Usually slums are situated in the periphery of cities; but Korle Dudor is situated in the centre of the city, both considered as physical space, you walk a few minutes and you reach the commercial and administrative heart of Accra, Parliament, Supreme Court, the great buildings and skyscrapers, and as social space, the nearby market of Agbogbloshie is probably the place more frequented of Accra.
The slum is on the Korle lagoon, from which it gets his name, Korle Dudor (‘the washing basin of Korle’); this is the official name used by the authority, but the slum is known more as ‘Old Fadama’ (the name Fadama is a Hausa word for marsh, ‘Old’ is because former settlers were relocated (by Kwame Nkrumah government?) to a new area that got the name New Fadama (in the Okai Koi North District); another name used frequently ;5 ‘Konkomba Market’, after the Limann government gave permission to the Konkombas to start a yam market in the area.
The slum is also called, but only by people who don’t live there, ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’: it is a name that weighs down on the inhabitants. The slum has always been seen as a den for criminals and prostitutes, but the reality is that the great majority of people are good people simply trying to come out from the claws of the poverty of their villages. They live on the humblest jobs and are the first to suffer under the tyranny and the violence of criminality.
But it is always so easy to give a bad name to the poor. So it was a great joy when Most Rev. Charles Palmer-Buckle, the Archbishop of Accra, on his first visit to our place walking around and seeing the poverty of the area but more the presence of God in the children, women and men living here he said: “It is not right to call this place Sodom and Gomorrah, we shall call it the ‘City of God’. And this is our name.
Officially the population is estimated at around 50,000 people, but 100,000 seems a more realistic estimate; they are crowded in some 15,000 shacks, which cover an area of around half km2. People live at the mercy of rain, the drainage system is practically not existent, and fire, every year the slum experiences 15-20 fire outbreaks.
There is not much violence in Korle Dudor, and it is a great blessing; I think that the fact of being at the centre of the city helps a lot, people are not segregated, they are part of the social life, and there is work, humble, despised, but work. There are people from all part of Ghana, especially from the North, the poorest area, and from bordering states; it is a Babel of languages and cultures, but they live together with fair mutual understanding.
The place looks like an anthill, at every hour of the day or the night something is going on. The majority are young people, working especially in two fields: in the various markets and street of Central Accra as hawkers and porters (there are probably more than 10,000 porters in the slum), and in metal scraps recycling. The latter work boasts of a business chain started by the scraps collectors who comb the whole of Accra with their pushing truck (walking even 40-50 km a day) looking for metal scraps; these will be sold to others who will separate what can be re-utilised, and according to their usefulness will end or with spare parts dealers, or with people who will transform them in coal-pots, head-pans, ovens, house or garden tools, etc.
What cannot be re-utilised goes to Tema foundries to be melted to a new life. Unfortunately this creates a lot of air, water, and soil pollution, especially with e-waste and the burning of scraps to get copper.
When I entered the slum it was a moment of tension, the government had just announced the demolition of the slum and the forced eviction of its inhabitants, then matter landed in court and judgment was given in favour of the government with the permission of carry on the forced eviction.
This has never become a reality and the government converted it into a plan offering an alternative settlement to the population, first at Adwen Kotoku, then at Amasaman. I felt really welcomed in the slum, even with the puzzling and questioning about my reasons of being there, and with the possible answers (drugs, prostitution, etc.); I was spending my time walking through the slum, visiting people, especially the sick, ready to enter into dialogue and friendship.