Eastern Region The road to frustration and heartache

Potholes, armed robbers and promises from politicians are part of the daily grind for residents of Begoro in the Eastern Region, as Pulse journalists Stacey Knott and Betty Kankam-Boadu discover.

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Eric Tepker has a long scar across his back, a constant reminder of the dangers of the road he travels everyday.

The tro tro driver in the Fanteakwa district was setting off from Dedeso to Begoro when he saw someone flash a torchlight in the bush.

His friend thought it was someone checking up on their charcoal.

“Then they started firing, after opening fire for more than two hours they opened the car and dragged me on the ground and took my 300 cedis. Another driver who was behind me collapsed after he was also hit with a stick,” he recalls.

play Eric Tepker has a long scar across his back, a constant reminder of the dangers of the road he travels everyday. (Stacey Knott)

The armed robbers had shot Tepker in his back.

He heard them talking about killing him, so he ran and hid. He was taken to the nearby hospital.

The attack happened on the main road that leads to the Begoro township, in September last year.

The tro tro Tepker  drives also bears scars of the attack, he points out the bullet holes. And on him, he shows the evidence of the attack – the long scars across his upper back.

The road causes chaos and heartache for the residents of the area. It is full of potholes and parts of it flood when it rains. It's a rural road, with no centreline markings, so vehicles need to honk when going around corners.

Tepker's voice joins the many others who tell of their suffering on this road.

Market women tell Pulse News the road has destroyed their farms.

Mary Ntowaa sells cabbage, snails, and plantain.

“Things are bad. The road is very bad. Our road from here to Oseim for instance is very terrible.”

While her friend Ama Kyerewaa says the road makes it difficult to access the hospital when it rains.

play Market women at Begoro say they are sick of empty promises from politicians (Stacey Knott )

 

Eunice Kyerewaa says people constantly complain about the road.

“When the politicians want our votes they make all the promises. When we vote for them they do nothing. They don’t fix the roads all they care about is winning. We have no help in the country and in Begoro, none of the big men here sacrifices to even help orphans...The roads are bad and the market is bad. We cannot even pay for our kids’ school fees.”

One of the worst parts of the road the women refer to leads to the local hospital, a stream runs on either side of it, as well as wetlands where garden eggs are growing.

When Pulse News visited, the dirt road was flooded and muddy. Residents gingerly avoided the stagnant water and mud passing cars that would flick up.

Even before entering Begoro, there is a group of young boys in the Akrumso village who fill in a few large potholes near their home, in the hopes passing drivers will throw them some money, which they put towards their school costs, food and clothing.

When Pulse News visited the boys, they were digging dirt from the side of the road and putting it in a large pothole.

They earn between 10 and 15 cedi a day, which they split after paying for the tool hire.

play Boys on the road to Begoro who earn money from filling in potholes (Stacey Knott )

 

The District Chief Executive for Fanteakwa, Abass Fuseini Sbaabe says he frequently has people coming to his office complaining about the road.

He acknowledges the road is “terrible” but says with his district being one the biggest in the country, and being rural at that, the reality is bad roads.

“Understandably, most of the roads are not in a good shape.”

He breaks down the 20km stretch of that road that leads to the Begoro township. About 15km of it “is okay” but the remaining 5km is in “terrible shape”, and beyond Begoro there are a number of communities with “very bad roads” Sbaabe states.

play District Chief Executive for Fanteakwa, Abass Fuseini Sbaabe (Stacey Knott )

 

Over the last eight years he has been in office, he states the district has done a lot to fix the roads, but it is expensive.

Sbaabe is also the NDC candidate for the 2016 election for Fanteakwa South.

The district has a grader but also lobbies the government to get portions of the road constructed. About 40km has been worked on in the past five years, and the construction is ongoing, he says.

The government has announced it will fix 5km of the road in the Begoro township, including the trouble spot near the hospital.

He said President John Mahama is likely to be in the district in April to launch the project, and work should be completed next year.

Sbaabe says he understands the frustrations around the road, but notes citizens “expect so much to be done within a very short time” and district assemblies can not tar roads, it's too expensive and would take up all the resources, he says.

play The part of the road the government has said it will fix (Stacey Knott )

In March, a driver issued a threat to the DCE stating that if it is not fixed the drivers will demonstrate.

Sbaabe emphasizes that portions of the road have been worked on.

“Put together we have worked on 250 kilometers within the district using our grader, doing reshaping of the roads from time to time,” he says.

When queried if the upcoming work is to gain points for the NDC for the election, Sbaabe is quick to say no.

“We don't carry out projects because of elections. We have our budget and there are timelines.”

He said most of the projects were funded by the District Development Facility so they were waiting on them for the funding.

“It is not as if nothing has been done there. We have done a lot, within the stretch otherwise it would have been unmotorable.”

“We will continue to do projects whether there are elections or not – we did 40km of bitumen surfacing when there were no elections but people don't talk about that, this is just a stretch of 200 meters and people are saying we are doing it because of the elections.”

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