Extracting monies from the whip cream of important dignatries at the funeral service of Kofi Annan was the pre-occupation of an organised pack of beggars.
No they were not a handful. A disturbing horde that tailed and trailed anyone who looked dignified.
If he was white, old and wore a smile – bingo.
If he was Ghanaian with a tummy that made a good statement of economic status or a woman whose age is tamed by make-up – then fetch.
And when it looked difficult to determine anything, some adopted a much simpler rule of standing by expensive automobiles – and wait.
If the Finance Minister has targeted cars with engine capacities above 2.9 liters for more taxes, they targeted these same cars for more philanthropy.
If anybody needed a sign of Ghana’s most ignored social crisis, it was pronouncedly manifest at the Accra International Conference Center where the funeral service for the son of the soil and former UN Secretary-General was being held.
There were a group of drummers and dancers who would pick their target and isolate him for an elaborate cultural display, which inevitably invited the hostage to give money.
There was furious beating of armpit drums and pulling of musical strings to urge “the haves” to pull out some notes for “the haves not.”
A foreigner did not know what to make of an intruding syndicate of beggars who promplty surrounded him with dancing. He tried to oblige to their invitation to dance but soon found it would not ward off any of them.
He looked helpless and finally gathered a polite bravery to break through and break free before heading to find his car in an informed haste.
A little boy girded in a cloth, bare-chested and maybe 6-years-old was positioned right before Ghanaian actress Akorfa Edjeani.
His practiced dance was on display facilitated by noisy drumming by the older men until the actress was moved by the boy’s nimble feet to shell off a 10 cedi note.
Another hungry hound was less subtle and straight to the point; they made miserable faces around the guests as the foreigner tried to get into his car.
His white Chrysler cried for space to turn before he managed to toss out some money. A woman with a baby behind her back struggled with other men to share the money.
One accused the other of greed and soon the noisy accusations died down as they moved on to find a new target. There were so many opportunities to beg than waste time on a profitless fight over small booty.
Not that this kind of begging is new. They were there during the funeral of the late vice-president Amissah-Arthur and they were here once again.
The bigger the funeral, the bigger, the bolder the begging. The problem of begging remains the most ignored social crisis in Ghana.
Ghana’s highways are fettering with persons of disabilities alongside an able-bodied youth to get close to cars in traffic and plead for money.
Some West African nationals from countries like Chad, Niger, have made the pavements a camp to send their little sons and daughters to harass drivers for food and coins.
Crawling along the busy highways in Accra, plastering themselves over your car window seeking to make that eye contact of mercy.
But as the drivers move off and scrap the begging scene from their minds, the nation appears to have moved on and scrapped these scenes out of the national conscience and conversations.
But these beggars will not be ignored and in different strategies forced themselves into the lens of international cameras outside the conference centre.
And they harassed foreign nationals dramatising Ghana’s plight as one of the many African countries that beg foreign nations for aid.
Source: Edwin Appiah