Well I made it to Tamale. 6.5 hour bus ride. The ride was beautiful. The beginning was lush, green and hilly. The end was flat, dry and savannah-like.
My plans just got shot. I had planned on spending tomorrow here then making my way back to Accra (the capital). Buses are full for several days and even the one airplane that comes up here, so i had to book a plane ticket back to the capital for Saturday morning. If it gets cancelled for any reason, I'll have trouble getting back to the capital in time for the election (and getting back in time to fly back to America, actually).
The good news though is that I have two full days in the north, where the worst of the violence has been. Several towns are reported to have had problems in the last few weeks and several are reportedly under curfew orders.
I have arranged a local guide, Muhammad ("but you can call me Moe") who speaks Dagboni and is willing to take me around for two days and make sure i get to the airport on time in exchange for me paying his bus fare and food and a "tip" at the end. He actually led a Canadian journalist on a similar expedition for a prior election. Seems like a good guy.
I can already tell that things are far more tense up here. There is an energy in the air that wasn't in Kumasi or Accra (and Tamale is often claimed to be the most laid-back town in Ghana).
So, the plan is that tomorrow, Muhammad and I will head to Yendi, which is the epicenter of much of the problems in the north. This is the town that I talked about earlier where the local chief was beheaded a few years ago. It is the capital city for that tribe. I'll bring my daypack with camera, a change of clothes and water. If it doesn't seem dangerous, we'll spend the night there and head towards other hot-spots out that direction on Friday. If it is too dangerous, we'll come back to Tamale and then head back out again on Friday. Even Muhammad, who grew up in Yendi and has many relatives there, wouldn't agree to spend the night there. He would only consider it if it doesn't seem too dangerous.
Oh, I forgot that in my email this morning I didn't have much time to report on my findings in Kumasi. Despite a greater language barrier than I anticipated, I was able to speak to dozens of people. I got a lot of "things are cool" and "no problems." Some of the various comments include:
- "We will vote like you do in America, except in america you have 200 years with democracy."
- "I don't think there will be cheating. 90 percent of Ghanaians want justice. The other 10 percent want to steal ballot boxes."
- "Kumasi is peaceful. Tamale has problems because of Chieftancy problems."
- "Those who want peace are more than those that don't."
- "We are praying for peace. We need peace."
- "We Ghanaians don't want to fight."
- "Every vote counts. But that does not mean that it is a reason to fight."
In the area near Kumasi, one person did tell me that there were problems in Obuasi 1 week ago and Kekwa 3 weeks ago. I did not have time to make it to either, as they were too far away.
If you go to the map below you can see where i'm at:
I flew into the capital Accra, on the southern coast. A few days ago I took a bus up to Kumasi in the center (272 km) (. It was supposed to take 4 hours, but took over 6 because of traffic. I spent yesterday there. Today I took a bus up to Tamale, towards the north (379 km). Tomorrow I will take a bus to Yendi, just east of Tamale. On Friday I will go to Gushiago or perhaps east of Bolgatanga, depending on where the reports are the worst. For some context, Ghana is about the size of Illinois and Indiana combined.
For a recent article about the trip in the Beacon News (Aurora, Illinois):