Labor Day in Ghana with Doctors’ Strike

Labor day in Ghana had a strange feel to it with the theme of the day being “Pensions: Your Right and Responsibility”, and at the same time large scale strikes are ongoing on what I believe is the same topic! Medical doctors in public hospitals and pharmacists have been striking for four weeks and relationships are seemingly frosty between the parties of the conflict. For instance, National Labor Commission is suing the Ghana Medical Association, the President is suggesting workers should increase their productivity and “not with strikes and agitations” and the  Ghana Medical Association last week said the President should stop begging and meet demands!   

Personally, I have been very upset about the doctors strike now entering a month! I find it hard to gauge if the strike is well grounded. On the one side, earlier discussions on doctors and the work situation have haunted me; doctors fresh from university waiting more than a year for their first pay check, doctors in the rural hospitals working day and night in poor conditions with no extra pay and frankly just the statistics suggest we have an impossible situation on our hands, Ghana with 25 million inhabitants has 2,843 medical doctors. That is about 1 doctor per 10 000 inhabitants! To compare, Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe, Cameroon and Nepal are doing better! (according to WHO) and Sweden has 38 physicians per 10 000 citizens (says Global Health Facts)…

On the other hand, if you have sworn the Hippocratic oath, how can you go on strike and let innocent people suffer?

How is the unrest in Ivory Coast affecting Ghana?

In short: It seems very little.

However, longterm the conflict in Ivory Coast will of course have an effect on Ghana. When our neighboring country, instead of being a business and political partner, is at war or dealing with the aftermaths of war the conflict will be felt here. Currently, Ghana has not really taken a stand in the Cote d’Ivore situation, refugees are crossing the boarder and I have heard that cocoa beans do the same…

Holly writes about the Ivory Coast issue focusing on Gbabgo’s interests in Ghana and on the surreal feeling of being close to a big chaos.

“It’s days like this when the distant din of news – of CNN and BBC and Al Jazeera reporters ‘on the ground’, reporting disasters and developments around the world, come just that once step too close to home. “

Myjoyonline reports about two Ivorian women taking the conflict over the Ghanaian boarder to the western town of Takoradi.

“The two females who were quarrelling in fluent French wore opposite white T-Shirts with portraits of their political idols, embattled Laurent Gbagbo and internationally recognized winner of last November
disputed polls Alhassan Quattara embossed in them.”

Interestingly, the altercation reached a fever pitch when the one wearing Gbagbo’s T-Shirt pushed her opponent and a scuffle ensued between them but they were quickly separated by the onlookers who were visible enjoying the squabble even though some of them who did not understand the French kept on shouting repeatedly “Gbagbo and Quattara in Ghana Part 2”

But this isn’t a sequel to a popular movie, it is reality and people are killed as I write this – if not from bullets so from a failed state where social amenities including health care, food and water cannot be accessed anymore.

What would a responsible neighborly response be at this late hour?

Photo of Abidjan borrowed from Myweku.com

Must See in Accra – Dobet Gnahore

On Wednesday Ivorian performer Dobet Gnahore graces Accra with a concert at the Alliance Francaise.

This energetic singer/dancer provided me with one of my best concert experiences in my life last time she came to town, so expectations are sky high!

Dobet Gnahore (MySpace, official website)has it all –  the music in her blood as a daughter in a family of Ivory Coast musicians, many amazingly beautiful melodies and songs sung with a versatile voice and  one of the most interesting and captivating stage presences I’ve ever seen – Dobet just rocks!

My high regard for this artiste grew when I heard that she graciously agreed to lend her music to the Witches of Gambaga film I wrote about earlier this year.

Dobet Gnahore, ladies and gentlemen. She is a must see!

Wednesday 23 March, 2011, 8.30 pm

Alliance Francaise, Accra

6 GHC/2 GHC for students

Photo credit to African Music Safari.

Democracy in Africa – In Brief (and in Jest)

Got this funny computer language explanation of the democratic developments in Africa via Accra Books and Things (in an email!) who got it through the very useful, and in this instance entertaining, H-AFRICA H-NET emailing list (H stands for humanities) who in turn credited Derrick Chekwe.

Anyway, here it is:

DEMOCRACY IN AFRICA Program installation:
EGYPT:  100% Complete…

LYBIA: Downloading…

ALGERIA: Downloading…

IVORY COAST:  60% [Alert: Virus-Gbagbo detected_Trojan Horse-Ouattarra in Quarantine]

CONGO: Connection lost since 1997

NIGERIA: Starting Connection

ZIMBABWE: 404 Error – Server not found

Gaddafi, Arab protests and a New Wave of Democratization

I have been thinking for a while on how to attack the issue of the recent protests in Arab countries on my blog.

There are so many aspects that could be covered:

However all these topics have been discussed already, so I will instead write a few lines about how the current affairs section of my Social Theory class at Ashesi University College this semester – exactly because of the turbulent times –  has become the most exciting time of the week.

Each week four students prepare a brief presentation of the events over the last week, for Ghana, West-Africa, Africa or the World. Neatly dressed as TV-presenters, sometimes even opening with “Welcome to the 9 o’clock news, my name is ….”, they talk us through the recent news and we try to fit the events with the sometimes ancient thoughts presented in the course.

The developments are unexpected and mind-blowing and as demonstrated above, there are so many interesting aspects (even apart from the often quoted social media angle) of these protests.

These are indeed very interesting days to follow the news, but each week something that is discussed in my class is not present in mainstream media – the situation in our neighboring country.

Have we all but forgotten about the serious political standstill in Ivory Coast?

Photos: Ashesi students presenting the political news of the week.

Do You Believe in Witchcraft?

If you do and you live in Ghana, you are not alone.

According to a recent survey carried out by Gallup, three out of four (or 77%) of Ghanaians believe in Witchcraft.

Only Ivory Coast (with a staggering 95% ) and Senegal (with four out of five) have larger shares of the population suggested to be witchcraft believers. Mali, Cameroon and the DR Congo has around the same levels as Ghana. The average for Sub-Saharan Africa is around 55%. Surprisingly, to me at least, Nigeria came out under average with less than half a population believing in witches. Rwanda and Uganda being the only countries in the sample in which less than 20% answered yes to the question: Do you personally believe in witchcraft?

I just threw myself over this survey. The aspect of witchcraft is a very intriguing one for a westerner moving to Sub-Saharan Africa.

Intrestingly, the Ghanaian witch does not have a pointed black hat and a cat that talks, nor does she need a broom to fly and need not wait until Halloween before she comes out. No, the Ghanaian witch lives close to you and me and can cause harm to anyone she – or he – wants to hurt. Diseases, deaths and ill fates are often blamed on a malicious witch.

In Ghana, the absolutely worst thing you can call anyone is “a witch” (well, apart from stupid, but that is a different blog post). Read this post by Nana Kofi Acquah on a street quarrel. I have also heard people talk about meeting witches, witches casting curses and occasionally lifting them, see for instance this recent account by fellow blogger AntiRhythm on a curse over a lost mobile phone.

Also, the newspapers report regularly about witches flying here and there. Last time I remember reading about witches in the news it was a witch from the Volta region who had mysteriously found himself landing on a house roof in Ashaiman, close to Tema where I live. A few years ago, reports on a witch conference taking place in Kumasi, Ghana spurred on newspaper Daily Guide to suggest the following:

The numerous road accidents, boat disasters, floods in the north, gas explosions in Kumasi and collapse of buildings that the country has witnessed in recent months may not be for nothing.

A global meeting of witches, currently underway in Ghana, is targeting thousands of lives through fatal road and other accidents.

So the accidents on our roads and floods in the north are due do a 2007 conference of witches? Let me tell you that these have not really subsided after the conference was over and done with…

On a more serious note, in Ghana there are sadly a need (?) for enclosed areas for witches or “witch camps”, predominately for women who have been named witches by their community. For more info on this, read this account about life in Gambaga Witch Camp or this insightful and frightening article about What Makes a Woman a Witch? by writer Yaba Badoe.  Recently the plight of those women have been recognized, for instance by SOSYWEN and Stop Witch Trials.

The GALLUP survey also suggest that witchcraft believers live worse lives than those who do not believe. Of course, that seems plausible but possibly with a spurious or false relationship, with education for instance being the real explanatory factor. But when I look at the presented numbers, I wouldn’t say that there is really much of a difference in percieved living standards between witchcraft believers and non-believers.

Those who believe in witchcraft rate their lives at a 4.3 on average, while those who do not believe or don’t have an opinion rate their lives higher on the scale, at 4.8 on average.

Is it very marginal, or am I not getting it right?

Anyway, this survey gives me scientific proof of something I already knew: that  most people in Ghana do believe in witches.

So, do you? And why?