Crazy %!$# Taxi Drivers Say

“Ghana police be criminals,” mutters Kwesi nearly every time we pass a police truck or police barrier.

Kwesi is my primary taxi driver.  He takes me most everywhere I need to go during the day.  I like him because he’s honest, pretty reliable, maintains a clean car, and speaks semi-fluent English.  He’s the only driver I trust my valuables with.  His verbosity and strong opinions are bonuses.  Lastly, he avoids talking about religion and politics.

“Armed robbers” and “armed robbery” is a generic term for theft with a gun or blade.  It can refer to carjacking, robbing a bank, or a mugging. While private ownership of guns is possible, for most average Ghanaians the process seems tedious and difficult.  For all practical purposes, average people do not own guns.

Therefore, it is odd that armed robbery — with automatic weapons — happens on a weekly/monthly basis.  The police are in on it, Kwesi argues.  He cites a Nigerian movie he watched where some crooked cops lent their AK-47s to their criminal buddies.  Kwesi argues that those  plots are based on reality.  The criminals borrow the guns, rob a target, then split the proceeds with those who lent them the guns.

AK-47

AK-47 Originally made in the Soviet Union, it is the weapon of choice for armies/militias/rebels in developing countries

This sounds crazy to me.  But, I have to ask, how can normal Ghanaians have access to sophisticated weaponry, e.g. AK-47s?  Actually, there a few possibilities besides the police.  The criminals could get the guns from neighboring countries, they could be part of more sophisticated organized crime networks, or they steal them from legitimate owners.

In addition to Kwesi, I also rely on a bunch of other drivers including:

  • Owusu – tall and thin guy; silver, aging car; no music (night)
  • Stephen – short and obolobo; green, clean car; reggae, gospel music (night)
  • Kwadwo – young-looking, smiley guy; red, aging car; no music (day)
  • Ebenezer – beard, young-looking guy; aging silver car; best taste in music (night)
  • Mark – quiet guy; clean, new, A/C car; no music (day)
  • Frank – medium height, smiles; green, clean car; good conversation (night)

Though I sometimes would prefer to drive my own car, I realize that I wouldn’t want to deal with the police myself.

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