Academic journal article Africa

Gun Culture in Kumasi

Academic journal article Africa

Gun Culture in Kumasi

Article excerpt


This article is about gun culture in Kumasi today. Gun use in Asante, and elsewhere in Ghana, has increased significantly in the last decade. In practice and in the public imagination this is associated with the rise of youth gangs and the criminalization of urban space. Much has been written about youths and violence elsewhere in Africa, but this article focuses on the neglected topic of guns themselves--their manufacture, sale, distribution, use and meanings. In Kumasi, which in Suame Magazine has the biggest indigenous metalwork and engineering complex in all of West Africa, skilled artisans now make copies of imported automatic assault rifles, like the Soviet AK-47, as well as shotguns and pistols. This development is explored in a number of ways, and most especially in terms of the relationship between guns and their local history, Kumasi youth, crime and shifting patterns of desire and consumption. It is the purpose of this article to add to the growing literature on 'violent youth' in Africa, but to do so from the viewpoint of the weapons that enable this violence.


Cet article a pour theme la culture des armes a feu a Kumasi aujourd'hui. L'usage des armes a feu en pays Ashanti, et ailleurs au Ghana, s'est considerablement developpe au cours des dix dernieres annees. Dans la pratique et dans l'imagination publique, cet essor est associe a la multiplication des bandes de jeunes et a la criminalisation de l'espace urbain. On a beaucoup ecrit sur les jeunes et la violence ailleurs en Afrique, mais cet article s'interesse a un theme neglige, a savoir les armes elles-memes, leur fabrication, leur vente, leur distribution, leur utilisation et leurs significations. A Kumasi et plus particulierement a Suame Magazine, le plus grand complexe metallurgique et mecanique indigene d'Afrique de l'Ouest, des artisans habiles fabriquent aujourd'hui des copies de fusils d'assaut automatiques importes, comme la Kalachnikov AK-47, ainsi que des fusils et des pistolets. L'article explore cette evolution a plusieurs egards, en se penchant plus particulierement sur la relation entre les armes et leur histoire locale, les jeunes de Kumasi, la criminalite et les schemas changeants du desir et de la consommation. Il a pour objet d'ajouter a la litterature croissante consacree a la << violence des jeunes >> en Afrique, mais du point de vue des armes qui rendent cette violence possible.


Eric Alfred Zienne was born at Kusele near Nandom in northern Ghana in 1972. Like generations of youth in search of opportunity he migrated south to Kumasi, historic capital of Asante and Ghana's second city. In 2007 he achieved national notoriety. Also known as AK, Ataa Ayi, Baba 93, Lone Ranger, Usama and Death Man, Zienne was a daring and ruthless armed robber in and around Kumasi. In over thirty robberies he shot three men to death and wounded several more. Mostly he worked alone and in broad daylight, targeting commercial concerns with large amounts of ready cash. The authorities offered a reward for information leading to his arrest. He was cornered at his Kumasi dwelling and apprehended. Days later he was conducting police around the scenes of his crimes when he broke free and fled. He was chased, shot in the leg and recaptured. He spent Christmas 2007 shackled to a bed and surrounded day and night by armed guards in Kumasi's Komfo Anokye Hospital.

Zienne raised public alarm at a rime when Ghana's media were full of tales of a steep rise in robbery, murder, contract killings and lawless urban youth gangs. Government acknowledged this trend and struggled to calm the fears it inspired. Beyond the moral panic and wild rumours, two known facts stand out about the Zienne case. First, the man lived his life of crime more or less in public. He invested his stolen money in a flourishing supermarket, restaurant and car-wash complex near the Kumasi racetrack. Everyone knew this and many neighbours admired Zienne's enterprise. …

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