A watered down pain in the gut

There’s something about trotro drivers. They can’t bear sitting in traffic for even the shortest time. The car stops and the driver slouches into his seat on his left elbow, with a kiss of the teeth and a frown on his face. Half a minute later, he sits up, beckons his mate to stick his hand out and with all the energy left in his two arms, turns the wheel, bouncing in his seat with each turn. A jerk or two later, the car moves onto the shoulder of the road, warning animals and pedestrians to get out of the way with a blast of the horn every few seconds. On my route, however, a good number of these are people carrying yellow containers in search of water.

As the city has developed towards Adenta over the past few years, the water connection seems not to have been able to catch up. Indeed, the taps in homes are nothing but decorations, and at best, a fast fading glimmer of hope that one day, water will flow and showers can be enjoyed.

Some months ago, we were breezing past the 37 Military Hospital and the pesky private cars slowing us down. Our driver gunned towards the Flagstaff House traffic light as it turned amber. There was no way we’d make it legally. The last gasp sight of the menacing policeman caused the driver to slam the brakes, violently throwing us all forward. He made it. Only just.

Yet, while the insults flowed, I could only look ahead at the water tanker mindlessly throwing water at the plants in the island of the road. I sighed. Back home, there had been no water through the taps in a while. A friend had once used 30 sachets of pure water to bath, and here was this tanker watering plants and the road. Still, for reasons difficult to understand, the Ghana Water Company doesn’t get as much public abuse as the Electricity Company of Ghana.

One morning, as I was dragging myself to the bus-stop, I met two children approaching from the opposite direction. The older boy carried a bucket of water on his head, telling the younger girl with him to hurry up so they could bath and go to school. She was struggling with her small bucket to keep up and didn’t look amused one bit.

Interestingly enough, they passed a group of four rascals who had grounded their buckets and were heartily talking. They seemed to be enjoying their fine excuse from the classroom. Soon, they started throwing handfuls of water at each other. Clearly, long division and times tables were far from their minds.

It’s not uncommon to see a young man straining behind a wheelbarrow stacked with two or three large yellow jerrycans. These bright containers held vegetable oil in a former life. Now, they are like furniture in the homes of the great and small in Accra, their presence no more that out of place. Having gained popularity during the presidency of J. A. Kufuor, they naturally assumed his name. Today, Kufuor Gallons are your ideal water containers. How many times haven’t I seen them lined up at the watering holes in the city? Or in those compounds where water is brought daily from far away?

These compounds belong to those profiteering from our collective agony. After all, even in times of war, there are those who make a killing while everyone else’s focus shifts to basic survival. Like tanks through classic CNN footage from a conflict zone, trucks carrying large tanks of water traverse the roads.

This is certainly an enterprising business operated with military precision. The routes are well mapped out, the sources of water remain top secret, and delivery is bang on time. Every morning, I see them cruising, noisily splashing water about. They come – full of badly needed water – like three-humped camels in the desert, with henchmen sitting in the back guarding the prized liquid.

One morning, I saw a battered truck carrying two medium tanks, tilted dangerously to the left. I didn’t envy the driver or anyone trying to overtake him. I doubted it would survive the trip back. However, I’m sure countless others had written it off in the past. It would make it, and the driver would be paid his due.

The past four months have left the taps at home as monuments of better days gone by. 30 pesewas per gallon sure adds up, too. Yet, how did a water bill appear at home the other day?

The guy on a white background all over East Legon and Dzorwulu, I heard, wants our parliamentary seat. If his luck shines and he wins, he better fix this problem, come hell or high water.



About Kwaku Dankwa

By day, I'm an advertising copywriter. That's what I've done all my working life (National Service doesn't count). Husband of Esther, father of Jesse and twin boys Mark and Andrew, and servant of Christ. I previously wrote a blog on the dramatic side of public transport in Accra, "The Daily Commute: From Bridge to Ridge." Enjoy.
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6 Responses to A watered down pain in the gut

  1. Kwaku, you wili kill me with your iterary devices. They are jsut superb. “Like tanks through classic CNN footage from a conflict zone, trucks carrying large tanks of water traverse the roads.” what sweet pun and imagery.

    I am happy to nominate you for the Versatile Blogger Award. Do check my blog for details: http://readinpleasure.wordpress.com

  2. Guy Lou says:


    you just worsened my evening.
    what is wrong with africa kraaa???

  3. Sis says:

    Great piece!

  4. Kwaku, Cheers! I’ve nominated you (yes agian) for the Sunshine Award. Check the detials for acceptace out on my blog http://readinpleasure.wordpress.com

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