#FIXTHECOUNTRY WAHALA: ARE GHANAIANS BEING STIFLED FOR BEING CITIZENS RATHER THAN SPECTATORS?

  • 2021-06-30

In his inauguration speech on 7th January 2017, Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-​Addo challenged the people of the nation to be 'citizens not spectators. Fellow citizens, you must be at the center of the change. The change we have voted for will have to start with each of us as individuals. We can start with little changes in our own individual attitudes and practices. The change can and should start now and with us as individuals. I ask you to be citizens: citizens, not spectators; citizens, not subjects; responsible citizens building your communities and our nation. Let us work until the work is done,” he said. This year, just four months after Nana Addo-Akufo Addo was inaugurated for a second term in office, a fraction of the Ghanaian youth begun a movement known as the #FixTheCountry Campaign to demand accountability and performance from the government, and in no time, what started as a just social media campaign became a “full-fledged movement propelled by predominantly young Ghanaians calling for better living conditions.”

Whiles others perceived the campaign as a “wake-up call” for the country’s leadership, critics of the movement claimed it was needless stating the ruling government was already on course to deliver its promises and improve livelihood for Ghanaians. However, with the current prices hikes, increasing unemployment rates, poor infrastructure in various sectors, tax increases, and layoffs due to the pandemic amongst others, there was no turning back for the protestors. To them, it was a “be all in or get all out” situation, there was no halfway. On May 9, a #FixTheCountry street protest was scheduled with a goal for protestors to express their discontent over what they described as a failure by successive governments to improve the livelihood of the citizens. Unfortunately, the protest was blocked with a court order that stated they could not demonstrate on the set date “or any other date until the restriction on public gathering is lifted.” Nonetheless, the campaigners took the heat to social media using #NameAndShame where they shared videos of stalled projects, deteriorating infrastructures, placards with messages to the government, and called out some particular MPs and DCEs to perform their duties. "We are hungry. Things are bad. Things are difficult. Life is tough. And it doesn't make the headlines,” Ernesto Yeboah, of the activist group Economic Fighters League, told DW, adding that the #FixTheCountry movement “came about out of a feeling among the youth of not being heard by those in charge of the country”.

Early days of June, there was an attempt to kickstart the street protest after “a Supreme Court ruling quashed an earlier order they secured from a High Court to restrain the protestors from staging a demonstration”, however, the Ghana Police Service cautioned the public not to participate in a demonstration organized by conveners of the #FixTheCountry because it does not comply with provisions of the Public Order Act. On 25th June, a group of people demonstrated in front of the Law Court complex in the country’s capital, Accra where the Criminal Division of the Court was hearing a case by the police seeking to place an injunction on the #FixTheCountry demonstration. More than 10 people, including popular actress Efia Odo, were arrested by the police but hours later, they were released on bail. Then sadly on Monday, June 28th, 44-year-old, Kaaka Anyass Ibrahim, a social activist and member of the #FixTheCountry movement, popularly known as ‘Macho Kaka’, was reported dead after he was attacked by a mob at Ejura in the Ashanti Region. According to reports, on June 25, at about 1:30 am, Ibrahim, was attacked by a mob that “sprang up from the deep of darkness and pounced on him with clubs and stones hitting him multiple times in the head”. He was later found unconscious and sent to a hospital for treatment, few days later he died. Prior to his demise, Ibrahim claims to have received death threats for making the ruling government unpopular.

Ibrahim was buried yesterday in line with Islamic customs and practices, but on his burial day, another protest erupted which led to a clash between the protestors who are demanding justice and the security forces. Live ammunition was fired and two persons were reported dead, while for sustained injuries. This has triggered a social media pandemonium; the public, as well celebrities and personalities have lambasted the security forces for their poor handling of the situation. In response, the law enforcers claim they were attacked by men with firearms and other objects, thus they had to retaliate in self-defense. The police say it has launched an investigation into the matter.

The questions: Did the conveners of the #FixTheCountry have a hidden agenda to deliberately make the government unpopular? Did the organizers or demonstrators bite more than they could chew within the context of the law? Would Kaaka Anyass Ibrahim’s alleged murder be another unsolved crime just like that of Ahmed Suale, J.B Danquah, and others? Would the authorities vigorously investigate, and where the evidence permits, prosecute allegations of constitutional violations by the law enforcers, particularly with regards to this case? And lastly, is being a spectator rather than a citizen the safest mode to survive in the country? …At the moment, until there are answers, it appears the pain of their losses has been deepened by the betrayal of the government whose mandate is to protect its citizens.

By Garvin Atee