In Ghana, as in most developing countries, the crime rate is high and the police force is too weak to exert effective control. During more than twenty six years in Ghana the author’s house was burgled three times and his car was robbed once while standing in a filling station forecourt. However, just as it is said in Ghana that its military coups are bloodless, so is the majority of its crime. On only one occasion was the author faced with physical violence, and although a small amount of property was stolen, Ghanaian friends were convinced that the real purpose of the violence was to prevent the ceremonial planting of a tree.

Sleeping alone in his house on a gently sloping hillside near the campus of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi, the author was startled into wakefulness at 02.00 on 18 December 1990 by a series of explosions of thunder-flashes and the crash of the front doors bursting inwards from a series of blows with a heavy axe. Reaching the hall in his pyjamas, the author was confronted by five men armed with cutlasses used for farming and long knives normally used for grass cutting. Noticing his briefcase lying nearby, the author grabbed its handle in a forlorn attempt to safeguard his passport and other personal documents. This immediately caused one of the intruders to clutch at the briefcase which opened and became the essential link in an ensuing tug-of-war.

Although a few things were stolen, the objective of the attack seemed to be ‘shock and awe’ rather than theft.

Stalemate in the tug-of-war seemed to leave the leader of the intruders undecided on his next move. The rampagers returned from their house tour and awaited further instructions. It was then that the man on the briefcase decided to bring matters to a head. He make a wild swing with his long knife. Striking beside the left eye the blow caused a flow of blood that alarmed the whole band, and they fled with the open briefcase scattering papers like over-sized confetti across the garden.

One crowd had gone and another crowd soon assembled. The first on the scene were the gardener and his wife and two children who immediately set about collecting the scattered papers. Then the night watchman crawled out from underneath the Land Rover where he had taken refuge. Fortunately for the author the next to arrive was a neighbour who worked as a male nurse at the university hospital. In a few minutes the wound had been tended and the head was swathed in white bandages.

Nevertheless, on arrival he was greeted with much concern and expressions of regret that such violence should occur in a normally peaceful country.

The opening ceremony went ahead on schedule and the usual speeches were made. It culminated in the tree planting. The first person to perform was the Canadian High Commissioner (Ambassador) who had been invited by the local people in acknowledgement of the support for the ITTU from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). Then came the tree planting that in the view of many the attack in the night was intended to prevent. The old briefcase is still in use, and the faded blood stains testify to how near the suspected plot might have come to success.


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