Tempers flare as residents of Osu Anorhor chant “we are not going anywhere”.
The project which covers an area of 200 acres stretching from the Osu Christianborg Castle beach front to the Baiden Powell, near the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum aims to make this area of the city a trade and economic hub in the West African sub-region.
The multi million-dollar project is expected to be executed on a Public Private Partnership (PPP) basis in line with government’s PPP policy approved in 2011.
The Tourism Minister, Elizabeth Ofosu-Adjare revealed last month that all is set for the project to commence following cabinet’s approval and “extensive consultations with all stakeholders.”
But when Pulse.com.gh visited the Osu Anorhor area, where the demolition exercise is expected to take place, residents were livid.
Shouting at the top of their voices, many of them say they have nowhere else to go.
Osu Anohor is a Ga-populated settlement which has been invaded by filth and stretches towards a violent sea.
There are scraps and piles of refuse along the beaches. The Korle lagoon that borders the settlement is greenish with multicoloured plastic litter.
Less than 50 metres away from the shore, there are dilapidated buildings whose occupants are mostly fisherfolks and traders who have been living there since childhood.
During my visit on a hot mid-afternoon of Tuesday a woman with a baby strapped at her back is deeply engrossed in a conversation with her neighbours.
A group of young men also sit idle meters away, chatting and playing drafts. Behind them is a white-painted building which serves as a place of worship for inhabitants of the area.
Children are almost naked, chasing each other over a ‘hide-and-seek game’. Some of the women have wooden stalls in front of them, selling all kinds of provisions and other local dishes for the indigenes.
This is the real-life situation of the people of Osu Anohor. While some parts of its environment smell, residents do not seem to worry.
Many of them say they have lived there almost all their lifetime and have developed a bond with the place to the extent that nothing would make them move.
A pastor, who has been living in the area for over 12 years argues that government must come clear on the matter.
He indicates that many of them were not given prior notice of the project.
“The Executive Instrument has no indications that we will be compensated. It doesn’t state where we will be relocated to. What we know is that, the EI [Executive Instrument] has the president’s backing, so if they claim that the project will not be extended to us living here, they should state that clearly in the EI, else we go to court.
“They should get ready to bury us at the cemetery because we are ready to die for what rightfully belongs to us. We are currently having sleepless nights because we are scared. We have nowhere to go,” he lamented in the local Ga dialect.
His neighbour could not agree with him the more. After trading in her egg business over the last 10 years, she said she is not ready to relocate.
“Where does government expect us to go? They should cancel the agreement, else we will not vote this December 7. We will destroy the electoral materials that will be brought here on election day if government does not reverse its decision,” she says.
Nii Torgbor Abrenseh III, the Shippi of Osu Anorhor who happens to be one of the custodians of the land had earlier said that “No attempt was made to engage the elders and people of Anorhor or Osu in general before the issuing of this Instrument.”
He said: “No respect was accorded the chiefs and people of Osu in this blatant takeover of our ancestral lands.
His daughter subsequently tells Pulse.com.gh that government must reconsider its decision else the “blood of our forefathers will deal with them.”
“...This land belongs to our forefathers. We are not squatters; we are on a settled land. If government intends to have a project exactly at the beach, we have no qualms with that. But if it is its intention to extend the project to our community, then we would not allow. We are ready for them; we wouldn’t mind going violent with security agencies on the day of demolition if need be.
“We are ready to die for our land, so that when he [President Mahama] leaves office, he gives account to God that during his tenure, he got rid of all Anohor residents in order to pave way for a project. Nevertheless, he would have to answer to our gods; the blood of our forefathers will deal with anyone who decides to eject us,” she spoke on behalf of her father, the Shippi of Osu Anorhor.
She is, however, quick to add that “we are not against the project, as far as it wouldn’t affect our community and demand relocation. We love development, so if the government decides to develop our living surroundings, then we are all for it. But to eject us, we disagree,” she said in the local Ga dialect.
When Pulse.com.gh contacted the Tourism Minister, Elizabeth Ofosu-Adjare, she only indicated that there is “no cause for alarm. We want to take our time and ensure that everybody understands before we make progress.”
But an opinion leader at the Osu Anohor community, Nii Yeboah thinks otherwise.
He claims that “The EI which is the Executive Instrument has been matured and very soon the place will be demolished and thousands of people are going to lose their livelihoods.
“What people are saying today is that because of the election, the government has a lot of difficulty in coming to demolish the houses. They are waiting after the elections, they will come and demolish the houses.”
He believes the move to eject them “is an agenda against the Gas and we are going to fight against it.”
Nii Yeboah says: “We want the minister to come again, to come with a different EI [Executive Instrument] indicating that the place has not been sold. There should be a review to that document.”
He indicates that if government fails to do so, “We will send a clear signal to the government that they should rather come and kill all of us.”
Ghana is currently faced with a huge infrastructure gap, and needs an average of US$1.5billion per annum for the next decade to address it.
Stakeholders believe the tourism sector is one of the sectors in dire need of such investment.
So what do hoteliers think about the Marine Drive Project?
Goyimwole Enukomeko Kpodo, the President of the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management tells Pulse.com.gh that the project has come at the right time.
“It’s been long overdue that we actually take a critical look at our coastal areas, particularly the beaches, if we really want to take our tourism industry to higher ground. Because all over the world, the beaches actually attract quite a number of tourism activities. Sadly enough, in our country, we pay little attention to the beaches,” he said.
“...because we are not aware of what we have, we neglect it and we see several people flocking to go to places that are not even close to what we have.”
Mr Kpodo is, however, quick to add that the project should not “just be a matter of cleaning it [the beaches], but what do we do after cleaning it?”
He believes that the government must find suitable ways to ensure that the project attracts not only Ghanaians but neighbouring countries and foreigners as well.
For the aggrieved residents, the hotelier believes that government must think along the following lines before drawing up the plan for the project, that is, “how do we approach these residents, how do we talk to them? We have to explain to them why it [the project] is being done, the benefits and what have of you, and then try and see how they can be relocated.”
He argues that the residents have a point, but stressed that “it is not a point that can’t be addressed and resolved. It needs a tactical measure and how do we handle the situation so that in the end, they also see that this is something we can also benefit from.”
Basic details about the Marine Drive Project
The project is jointly financed by three Chinese companies and will be situated on land stretching from the Osu Castle through the Independence Square to the Arts Centre in Accra.
The Marine Drive project will have tourist resorts with facilities such as hotels, shopping malls, casinos, office complex and theme parks among others.
Other components in the project include a mini-golf course, 15-floor office complex for the Ministry of Tourism, conference and exhibition centres as well as a recreational centre and a beach football pitch.
The project, when completed, is expected to attract more investment in trade and improve tourism in addition to generating revenue and employment and increase foreign exchange earnings.
As it stands now, the extent of the project is unknown as the government seems tight-lipped about it. Attempts to reach the Lands Minister, Nii Osah Mills for comments have also proved futile.
Some interviewees refused to be named in the news story.