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#FixGhanaNow: Akufo-Addo government under activist pressure

By Jonas Nyabor
Posted on Friday, 14 May 2021 07:34

Temperatures are rising about Ghana's President Nana Akufo-Addo management. REUTERS/Francis Kokoroko

Barely four months after winning the presidential elections of December 2020 for a second term, 'apolitical' activists are challenging President Nana Akufo-Addo's government on its commitment to improving the lives of citizens, due the recent imposition of new taxes and high levels of unemployment.

It all began on Sunday, 2 May 2021. Some Twitter influencers and activists started a thread highlighting problems that they accuse the government of failing to address. They are using the hashtags like #FixGhanaNow, #FixTheCountry and #FixMotherGhana to rally support and gain attention.

They say the cost of living in Ghana is becoming too high and the country has many other pressing problems. Tens of thousands of social-media users posted more than half a million tweets on the subjects. Could this hurt the honeymoon that the Akufo-Addo government has enjoyed since the 7 December presidential election?

List of complaints

Some of the issues listed by the campaigners are:

  • unemployment;
  • rising cost of fuel;
  • recent power outages;
  • illegal small-scale mining affecting water supplies;
  • poor road infrastructure;
  • and inadequate health infrastructure.

Ghanaians vented their frustrations under the campaign dubbed #FixGhanaNow, which has consistently been trending on Twitter for the past week. However, the government has been countering the campaign with assurances.

“The job of government is to fix problems. This is what we have been doing since 2017. The Covid-19 pandemic has slowed down the global economy and caused increase in prices of commodities such as oil, cement and iron rods as well as overall cost of shipping. […] Ours is a government that listens and cares. The facts and data speak for themselves. Trust President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo,” vice-president Mahamudu Bawumia said on Facebook on Thursday.

Pay up

The government is struggling to pay down its debt and is looking to raise more revenue. On 1 May 2021, new taxes introduced by the government took effect.

The consequences include ¢0.3 ($0.05) increase in the price of fuel per litre; 1% increase in National Health Insurance Levy and 1% increase in the value-added tax rate, which all contribute to fuel price.

The people have been suffering for long and they just needed a medium to voice out. The ‘Fix the Country’ hashtag is to both current and previous governments. These are not new problems, but Ghanaians have not seen any solutions,” says Joshua Boye-Doe, a campaigner of the #FixGhanaNow movement.

The price of fuel has since gone up from about ¢5.45 ($0.95) per litre to about ¢6.13 ($1.06) for both petrol and diesel. As of January 2021, the price was at an average of GH¢4.8 ($0.83).

In the last three months, most parts of southern Ghana had unexpected power outages occasioned by technical challenges, according to managers of the sector.

The construction industry is also experiencing a hike in cost of building materials. An April 2021 market survey by the state news outfit, Ghana News Agency, found that a bag of cement that was previously sold at ¢35 ($6.08) in December 2020 is now going for ¢45 ($7.81).

Additionally, progress is slow on the issue of national daily minimum wage, a matter of great importance for many households. The government is yet to complete negotiations for an increase from the current ¢11.82 ($2.05).

Lights, food, sanitation

“These are the bread-and-butter issues: roads, lights, food, sanitation, water and so on. People are frustrated by state institutions and politicians they cannot trust. The absence of real and genuine commitment to how we improve the substance of people’s lives has created a trust gap between our elected officials and the citizens. And you can tell that people no longer want to accept the mediocre excuses,” says Oliver Barker-Vormawor, a lead campaigner of the #FixGhanaNow movement.

The police secured a court injunction and blocked an attempt by the campaigners to stage a street protest on 9 May 2021. Officials cited a possible breach of Covid-19 restrictions.

Ghana’s largest opposition party, the National Democratic Congress has been largely silent about the campaign although a few of its top officials, including the national communications officer Sammy Gyamfi, have made public comments in support of the campaign.

Gyamfi criticised the Ghana Police Service for denying the campaigners the right to stage a street protest. “Covid should not be used as a pretext to suppress our inalienable right to peaceful assembly. It’s about time we had a national conversation about the constitutionality of the Imposition of Restrictions Act, 2020 (Act 1012) and the selective application of same,” Gyamfi’s stated in a tweet.

The #FixGhanaNow campaign is the first major apolitical campaign under the Akufo-Addo government.

  • In May 2015, celebrities in Ghana led a ‘Dumsor Must Stop’ protest over frequent power outages under the John Mahama government.
  • A year earlier, there had been a street protest — #OccupyFlagstaffHouse — that highlighted high cost of living and imposition of new taxes: similar complaints cited by the #FixGhanaNow campaigners.

Apolitical goals

The campaigners of the latest protest say that their goal is apolitical and they are not trying to affect the electoral chances of the governing National Patriotic Party in 2024. They say their complaints are targeted at failures of successive governments and not solely at the Akufo-Addo government.

“The people have been suffering for long and they just needed a medium to voice out. The ‘Fix the Country’ hashtag is to both current and previous governments. These are not new problems, but Ghanaians have not seen any solution to the problems,” says Joshua Boye-Doe, another campaigner.

Selorm Brantie, vice-president of think tank IMANI Africa, argues that the ‘Fix Ghana Now’ may not affect the governing party’s chances at the polls.

“The elections are a long way away, so it will be difficult to determine the exact scale of the impact to the fortunes, but it definitely sets the tone for a very focused movement that will out the supposed shortcomings of the current government. This will be a big chink in the armour of government narrative if this movement sustains itself at least up until the beginning of 2023,” he says.

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