The horrors of life and death in Accra – state of the Awudome cemetery

The Accra Metropolitan Authority (AMA) has administrative responsibility for the welfare of the residents of Accra, both the living and the dead. But Accra, the capital of Ghana, has become a case study in how to ruin a city, right under the open eyes of city authorities.

While residents of Accra will admit that they have failed to live up to expectations in maintaining sanitation, order and strict adherence to the city’s building code, leading to disorganized and poorly designed neighbourhoods, effectively affecting security, sanitation and health – people still die from a disease like cholera in Accra, and then they have to be buried at the messy Awudome cemetery.

There are lots of concerns about the state of the capital, but the focus of this editorial will be the management and state of the Awudome cemetery in Accra.

The cemetery used to be one of the capital’s main cemeteries. But in recent times, a few more have been established, including some private ones. Increasingly, however, the AMA seems to have failed to manage the Awudome cemetery well. The management of the cemetery leaves much to be desired. From blatant corruption to unfettered open desecration of graves, the cemetery has become a blemish on the capital – it is a humiliation of the collective humanity of residents whose family members are expected to be lying peacefully and decently in the grounds. It’s become a case of live in filth and when you die, you are buried in filth.

The cemetery is dirty, disorganized and chaotic, as if there is no central management in charge.

Before families bury their dead at the cemetery, as required, they pay for the space at the Public Health Directorate of the AMA at Adjabeng. Following which an officer there would direct families to see a specific individual on the grounds to locate space and dig the grave in preparation for burial.

But this is what is going on at the cemetery. Even after paying for the space, some of the attendants whose duty it is to locate space and dig the grave would show family members already dug and cemented graves and offer to sell it to them.

The current official rate for a grave is GH¢650. But attendants are selling graves for GH¢1000 – and that’s notwithstanding the initial official fee paid.

This was what transpired recently between a family grieving for a member they were preparing to bury with all the constraints, including financial and an employee of the AMA who is responsible for preparing graves for burial – after paying the official fees to the authorities.

“Come let me show you a grave,” the attendant said. The family follows expectantly. “This one here. It is a nice one. You give me GH¢1000,” he said. Surprised, one member of the family shot back, “What? But we have paid the required fees? Why are you asking us to pay GH¢1000?”

The young man looked upset at the response. He then called someone that looked like one of his boys. They both asked the grieving family members to follow them.

“I will look for a space here for you. My guy will dig the grave for you when you are ready. Give him GH¢50,” he added, pointing at a location with clustered graves.

That’s not all. Another digger that the family approached after, said, “You paid GH¢650 at the office, right? If you had given that to me, I could have got a decent space for you and cemented it, all at the same amount.”

But while at it, the horror hits! Littered on the cemetery grounds are spots of signs of burning. Scattered spots where some fire had been set. A closer look and the reality strikes! Partially burnt human skulls and other bones! Where did that come from? It turns out old graves are being dug, the contents burned and the space given for new burials.

In a nutshell, this is the awful state of Awudome cemetery, and the AMA must take action to clean it up.

A editorial

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