In Accra, Ghana, a woman holding a baby in her arms was slapped and hit with an umbrella by a police officer as she was trying to get money at a bank. The scene, which took place July 19, was filmed and shared online. The video distressed many viewers, in part because of the identity of the woman, who is a street seller.
Agde 36, Patience Osafo, who sells candles, is already a grandmother. According to local media outlets, her daughter is epileptic, so she takes care of her newborn granddaughter. She had opened a savings account to put aside money for her granddaughter and the incident occurred when she was trying to make a withdrawal at Midland Savings and Loans.
An employee filmed the attack. The policeman starts hitting Osafo while the child is still in her arms, before someone manages to grab the infant. After being hit several times, she is thrown out of the bank.
This video captured the incident. A user uploaded it to YouTube with an erroneous title – the woman is actually the infant’s grandmother, not her “nursing mother”.
“People felt very bad for this poor woman”
Our Observer, Kenn Carr, is a digital entrepreneur who lives in Accra. He went to the bank the day after the incident, and spoke to witnesses to find out what happened.
The people I spoke with told me that this woman had actually gone there several days in a row to try to withdraw money from her account. But every time, an employee claimed there was a “network problem” that made the withdrawal impossible. She got fed up, and on July 19, she arrived very early, before the establishment even opened, to make sure she would be the first client in line. But at 4pm., she still didn’t have her money – all day, they kept invoking this same “network problem”. The place was about to close and they asked her to leave. She refused and that’s when the police officer intervened.
I suspect the real reason they wouldn’t give her the money was because they were afraid she would close her account – she wanted to withdraw all her money. It wasn’t very much money, though: 270 cedis (€48).
The video rapidly went viral on social networks, with many people expressing sympathy for Osafo. She has since received donations, notably from a member of parliament and from the traditional council of Yilo Klo state, from which the police officer hails. They each sent her 2,000 cedis (about €355). A radio station called Peace FM also made a donation of 2,000 cedis for her medical bills plus an extra 5,000 cedis (about €900) to spend as she sees fit.
“In Ghana, the police has a bad reputation”
Kenn Carr explains why Osafo’s story touched so many people:
There are lots of street vendors in Ghana. They sell all sorts of stuff on street corners, and they go up to cars in traffic… They’re very poor. So people felt really bad for this poor woman.
Moreover, people were angered by the police officer’s behaviour. The police has a bad reputation in Ghana. In late March, a journalist suffered a skull fracture after he was hit by police officers during a protest that he was covering. In general, many Ghanaians feel that police officers tend to be very rude. That’s not how the people who are supposed to protect the population should act.
The police officer was arrested and has pleaded not guilty in court. Meanwhile, Ghana’s police authorities ordered all officers to behave in a proper manner, and Ghana’s president, Nana Akufo Addo, stated that he gave his “full support” to the inspectors investigating the officer’s actions.