Tuesday, January 13, 2009


PERHAPS, the biggest challenge the NDC government would face in Kumasi, a city described by some people as the epicentre of Ghana politics, is how to get hawkers and other traders off the streets.
It has always been very difficult dealing with this group of people and it will be interesting to see whether the situation will change.
Kumasi is a horrible city today. In fact, the scenario in the heart of the city does not speak anything good about Ghana's second largest city and will demand extra courage from the authorities to put things right.
All the pavements have been taken over by traders. The road in front of the Despite Building at Adum like others, is full of trading activities and drivers who use that road have had terrible times driving through the human traffic.
One may argue that it is the metropolitan assembly and not the government that is responsible for undertaking an exercise of such nature.
Sight must, however, not be lost of the fact that an exercise of that magnitude could only be taken with the full blessing of the metropolitan chief executive who is the political head of the metropolis.
Late 2007, the KMA under Ms Patricia Appiagyei embarked on a gargantuan decongestive exercise, which even the owner of the land, His Royal Highness Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, gave his full blessing to, believing that Kumasi deserved what was best.
It cost hundreds of thousands of Ghana cedis in taxpayers' money to execute this exercise.
Under the exercise, unauthorised structures along some of the road were pulled down. Some slums were affected.
But what drew a lot of difficulties for the assembly was the withdrawal of the traders and hawkers from the roads and pavements especially in the central business district.
There was fierce resistance from the victims but at the end of the day they were cleared, thanks to the combined efforts of the military and police.
Once the city centre was cleared, vehicular movement improved, but quite strangely the traders started returning few months later.
That was when campaigning for the 2008 elections started. It became difficult for the KMA chief executive to act apparently because of the elections and finally capitulated under the threat, "We shall not vote if you remove us."
From that time the situation worsened. The irony of the situation was that in the run up to the presidential run-off, the Metropolitan Chief Executive and other government officials apologised to the victims of the decongestive exercise, and further pleaded with them to vote for Nana Akufo-Addo on December 28.
Surprisingly again, city guards and the police were asked to get out of the city centre, aggravating the already chaotic situation.
Opponents of the NPP saw the behaviour of Ms Appiagyei and the government officials as defeatists and used it as a campaign tool against them.
Before this failed exercise, Kumasi had witnessed other similar exercises. The one still fresh in our minds was undertaken during the first NDC administration, which had Nana Akwasi Agyemang as the Metropolitan Chief Executive.
Shrewd as he was, Nana Agyemang damned the consequences and put things in their proper place but eventually the exercise failed. That is Kumasi for you.
From all indications, the next KMA chief executive will have an arduous task dealing with the problem.
It will demand a tough leader to get the assembly to act on this, and whoever will be appointed for that hot position should act swiftly.
Kumasi is indeed going through terrible times and unless the problem is tackled, the image of the city would continue to dwindle.
In moving to decongest the city, efforts should be made to relocate the traders in areas that will keep their businesses in operation.
Ms Appiagyei attempted to relocate them but it did not work. The traders complained that trading activities in areas where the KMA wanted to send them was virtually non existent and that they would not risk relocating to those areas.
With this in mind, the KMA should be able to develop the race course into a useful trading centre so that some of the traders could be relocated there.
This writer would also want to see the redevelopment of the Kumasi Central market to befit the status of Kumasi.
The redevelopment of the market into modern one has been on the drawing board for too long and action must be taken by the current government to make things much better.

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