“Mr. President, where is our money? The high cost of living will kill us.”
Those were the cries that filled the streets of Accra as the usually peaceful people of Ghana could no longer stop their anger and frustration over intolerable living costs, record inflation, and misleading information about the economy shared by the government.
Over the past week, hundreds of Ghanaians clashed with police and denounced their government’s inaction on the crisis.
Authorities are now searching for the protest leaders although it’s an open question as to whether police or protestors started the violence.
A group calling itself Arise Ghana (#AriseGhanaProtest) appeared to be leading the demonstrations, supported by members of the political opposition, the young and old and the unemployed as well as such figures as
Sammy Gyamfi, national communications officer for the National Democratic Congress, and economist and development officer Bernard Anbataayela Mornah.
“We call on the Ministry of Finance to scrap the obnoxious electronic transaction fee that is imposing more hardship on the people of Ghana, siphoning their capital and above all confiscating our savings,” Mornah said.
According to Arise, inflation is running at over 20% in Ghana and a third of people under 30 are unemployed.
Government also infuriated Ghanaians when, in an about-face, it reached out to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bailout after pledging not to do so. Gyamfi called it “pathetic and ridiculous, particularly so given the negative commentary that President Akufo-Addo, his Vice, Alhaji Bawumia and other leading figures of the NPP made about IMF programs in time past.”
Protestors are also raising the issue of the Achimota Forest Reserve in Accra. The Ghanaian government has sold some 361 acres of “peripheral lands” from the reserve, citizens have learned, handing it over to the Owoo family, from whom the existing reserve land had been purchased in the 1920s.
“The 495 [hectare] Achimota Forest Reserve,” wrote GhanaWeb columnist Philip Kyeremanteng, “has over the years lost more than 150 [hectares] to urban infrastructure development and illegal encroachment.”
These concerns combined with delays in infrastructure projects and public fights over high-cost ventures like the new national cathedral are putting the government on the defensive.
Social media such as Instagram and Twitter is carrying most of the reporting while the BBC is carrying reports in pidgin, a widely understood idiom.
Meanwhile, Information Minister Kojo Oppong Nkrumah pushed back at critics during his own press conference as protestors gathered for another demonstration.
“There’s an obvious attempt to create instability in our country at this time and we don’t need to mince words about it…We have people attacking the police in this manner. Can you imagine what would have happened if indeed some of these things were allowed to continue through the night?”
In its own tweets, the police service pushed back against the claims: “What a shame, we were there to protect you and ensure your safety, but you throw stones at us, injure and hurt us.” They added that video footage of the demonstration is being reviewed.