On my way back to the youth hostel from having been at the post office, walking through town down Avenue Nkrumah (named after Ghana’s first president), I meet people running in the other direction. One of them quickly halts and advices me to also turn back, “The police is beating people with batons.” I start walking back, but at the same time get curious to see what’s happening. I walk down to the closest parallel street below Nkrumah. I every crossing, people have gathered to look at what’s happening at Avenue Nkrumah. But what looks like military soon moves down these streets too, trying to scatter the crowds and keep them from watching.
Back at the hostel, everything is calm as if nothing has happened. But come afternoon, the staff urges all guests not to move around town during the evening and night. At dusk, the radio confirms that the government has decided to impose a curfew from 7.30 p.m. The staff helps us in buying some necessities so to get a good evening anyway: bread, beer and cigarettes from a nearby shop – still open despite the approaching troubles. Even until an hour or so past curfew, we can hear vehicles and people moving about on the streets outside.
Then, we begin to hear the dull sound of gunshots from far away. As the evening moves forward, the rounds of gunfire come closer and closer, and grow in intensity. The rumors are many throughout the evening and night, and what is true and not is difficult to know. We are told that it is the military and the police that is fighting with eachother following an earlier dispute. Someone says that it all got started when a military who tried to enter a show with a false ticket was turned away by the police. When he then started a fight, he was arrested and put in prison for three days. He was released only a few days ago, and quickly gained support form the rest of the army. Another rumor claims that three soldiers in civilian clothes were recently shot dead by police at a road block; the latter unknowing of shooting military. New rumors and news keep coming from the occasional passersby, and through phone calls to the staff:
20:49: All inmates at the city’s main prison have escaped.
20:52: It is ‘only’ the small prison.
21:00: Four people dead, but no civilians.
The gunshots can now be heard more loud and sharp, as if fired just around the corner.
21:15: Loud bang, long silence and then continuous shooting.
I stand by the entrance to the youth hostel, a man passes by outside and we have a short conversation: – Bonjour! How are you? – Great! And you? – Good. But it’s a bit bad tonight uh? – Nah, It’s the music! The music to scare the mosquitoes away! Then laughter, and somehow this conversation sums up how most locals seem to take it: with calm and humor. But on the other hand that is how most problems are dealt with here.
21:30: Another loud bang, then more gunshots.
21:37: The airport has closed.
23:00: A boy passes by and tells us that there are mostly military on the streets, and that they’re just shooting in the air. The police had been forewarned that the conflict would escalate in the evening, and been able to retreat. The boy had also seen people walk the streets handcuffed – escapees from the prison.
Ten minutes later, the police robs the small boutique nearby. We go to bed around midnight; gunshots still ringing out over the city.