Ghanians Launch Occupy Movement
Above photo: Ghanaian citizens taking part in #OccupyFlagStaffHouse. Photo by Victoria Okeye.
A group of Ghanaians rallied near the president’s office as part of a campaign dubbed #OccupyFlagStaffHouse to protest corruption and the country’s poor economic situation and press the government to do something about it.
The peaceful march, organized in less than five days, happened on July 1, 2014, a public holiday that marked the 54th year since Ghana became a republic following British colonial rule. The movement was launched on Facebook as OccupyGhana on June 28, and by July 1 it had over 3,000 followers in support of the protest. It now has more than 6,000.
This comes in the wake of a series of backlashes against the government for the fast depreciation of the cedi since it tightened the country’s foreign currency rules and eased them last month, and the shortage of fuel that led to long queues at petrol stations for about a week.
The tipping point was when the government allegedly delivered 3 million US dollars appearance fee in cash to the Ghana Black Stars ahead of their World Cup match against Portugal, a match that was lost. The players had threatened to strike if they did not receive their money before the match. The general sentiment after this incident was that government did not care for the people, escalating to outrage on radio, TV and social media platforms.
In the days leading up to the protest, the group OccupyGhana posted messages that explained their dissatisfaction with government and the state of things in the country. On June 29, the group wrote on Facebook:
This evening I saw police pickups even loading and stockpiling fuel.
I saw the faces of taxi drivers who are doing work and pay and need to pay off loans struggling for fuel.
I saw anxious workers who leave for work at 5am and return at 8pm but get paid pittance for their Labour anxiously waiting in queues with gallons.
Then I saw the elderly couple with kids abroad who need fuel for daddy to go for the checkup, wondering where it all went wrong,
The bread sellers, beans sellers, kofi broke man sellers who couldn’t get taxis to carry their wares, those who need every present they make to survive,
Then I saw people like you and I, the Facebookers, the tooknown young middle classers, who greet our poor neighbors every morning with a wave and a condescending how are you? Now anxious about how you can buy fuel, or pay for that mortgage, or service that car loan…
US-based Ghanaian rapper @BlitzAmbassador who has a following of over 19,000 fans, tweeted:
CNN African Radio Journalist Award Winner @AnnyOsabutey shared a photo of protesters:
Following the protest, Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama took to Twitter to reassure the people that their complaints weren’t falling on deaf ears:
A nice sentiment, but real change — not tweets — will mean he is actually listening.