Follow Up on Bus Rape Story and Safety in Ghana

Yesterday I posted on the buss mass rape that never happened in Kintampo and I have had some very good and interesting feedback, so I’d thought I’d post a follow up today. (I owe you one for MP Laptops as well, maybe on Wednesday…)

Raluca made a number of good points, firstly blaming the journalist rather than the person who started the rumor:

This is an ugly story indeed and I think not only the person that launched the rumor, but the journalists that made it public should be made responsible for it. Whatever happened to checking one’s sources?

I agree. Who knows what made the person say all of this…regardless, the responsibility lies with the media professional who decided to take it to the airwaves. Raluca then went on to critique my point of Ghana being safe. SHe did it so elegantly, I am posting her entire post. Read and enjoy!

As for crime in Ghana, I agree that it is comparatively low and there are good reasons to feel safe in the country. But – and you might have seen this coming from me [Raluca is just finishing up her PhD and a sucker for correct analysis, my comment]– I strongly doubt official data on crime is reliable.

I am certain crime reporting in Ghana is way less exhaustive than, say, in the US, for the very simple reason experience has taught people there is no point in even reporting having your phone/wallet/purse stolen, or things stolen from the car. More significantly, let’s not compare Ghana to any other European capital, but maybe to other countries, since it is always the case that the big cities have a much higher crime rate. I hate to be pessimistic and turn to anecdotes, but our friend S. has been exposed within two weeks to three first hand stories of incidents in Accra, out of which two were very serious. And in one of the cases having a security guard didn’t help prevent an individual being attacked with a machete in his own house.

Also, when it comes to crime, it might not be a good idea to compare any other place to the US, which is an exceptional case. Their incarceration rate is more than seven times larger than the European average, which means that more than 1% of adults in the US are in prison.

In short, I’d say feeling safe in Ghana, but being careful in Accra are both good ideas.

She has a point of course that reporting might be low in Ghana and that apples and pears should ideally not be compared…

Loyal reader and former Ghana resident Miss Footloose suggested we should remember to be critical:

So what do we do? Believe nothing? Lives of good people have been destroyed by these types of ugly viral stories or accusations. We must become more discerning and more critical with everything we hear and see.

Fellow  blogger Chris/Mad in Ghana questioned the validity of the claim that the issue went all the way to the president, how can we really know if journalists publish rumors?

To think that even the President of Ghana with the entire security system at his disposal commented on the fabricated, fictitious event. Or, maybe that was part of the prank too.

Graham from Ghanablogging agreed with Raluca that the journalists are to blame for this sad story. He wrote:

Journalists are supposed to check a story before they publish. This is not the first fake story to make the press in Ghana. Lazy journalism!

Gayle at Ghana Guide and Blog wrote a post before the story was disproven, but gave some useful insights to safe travel on the Kintampo road:

The safest bet when traveling between Accra and Tamale/Bolga/Wa or any of the three northern regions is to catch the STC–State Transport Company coaches. This is because the STC has an armed guard and robbers are well aware of this and tend to leave them alone.

The road between Kumasi and Kintampo is particularly poor and slow and you should try to avoid having to pass through here in darkness if you’re not on the STC coaches.

I hope Gayle will rethink the conclusions she drew from the false story.

It seems Ghana is today relieved to hear the horrendous story wasn’t true. At the same time, there are mixed feelings because we were all made to believe a gruesome event had taken place. It gives rise to all kinds of concerns.

How did you feel when you heard the bus rape story wasn’t true?

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Bus Mass Rape in Kintampo Never Happened

On Thursday, the horrible news of a bus going from Accra to Tamale in northern Ghana was reported to have been robbed by gun men close to Kintampo in the Brong Ahafo region . The robbers, after having collected money, phones and jewelery, were said to have raped the passengers and, at gunpoint, forced male passengers to rape their female co-travelers. One father was said to have been forced to rape his teenage daughter with tears streaming down his face.

I was first informed through a mass email at work, later the news was all over the radio with comments from police, crime experts and upset Ghanaians –  “where have we ended up?!”

Now it seems the whole mass rape story was made up. Nobody has reported such an incident, no victims have stepped forward, no evidence is available. The incident has been discussed at highest possible level in Ghana and the conclusion is the story is pure fantasy by a young woman.

What can we learn from this?

Well in my opinion, Ghana is an extremely safe and peaceful society to live in. It seems Ghanaians like to more often focus on the negatives, “armed robbers” etc.  – can we learn to be more positive about Ghana?   I was told recently by a friend that the rate of murders in Ghana is very low compared to almost anywhere else in the world…(source not known, anybody?)

This report by Overseas Security Advisory Council for Ghana 2010, although suggesting that Ghana is a “high crime threat country” starts its list with street crime such as pick pockets (!) and later focuses on the dangers of the Ghanaian roads. Regarding street crime, the report advices not leaving your car unlocked “even for a short period of time” (!!) About carjacking they say:

The potential for carjacking exists in Ghana, but there have been no reported occurrences over the past year.

About safety at night:

Walking alone is not advisable in downtown areas or poorly lit areas, especially at night.

About burglary:

There have been burglary attempts against expatriate residences in the past, but perpetrators generally lack the sophistication required to overcome home alarm systems and static security guards.

To me, that makes Ghana safer than any US state and European capital.

What did you learn?

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