By Jaysim Hanspal, Jonas Nyabor Posted on Monday, 11 July 2022 11:58 Just days before President Nana Addo Akufo-Addo announced on 1 July that his finance minister, against his will, was opening negotiations with the IMF, thousands of young Ghanaians took to the streets in Accra protesting against spiralling food and fuel prices and wider cost hardships. The huge crowd disrupted traffic along some of the city’s busiest routes, including the road leading to Jubilee House, the seat of the government. A clash with the police on the first day of the protest left people with injuries and over two dozen arrested. The police fired tear gas, a water cannon and live rounds to disperse the protestors. In #Ghana, hundreds participated in the two-day protest led by local lobby group #AriseGhana. The protesters are up in arms about Ghana’s spiraling inflation. Today, I measure inflation in Ghana at a stunning 49.35%/yr. Take a look at the protest:pic.twitter.com/hnS2UyD7O8 — Steve Hanke (@steve_hanke) July 1, 2022
The demonstration was organised by Arise Ghana, a new pressure group that, until last month, no one had heard of. So how did this unknown group pull off one of the biggest anti-government protests in the last five years? According to Bernard Mornah, an activist in the People’s National Congress (PNC), the pressure group was launched in April and has strong ties with the main opposition party, National Democratic Congress (NDC). Weeks before the scheduled protest in Accra, pro-NDC social media accounts began pushing a hashtag to draw attention and support. The group was bringing in Ghanaians from all walks of life, all of whom are volunteers. READ MORE Ghana: Weak economy, high cost of living will drive more strikes warn experts “Our members and supporters come from various groups, including political parties, civil society organisations who feel the pain of bad economic leadership,” says Mornah. Arise Ghana capitalises on the negative sentiments and anger against the Akufo-Addo government’s handling of the economy to drive its activities. The group has no structured leadership: A spokesman on culture for the NDC, Rex Omar, chairs its campaign meetings. Three individuals act as the group’s co-conveners: Sammy Gyamfi (national communication officer of the NDC); Bernard Mornah (former national chairman of the PNC); and Listowell Nana Poku (a critic of the Akufo-Addo government). This is for “strategic purposes”. We cannot mention some of the people who have contributed to our activities because some members of government have also contributed “We know how the system is. They will go to every extent to take on individuals and try to influence them. After some bad experiences, we [don’t] want Arise Ghana to suffer the fate of other pressure groups,” Bernard Mornah tells The Africa Report. According to Mornah, the group is targeting supporters from the Trades Union Congress and former president John Agyekum Kufuor. Just before its demonstrations last month, it received endorsements from Franklin Cudjoe, President of the IMANI Africa think tank, as well as Dr Nyaho Nyaho-Tamakloe and Dr Charles Wereko-Brobbey, both founding members of President Akufo-Addo’s New Patriotic Party. READ MORE Police now hunt for Arise Ghana! leaders after protests turn violent All of the NDC’s national leaders, including its chair, general secretary and organiser addressed protestors last week. Arise Ghana’s activities are funded by unknown donors, but it benefits greatly from the influence of the NDC. For example, the opposition party is ensuring pro-bono legal services for demonstrators who were arrested at last week’s protest. Regional protests are in the offing because the insensitivity of our government is felt all over the country “Most of the things have been done pro-bono. We cannot mention some of the people who have contributed to our activities because some members of the government have also contributed. People gave us food, drinks and paid related bills,” says Mornah. Although many of Arise Ghana’s ideas mirror those of the other big protest group, ‘Fix the Country’, they differ over tactics and themes. Fix the Country’s lead figure is Oliver Barker Vormawor, but Arise Ghana doesn’t have such a frontline leader. READ MORE Detained activist Barker-Vormawor claims ‘Ghana is falling behind on everything’ Oliver’s group fundamentally wants the country’s constitution reviewed besides the bread and butter demands while Arise Ghana targets the Akufo-Addo government for inaction in the face of economic hardship. The group is planning a series of street protests outside Accra after their ultimatum to the government expired in early July. “Regional protests are in the offing because the insensitivity of our government is felt all over the country and so we will take the protest [to] the communities all over the country,” Mornah says. Arise Ghanafocuses more on fighting poverty while #FixtheCountry’s concentrates on free speech. Both groups lambast the declining economic conditions and policies, such as the e-levy, which covers most electronics transactions, including mobile payments, but it has failed to yield the required revenues. It operates primarily online, with 10,700 followers on Twitter, with the capacity for youth activists to make accounts on their website and support causes in a variety of ways.