Dressed in bright floral shirts, the murderers arrive. Anas – tall, thin, and slightly stooped – crosses the courtyard to greet them. The men are here to kill Koffi, a baby boy, and he leads them to the child. “Leave him with us!” jokes one. “That’s what we’re here for.” But Anas declines, and as they build a fire to boil up toxic roots, he carries Koffi back into the house, closes the door, and passes him out of a window to a waiting policeman.
There is a belief in northern Ghana that children born with deformities are possessed, and though Anas has sympathy for poor couples struggling to cope with a disabled child, he has none for the “concoction men” who kill these children to order. When the three old men have finished preparing their poison, Anas brings them into the baby’s bedroom. A silicone replica of Koffi is lying in the cot. Anas passes it to a poisoner, and the police burst in.
Undercover journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas is one of the most famous men in Ghana, but almost nobody knows his face. His anonymity lets him investigate and expose lawbreakers – from cocoa smugglers crippling the country’s economy to members of a Chinese prostitution ring – and the results are often spectacular, appearing in national newspapers such as the Crusading Guide, in which Anas made his name, and on radio and television. Nothing, says Anas, is quite like video, and the effect of “seeing evidence play live in front of your face.” His private investigation company Tiger Eye employs 40 undercover operatives, equipped with hidden cameras and split into five independent teams: Chameleon, Spider, Parrot, Tiger and Spice Girl.
The work is dangerous. When Anas posed as a mental patient to expose drug dealing in an asylum, he was temporarily paralyzed by a mixture of mandatory sedatives, pills he took to combat their effects and cocaine he injected to win the trust of fellow inmates. When his cover was blown while hiding out with rebels on Côte d’Ivoire, he escaped on a stolen motorbike. And when he was caught impersonating a Catholic priest in Bangkok, Thailand, he was immediately thrown in jail without trial. On those last two occasions, he was saved by the Ghanaian government, with whom he has an unusual relationship. Although Tiger Eye produces work for Al Jazeera, the BBC and other major news agencies, its main client is the government of Ghana, whose own employees are often the targets of investigation. Corruption is the “disease” that permits crime, explains Anas: “Someone has to watch the watchers.”
[ 1 ] When the Ghanaian government commissioned Anas Aremeyaw Anas to investigate cocoa smuggling in 2010, he disguised himself as a rock on the roadside to spy on trucks as they crossed the border into Côte d’Ivoire.
[ 2 ] Investigating the theft of 200 cattle in Ghana’s Central Region, Anas sensed that locals would be wary of outsiders, so when he went to ask questions, he dressed as an elderly woman to lower their guard.
[ 3 ] Disguised as a newsvendor, Anas used one camera hidden in his watch and another in a button to record policemen taking bribes from drivers, leading to the arrest of three officers.
[ 4 ] Armed with a rough description of a suspected rapist, Anas went undercover as a conductor on the area’s only bus route, photographing men for the victim to identify with a camera hidden in a button.
From the pages of COLORS #86 - Making the News.