WHEN MY UNDERWEAR BECAME MY HAND TOWEL AT GIMPA in ACCRA

By Elias Hakizimana

Quite a long ago, my dreams to travel abroad was something that repeatedly came in my mind.

I was always aroused by my colleagues’ travel pieces and testimonies who have ever travelled to countries where they even got better service delivery anyone could wish to have.

However, my first travel to Accra-Ghana was the worst experience that befell me.

It was in October when I received an invitation to attend a two-day Training of Anglophone African journalists on International criminal law and justice at Ghanaian Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA) and I was happy as my dreams had come true.

The day came to take off and my friends and relatives wished me a safe flight.

From the airport in Kigali and in the flight on my way to Accra, I was enthusiastically served by air hostesses, with timely updates on the trip to keep me safe.

And food and beverages were served for refreshment of the body.

Arriving in Accra-town, Kotoka International Airport, I was welcomed and driven to the hosting institution, GIMPA. It was in the afternoon around 3pm.

At my arrival, I was given a key of the room in which I used to rest during all the five days of my stay.

Then there started a *worst experience* of life notwithstanding being an important person ‘journalist’ from a foreign country to attend a two-day training of Anglophone African Journalists on International Criminal law and justice which was encouraging journalists to use professional reporting in fighting impunity.

The courses during the training were pleasant and well organized with professional and informative uptakes but all this can’t make me forget that *my underwear became my hand towel*

The courses during the training were pleasant and well organized with professional and informative uptakes but all this can’t make me forget that *my underwear became my hand towel*

Sincerely speaking, at my arrival with the room I was given to stay in, which was not far different from ones given to my colleagues from 12 African countries, I did not feel comfortable with it and I could not lie down on it and sleep.

The room with *old and dirty blankets and a smeared bedcover* made my mind think of detained people’s life.

And, *without bathroom shoes “slippers” and a hand towel in the room* then I went into the bathroom with *naked feet asking myself how to bathe without such facilities*

The bathroom without slippers and a hand towel. No toothpaste, no body lotion/ Images by Elias Hakizimana. 

Immediately, I remembered our local slogan in Rwanda saying that ‘INTORE NTIGANYA, ISHAKA IBISUBIZO’ which means a trained person does not worry but looks for solutions.

Then *I resorted to use my underwear and boxer shorts in place of a hand towel to wash myself after showering*

One reason to highlight this, is that even in our local suburbs where accommodation rooms/lodges are accessible at the cheapest cost you find everything appropriate and safe for a human being/ a client.

Inside such a room which is the cheapest you can’t miss basic facilities including a hand towel and sometimes you can find two, you can’t miss bathroom shoes and sometimes you can find two pairs, bedcovers and bedsheets that are pleasant and make a guest feel comfortable.

I first thought that they had forgotten to equip the room with the needed hygiene facilities the day I arrived.

But I hopefully waited for the next day by staying sitting on the chair watching TV until the morning since the old and dirty bed sheets and bedcover could not motivate my sleep.

*The following day, I reported the case to the logistic in-charge who responded: “We will work on it*

But even the third day early morning, I submitted The room’s key to the receptionist hoping they would arrange my room and equip it *but nothing they changed to the situation*

The bed sheet and an old blanket that I knew in the past 29 years was the one made on my bed at my stay at GIMPA.

Before I took off, I thought I would sleep in one of VIP hotels in Accra but I was surprised to stay in an old and dirty place inside the campus.

It looked like a hostel of students as the dirty bed sheet was stamped with the school’s flag.

When we receive guests in my native country, Rwanda, we make sure we give them good service and that they are comfortable.

*I can’t forget that I passed five days there; bathing without hand towel where my underwear and boxer shorts replaced a hand towel*

As I was not allowed to carry all plastic bags and bottles with me in the flight, I went without toothpaste and body lotion thinking that everything will be served there at my host institution or in a hotel in which I was expecting to stay. But, *I passed five days without brushing my teeth nor anointing my body*

It was not easy to try shop some facilities as I mentioned above because we did not have the currencies of Ghana *Cedes*

In addition, *there was no single mosquito net for malaria prevention. I was severely and severally bitten by mosquitoes*

*The room without internet Wi-Fi was not motivating* I could communicate to neither my colleague journalists we met there nor my relatives and friends I left in Rwanda.

Fortunately, there was no incident like fire that happened when I was in a room because if it would have happened I could not have managed to call for intervention because there was no Wi-Fi internet.

*If we were informed of such a poor situation before, we would have carried our own facilities with us*

Accra town is very huge and hot, with vibrant businesses in and around the city.

Street vendors are free to walk with goods at any place. Around the town from Kotoka International Airport to GIMPA you can find Green and Clean roads with some gardens around.

A you can feel every second is much heat, over 28 degrees Celsius from morning to the midnight.

*The break fast*

I was surprised to have porridge with ginger aroma on the plate to eat it using a spoon. I found it as a Ghanaian culture and I had to eat it. As we were from different nationalities, we thought that they will keep changing varieties of snacks at every breakfast but they changed nothing.

*The lunch and Dinner*

A nice and delicious fish and chicken was like a requisite of the restaurant where students take their daily meal. Only one single small bottle of warm water could supplement the meal at day and evening. The room had an empty fridge inside but one could struggle with thirsty until the day we took certificates and the entire week end when we were waiting for our flights to return home.

Some of colleagues were afraid to eat a diet that could not change due to a routine of having a variety of meals.

*Per diem*

It had become a routine that when people are invited to participate in the training of even one day in their local countries, the hosting institution gives them a per diem money to afford different needs where they stay.

In addition, when a person leaves their job for such travel, per diem is always paramount.

I think most of you who have ever travelled you know it better than me.

*We were surprised and unhappy to stay alone after the training session and without per diem*

*I was thinking that despite suffering from poor treatment, the per diem could console me but unfortunately nothing came out*

To end, I am wondering if the following institutions who contributed to organizing this training namely; *International Criminal Court (ICC)*, *Netherland Embassy in Ghana*, *The African Center for International Criminal Justice (ACICJ)* among others are aware of the bad situation most of us suffered from at our stay in Accra.

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Elias Hakizimana

Elias Hakizimana, CEO&Founder of The Inspirer Ltd,(www.rwandainspirer.com) is a professional Rwandan Journalist with Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Communication, received from University of Rwanda’s College of Arts and Social Sciences (CASS) in 2014. He served various media houses in Rwanda including Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA) in 2013 and became passionate with English Online and Print Media Publications where he exercised his talent as a Freelance News Reporter for The New Times, The Independent, The Rwanda Focus, Panorama and more before he became a Self-Entrepreneur as the CEO and Founder of The Inspirer Limited in early 2017.

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