can’t say that I have felt any difference in the noise level and now, we shall be back to normal when the ban is lifted at the weekend.

Every year when the Ga Traditional Council places the month-long ban on noise making in Accra as part of the rituals for the planting season, I wish them well.

I have made a great effort to find the silence that the ban is expected to generate, but it seems to me everything has been as loud as usual. There has been no letup in the noise from the construction work near my house. I am not sure why the labourers at the site must shout at the top of their voices, but the ban on noise making obviously does not include them. It appears the ban does not apply to human voices, and traders, therefore, continue in their normal merry ways.

I have wondered what would happen if the ban were to apply to the radio stations and they were obliged not to broadcast noise within the one-month period of the ban. I am probably stretching the definition of “noise”, but there is no question but that a lot of the noise pollution in the capital comes from radio stations. Just imagine what it would be like in the capital if we had radio silence for a month; peace, perfect peace, with famous loved names far away.

The ban does not apply to generators, and that provides ample proof, if some were needed, that the gods of the Ga people have not been moving with the times. If these gods are able to tolerate the noise made by generators, it must mean that we probably should redefine “noise”.

The ban does not apply to vehicles and yet car horns probably generate more noise in the capital than anything else.

If you really want to induce some silence to allow plants to grow, which I am told is the biological reason behind the ban, it seems to me vehicle drivers will have to be persuaded to stop tooting their horns during the period.

If the Environmental Protection Agency were minded to measure the noise generated by vehicle horns around this country, it would be obvious that we humans need a respite from the noise from car horns, even if the gods are comfortable with it.

I understand the ban is felt most keenly in the churches. It certainly shows in my church. The drums that are now an integral part of church service have been silent since the ban. It does mean that I have been able to hear the singing voices of the congregation instead of the voices being drowned by the drums.

I am not quite sure why funerals are not allowed during the period of the ban on noise making. It surely cannot be because of the crying that is expected at funerals; there is not much wailing at funerals these days. It must be because it is now assumed funerals cannot be held without loud music and huge loudspeakers.

I wonder if a funeral would be allowed during the ban if you promise not to set up any music but just weep softly and sing dirges without any accompaniment.

As the ban is lifted and we resume our normal noise level in the capital, I am going to make a big effort to see what difference there would be in the noise level during the ban and after it.

Source: Elizabeth Ohene via Graphic.com.gh

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