Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Foiled armed robbery fuels my day

When I woke up this morning I felt inspired to blog about something, I just didn’t quite know what it was yet. This happens often and inevitably something random will jog my memory about something I have been wanting to ramble about forever…Today I didn’t need to search my endless vault of trivialities... today something happened.

At 10am or so, cold coffee remnants (decaf of course in this year of living healthily), swirling around in our mugs, pouring over a presentation on a tight deadline, we were interrupted by two high pitched whirlwinds – one after another they scurried into the office, breathless, “ARMED ROBBERS! DOWNSTAIRS!!!”

Well that was something to tear us away from the world of power point and get some adrenalin pumping! We jumped up and ran to the window. The voices trailed on with the rest of the story, “The police have caught them! The tried to rob the bank but many police came and chased them into the empty building next door!” Indeed, downstairs, outside looked like a hub of activity.

There were random police vehicles and police with various uniforms (in Ghana they use what they have, resulting in many types, colours and styles of police uniform and even more diverse – the hats, ranging from Bahamian rounded tall white hats to army-like berets). The police were all carrying their weapons – obsolete rifles of varying size and description as well. It all looked a bit disorganized. We couldn’t tell who the armed robbers were, as they had apparently been plucked one by one from the corners of the building next door and thrown in a police jeep. There were a few jeeps dotted around. We couldn’t tell which vehicles they had arrived in either as there were many vehicles parked in different directions, amongst the people in the yard next door.

Well no one was shot and the fear and excitement almost died down, until someone came up the stairs to tell us that these were the very same thieves who successfully robbed another bank yesterday, and in the process they had shot a policeman in both legs. He later bled to death. They had also made off with two police issued guns and shot them off in every direction, shooting three innocent bystanders on the road. The two vehicles they had escaped in yesterday matched perfectly with two surrounded in the yard downstairs – a Mercedes and an unmarked Golf.

So it turns out we did have something to be frightened about, considering these guys were not playing around. They had intercepted a money delivery truck at the other bank and may have been set to do the same here, without caution or concern for human life. Who knew when we moved into our brand new offices above a prominent bank on a main street in Accra, we'd be this close to an 'almost' armed robbery?!

Gives you a chill when you consider the many errands you run every day… I could have been walking down into the parking lot to leave in the car, or even walking down the road to the store, and just been in the wrong place at the wrong time!

The most shocking aspect of this story is that the police actually showed up in considerable force! Normally you have to pay the taxi fare for a police officer to attend to an emergency! Normally you can’t reach the police station on phone because they have not paid their phone bill and it is cut off (both of these scenarios I have experienced).

Just as in my earlier post about being clamped – I am impressed that things are happening in a more professional and accountable fashion.

Having said that however, they released the 2008 Afrobarometer report recently, and sadly over 75% of Ghana’s population perceives the government to be corrupt in general. The police service rated even higher at 89%!!! These figures are up significantly from the last report in 2005.

Where is Ghana going? Are we safe??

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