On Thursday, September 21st, the streets of Ghana’s capital, Accra, witnessed a surge of discontentment as citizens rallied against the escalating cost of living and economic mismanagement by the government. The protests, organized under the banner of Democracy Hub, saw demonstrators clad in red and black attire, symbolizing their frustration with the current economic hardships. Despite the peaceful intent, the protests took a violent turn as police arrested 49 individuals, including journalists covering the event.
The protests were part of a larger movement dubbed #OccupyJulorbiHouse, which culminated on Saturday, September 23rd, despite poor weather conditions. The demonstrators, armed with placards reading “Ghana deserves better” and “We are tired of being voting machines,” sought to march to the Golden Jubilee House, the seat of government, but were barred by the police. The police’s use of force on Thursday leading to over 50 arrests and igniting further outrage among the citizens.
The roots of the protests trace back to the “Fix the Country” movement that emerged in 2021, voicing grievances over the spiraling cost of living and alleged economic mismanagement. The recent demonstrations were reignited by the government’s lack of response to the economic crisis, which has seen a significant rise in unemployment and underemployment, especially among the youth. The public debt, which stood at $49.7 billion at the end of April, and the country’s reliance on IMF bailouts have further fueled the discontent.
Political activist Bernard Mornah warned of potential violent change if peaceful protests continue to be met with force. The sentiment was echoed by other activists who criticized the suppression of democratic rights and accused the government of mismanaging public finances. The government, on the other hand, defended its economic record, attributing the crisis to the global pandemic and external factors like the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
The protests have brought to light the growing dissatisfaction among Ghanaians towards their leaders, with calls for political and economic reform growing louder. As Ghana, once hailed as a model economy in Africa, grapples with these challenges, the voices on the streets of Accra reflect a populace yearning for change and accountability.
The campaign against the economic crisis kicked off while President Nana Akufo-Addo was in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, further highlighting the disconnect between the government and the governed. The unfolding events in Ghana serve as a stark reminder of the economic vulnerabilities and the quest for better governance in many African nations.