Sometime in 2013, I had a foreign guest who was visiting Africa for the first time. He was so enthusiastic about the prospects of the visit. He had heard so much about Ghana being the foremost location from where most slaves were captured for the emerging American and European territories abroad and very much wanted to see and visit the slave castles. He had heard that Ghana was the first country south of the Sahara to gain political independence and wanted to visit all the monuments that signified this feat.
I recall that after welcoming my guest, we carefully mapped out the tour for him. On the first day, we visited the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum. After touring the various areas, we moved to the Christiansburg Castle area where we passed through the Asomdwe Park where the late President Atta Mills had been interred. From here, my guest wanted to see a bit of the Castle Gardens which had for decades served as seat of government. We were swiftly stopped in our tracks by busy-body uniformed men who appeared to have been based there for years. Their reason – the Castle was a security installation. How!
Without any argument, we decided to move to the Independence Arch and the War Memorial that also houses the Cenotaph. We had no issue there. We then proceeded to the Independence Square where we seemed to be enjoying the breeze from the ocean. As we got to the middle of the Square towards the Arch, some military men emerged from the beach end asking what we were looking for at the place. After explaining our mission, he sternly looked at us and indicated that the place was a security zone and that it would be in our interest to leave immediately. Immediately, I started questioning a number of things. The same location that hosted church conventions, crusades and concerts of thousands of people was a security zone to the extent that two human beings presented a threat?
We continued to the Parliament House area using the RoyaltCastle Road. As we tried entering the State House, the security stopped us, indicating that it was a security zone and could only be accessed under strict conditions. We gave up on the rest of touring any meaning facility.
As we walked out in obedience, I kept wondering to myself how a country which was so eager to promote tourism had in the same breadth virtually categorized all its tourism facilities as security zones.
Since that time, any time I pass by various State institutions and saw inscriptions such as ‘No Stopping, No Parking, No Waiting, No Filming, Keep Walking’, my heart misses a beat. Interestingly the institutions that operate such policies are quite a number.
A couple of weeks ago, I visited one of my company’s residential facilities located opposite the official residence of one of the heads of our State Security institutions. I was going to be in the residence for a few minutes so I decided to park in front of the house. Even before I got out, the police officers assigned to the residence requested that I move the car from there. Though I found it awkward, I complied and parked in front of the gate. He still insisted that the area was a security zone so I could not park outside. I should take the car inside. So now, I cannot park my car in front of a house that is owned by my company and for which I am responsible?
Many years ago, in the 1990s into the 2000s, we used to live in Cantonments and the Myohaung Street directly behind the Police Headquarters was a free public access road. The Police Headquarters had been there for decades and there was no problem. All of a sudden in 2021, the Police authorities blocked the road and now that road constructed to help ease traffic from the Cantonments Road towards the Ako Adjei Interchange has become an exclusive private road for the Police Headquarters.
Now my questions:
1. What is a security zone?
2. Who determines which area, public facility should fall within the categorization of security zone?
3. Upon what legal authority do the various institutions base their mandate, in declaring a facility a security zone?
4. What does it mean for a facility or an enclave to be declared a security zone?
5. Why does the State through the appropriate authorities not publish/gazette from time to time a schedule containing facilities designated as security zones to enable the general populace to be properly guided.
Ghana is a democracy at the moment and it is important that actions by agencies of State are undertaken in a manner that presents themselves as complying with the laws, culture, norms and practices of the people, in whom sovereignty resides.
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