Thursday, 17 May 2012


In the lazy shorthand characterization of the different ethnic groups in the country the Akuapem people get a good rating. They are seen as quiet, affable and above all respectful. Indeed, they are said to be so respectful that they even crave your kind indulgence before they insult you. As with all stereotypes, this portrayal is both an exaggerated caricature but partly true. Even these days of mass indiscipline, a couple of rowdy youths doing the Akuapem equivalent of rampage, mild by Accra standards during the last Odwira, were met with knowing nods of disapproval by unimpressed onlookers. Such youthful misbehavior is par for the course in the nation’s capital.

It comes rather as a shock to see that something like a revolutionary movement has sprung up in parts of Akuapem, and this is happening literally on the road, and obviously with the tacit support of those who would normally show concern. If you have travelled lately on the Akuapem road you would notice that do-it-yourself speed ramps have appeared suddenly across the road from Gyankama to the end of Ahwerease; this expanse of the highway includes the passage in front of Aburi the Girls School and the Crafts village on the by-pass.

There are more than 60 of these DIY road bumps on a stretch of road which is less than two kilometers long. What on earth is going on? Strictly speaking, these are illegal obstructions on the road which you would not expect in Akuapem. By any standards, this number of illegal humps across a mere two kilometer road stretch is not only excessive but an affront to the country’s legitimate authority. Akuapem is not the only place where citizens have decided to erect these ramps but nowhere would you find so many of them over such a short stretch of road, but to find this in the placid Akuapem Hills calls for an investigation into What Went Wrong!

We are talking here not of properly engineered road bumps but hastily constructed ones made usually of dirt and in material that is mixed in the dirt at the time of collection. This sometimes includes glass and metal objects which can cause tyre punctures, but which is probably the whole point of the setting up the ramps whose object is to slow traffic to a crawl.

This is the background to what is going on. Akuapem is situated on the range of mountains that stretch from Kwahu through the Volta Region into Togo. Its cool climatic conditions acted as the main magnet for the earliest Presbyterian missionaries who established their first schools in the area. The Aburi Botanical Gardens which served as the resting place for colonial governors was built in the 19th century. Akuapem was one of the first places to be served with motorable roads in the country. In the late 1950s, not long after independence, President Nkrumah selected Peduase, a small village nestling in the crook of the hills as the site for a presidential lodge that would serve the same function as the Botanical gardens did for the colonial governors.

However, because it is a difficult terrain for more than a century, the Akuapem road remained a small, winding road with hairpin turns and gravely shoulders. Sometimes when the rocks fell during a rainstorm the road became unusable causing traffic to be diverted elsewhere. A constant feature in every speech delivered by the Omanhene at the annual Odwira durbar is a call to the government to improve the road. Those requests were normally politely acknowledged and ignored because of the cost and complexity involved. However, according to media reports, at his first Odwira as President, Mr. Kufuor accepted the challenge a new road was built from scratch from Ayi Mensah at the foot of the hill to Mamfe at the top.

All indications are that the people loved the road as did the hundreds of thousands of motorists who use it every year. The economic importance of a good road serving Akuapem and through to Koforidua cannot be overstated. The “Mountains” area has tourism potential in spades. Furthermore, Akuapem has become a dormitory area for the Accra conurbation – a situation that has been hastened by the arrival of the new road.

Unfortunately, the upshot of the illegal piling of dirt across swathes of the road is that it is being destroyed and potholes are replacing the smooth asphalt surfaces which were laid just about seven years ago. Some of these potholes have appeared   at Ahwerease and others are beginning to appear in the areas where the informal bumps have been erected. It is possible that the short hop in front the Aburi Girls School will be filled with ridges in the next few months. The question is, what is going on?

According to the residents of the towns mentioned, vehicles driving through on the new road drive as if they were on some uninhabited stretch instead of driving through populated areas. In the first two years of the new road several pedestrians were killed or seriously injured in accidents in which speed was the main issue. They say that they brought this to the attention of the authorities, including making several trips to the Ministry of Roads and Highways without any effect. The latest round of ramp construction apparently occurred when a young man was killed while crossing the road a few weeks ago.

It can be argued that the residents of these towns have a case, and may be they do. The responsibility for ensuring safety on the road should be shared, in the sense that the Ministry of Roads and Highways or its appropriate agencies should ensure that there is sufficient information and other infrastructural devices to alert drivers to their environment. Of course, this is what the residents have been campaigning for without success which has compelled them to resort to drastic measures.

However, the residents should not be allowed to continue piling dirt across a well made road. The effect of that method of road calming is the inevitable destruction of the road. Again, the Ghanaian mentality regarding road crossing has to be reformed because it is at the core of much of the road traffic accidents involving pedestrians. Akuapems do not want to turn their new road into potholes but they need protection. The appropriate agency must put alert signs on the road and do proper road calming methods where necessary. It is only through such sound measures that lives will be saved and the road not turned into a long parade of potholes.  

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