I have been reflecting on yesterday’s gory accident on the Cape Coast-Takoradi Highway which claimed 34 Ghanaian lives and the national response.
We have seen many countries declare a state of national mourning for far less casualty numbers. Last week Ukraine declared a day of national mourning after losing 11 nationals when Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 was brought down by an Iranian missile.
After the 17 April, 2019 Madeira tour bus crash in Portugal which claimed 29 lives, Portuguese authorities announced three days of national mourning.
Burkina Faso at the just ended Christmas festivities announced 2 days of national mourning after a similar loss – the killing of 35 nationals in motor bike terrorist attacks.
Yesterday we lost 34 of our nationals. Last year, specifically on the 22nd of March, 2019 about 90 Ghanaians perished in two horrific accidents which the media aptly described as “Black Friday.” We did not declare a single day of national mourning for any of these.
The declaration of national mourning is a statement on the value nations place on the lives lost; it allows for an entire nation to show grief in a more structured manner through a series of activities and quite importantly, it raises the stakes on what needs to be done to avert such occurrences. It also tends to show in most instances that the people in that nation do not view the tragedy as a normal or acceptable development.
Ghana needs to develop consistent protocols on such matters especially when it involves the masses. We must show beyond empty rhetoric and by concrete policy interventions that we truly value the lives of ALL Ghanaians.
I recall following the June 3rd disaster of 2015 which claimed 154 lives, President Mahama declared 3 days of national mourning and released 60million Cedis for victims. President Kufuor did same by declaring 3 days of national mourning when we lost some 127 football fans in the Accra Sports Stadium disaster. He later set up a commission of enquiry. Those were commendable responses.
In more recent times under President Akufo-Addo, a state of mourning has been befittingly declared when former Vice President Paa Kwesi Bekoe Amissah-Arthur and UN Secretary General, Busumuru Kofi Annan passed. This followed a tradition since the death of Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah on April 27, 1972 when May 19 was declared a National Day of Mourning and a public holiday all in the Osagyefo’s honour at the time.
May it not be said that we are beginning to accept such tragedies as normal and also that for ordinary folks except they perish in their hundreds and over, there shall be no serious national commemoration of their loss.
It is time to reject the creeping normalcy attending such national tragedies and establish a more consistent and humane protocol on how our nation, particularly the state reacts to such national catastrophes involving ordinary folks.
My deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of our departed compatriots. May we honour their memory far better than we have done so far and may our greatest tribute to them be our resolve to fix the obvious human factors that lead to such needless deaths of biblical proportions year after year.