The people of Bimbilla face the same problems of economic hardship, poor healthcare delivery, gender inequality, falling standards of education and what have you like all other Ghanaians. I left Bimbilla for school in 2008 and after the my Senior High School education I had the opportunity to continue my studies at UDS medical school, Tamale. After another 6 years of training I came to see clearly the healthcare problems my people are faced with which is similar across all rural areas of Ghana. In trying to do something about it, a social business venture idea was born which is meant to provide a standard diagnostic center in Bimbilla so that the doctors, nurses and other clinical staff of the various hospitals and health centers can also access all the services they need to provide standard healthcare to the people.
Before then, I have always been an active advocate against the curfew in the area because it does not solve any conflict but rather add stress to the lives of the people, making them poorer and even more prone to violence. I think imposition of curfew is the laziest and most heartless approach to any conflict resolution attempts especially having it go on for over a year let alone for more than a decade now.
This year, my innovation was selected among the finalist of Ghana Youth Social Entrepreneurship Program (GYSEP) which is a program run by Ghana Think Foundation meant to train young social innovators on how to plan and execute their innovations to help contribute to national development. This program also provide funding opportunities which is meant to help push these young people to start making impact. It involves both online and series of onsite training sessions and I had to travel to Accra for the onsite workshop on June 30th to July 1st.
2nd July after these all day long sessions, I had to travel back to Bimbilla but unfortunately, the bus broke down on the way and there were a number of assignments to work on. I spent day 1 of my journey on the road where my laptop was mostly off and I could not even get good network connection to work on my assignments which had 3rd July as deadline. On 3rd, we left the province of Hohoe around 5 pm and that meant that we would get to Bimbilla at curfew period. It was around the hours of 9 to 10 pm that we got to the barracks and after much explanations of our plight, the security wouldn’t let us in.
Was I to have another night in the bus and miss out on my deadline? Well it appears that was not even an option, before I could even think about it, the whole bus was empty, people were finding ways to get home and I had to do something. I followed my brother and another guy into the a suburb known as Kunkuna which was about a couple of miles from my home. Under extreme darkness we walked and since this was my first time breaking curfew rules, I had my heart rather in my mouth. I’m sure my blood pressure then was abnormally high but what could I do? I struggled to wobble along until we got home without any incidence.
I sat down to complete my assignments but I could not just bring myself to it. Aside the fact that I was worn-out from the journey, the curfew breaking experience was hard to take in. I defaulted my assignments till the next day. Fortunately the leadership of the program understood my difficulties and accepted my work after the deadline.
Assuming that I were caught trying to get home that night, the least I could do was to pay the official bribe of GH₵ 200. If I had no money then I was going to be arrested into police cell till the next day giving me a criminal record and limiting my opportunities since this records have consequences on personal growth. I probably would not have been in good standing with GYSEP as well. This is what a young person from Bimbilla has to go through trying to solve a problem for the people. I will not even mention the number of people who advised me against doing anything like that for the town because of the curfew.
So who really does the curfew serve?
Almost all the crimes that led to lost of lives happened while there was curfew and nobody has ever been convicted in line with those crimes. When ever there is a crime, people are arrested on mass scale and released later yet the people who suffered from these crimes are made to pay for it again. What percentage of Bimbilla populates can even hold a gun let alone shoot? yet everyone is made to suffer the prison terms of the few. If this sounds fair to the ministry that is supposed to provide protection to the people and the government that is supposed to ensure good standards of living for the people then it is a shame.
Right now the security forces take between GH₵ 150 to 200 from people who bridge curfew rules and as to where this money goes only God knows. It should be noted that no matter how respectful you may be to the curfew rules, sometimes you will be left with no option than to break them. There are lots of homes that cannot afford toilet facilities and rely on public toilets, this people cannot tell their guts to hold on when nature calls either there is curfew or not only for them to be arrested and made to sleep in cells over days because they could not afford GH₵ 200 for the officers. There has been so many cases of theft and burglary during curfew, stores broken and emptied while their hapless owners are busy obeying the system. As for animals let’s not even mention it.
All this only goes back to impoverish the people which leave no room for peace. If the government really wants to help the people the first thing is to lift this rather unnecessary curfew and provide real security for which the people pay taxes. Let the police do their job and bring the culprits to justice when ever there is a crime instead of making a hell for the people in their most desperate times.
I think this is now far beyond the limits of abuse, the people have suffered far too long and it seems like the government is deaf to their woes. Do the people have to beg for mercy or the government just enjoys having them in this constant states of emergency? This has gone on for too long and I am surprised why human rights activist are quiet on this. Is it because it a small town? Is it because it is a rural area? These are Ghanaians who are suffering for the crimes of few people. If the security cannot do their duty properly should the burden be born on the people?
The people have no big voice to speak for them but they also deserve some sympathy. There are too many problems with this curfew than it is solving and it’s now a nuisance in the land. In fact, it is the constant reminder to the people that there is no peace and this puts them in a constant states of fear. Teenagers of the land have no taste of freedom and these are children who are supposed to have equal rights as their counterparts and opportunities to develop. We use to meet at night for studies now that cannot happen. Most of these children have found a way to replace the lack of freedom with drug addiction and all sought of acts which only blurs the future of the land further.
We plead on the authorities to look at this issue from the shoes of the natives. We should tackle the problem with out of the box ideas rather than imprisoning the people in their own town. Industrious youth are fleeing from the place because of this curfew so how is the land expected to develop? It is a crime to be born in Bimbilla?