“Foul whisperings are abroad: unnatural deeds do breed unnatural troubles…”
William Shakespeare: Macbeth
KWESI PRATT talks about the “unfettered rights” of every Ghanaian to demonstrate. And Article 21(1) (d) of the 1992 Constitution: “All persons shall have the right to freedom of assembly including freedom to take part in processions and demonstrations.”
Recall the Kume Preko (you may kill me) demonstration of 1995, spawned on Akufo Addo (President)’s birthday. Charles Wereko Brobby (Tarzan) led it, with the support of Akuffo Addo, Kwesi Pratt, Victor Newman, Akoto–Ampaw, Abdul Malik Kweku Baako, Nii Adjiri Blankson and Napoleon Abdulai. It was to protest the introduction of VAT, the high cost of living and the brutality of Rawlings’s dictatorship. There were some injuries and about five deaths. The NDC apparatchiks insisted that it was tomato paste that had been put on the eye of one of the victims. Kwesi’s “memorable shot” at Kufuor’s residence in July 2005, could make him an expert on demonstrations.
“Who born dog?” to face Rawlings who had in 1979 shot and killed General Kutu Acheampong and General Utuka; Joy Amedume (for using his office to obtain a loan of ¢50,000); General Akwasi Amankwaa Afrifa dragged from his farm at Krobo, Mampong; General FWK Akuffo (who had sought refuge in the house of an Archbishop); General Kotei (who had returned from London on 3rd June); Air Vice Marshall Yaw (Boakye who had aided Rawlings to pass his exams to become a Flight Lieutenant); Roger Felli (38–year old Colonel)
Rawlings, who “represented the conscience of the Armed Forces” and supervised the murder of three Justices and urged the mob not to “sing songs in praise of me… but Ghana and Africa, the black man” had signed the Public Order Act (Act 491) of 1994. Section I orders the organisers of demonstrations not less than 5 days before the event to notify the police about the place and hour; the nature of the event; the time of commencement; the proposed route. Section 2 (1) “It shall be the responsibility of every police officer to take all such steps as are reasonably necessary in any public space (a) to assist in the proper conduct of any special event by directing the routes of such event to prevent obstruction of pedestrian or vehicular traffic (b) to disperse crowds at any special event where he has reasonable grounds to believe that a breach of peace is likely”. And Section 9 (f) says “A person who acts contrary to a provision in Section 3 commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding two hundred and fifty penalty units or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding one year or to both the fine and the imprisonment”.
In 2015, Ghana’s celebrities including Yvonne Nelson and Van Vicker, joined blue – colour workers in a demonstration against power cuts – “Dumsor Must Stop.” The demonstrators carried lanterns and candles.
Then the “Fix The Country” reared its head, and wanted to be allowed to use weapons during the demonstration? No way – the security threats were rather too terrible, in the face of terrorist attacks.
But we thought “what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.” So, allow “Arise Ghana” to protest the astronomical hikes in fuel prices, the imposition of E-Levy; the grabbing of state lands and the de-classification of huge portions of the Achimota Forest Reserve; the increased brutalities and state-sponsored killing of Ghanaians as well as the demand for a full scale and bi-partisan parliamentary probe into COVID-19 expenditure and the total cancellation of the Agyapa deal. But the route and the timings (3:00pm and 10:00pm), were a security threat.
The police called the organisers to rather start the demonstration early and end it before nightfall. In an ex–parte application by the police at an Accra High Court, presided over by Justice Comfort Kwasiwor Tasiame, the learned Justice ordered the protest march to travel between 8:00am and 4:00pm. The route was from Kwame Nkrumah Circle through Farisco to the TUC building and finally to Independence Square where a representative from the Office of the President would receive the group’s petition if the group had one.
The organisers filed an Application for Stay of Execution, and before the motion was even moved in court, the demonstrators felt the filing of the application alone gave them the right to flout the orders of the Accra High Court! The case, Sethi Brothers Ghana Ltd v Regency Alliance Ltd (J8 68 of 2019 (2019) GHASC 25 (30th May 2019) is relevant.
Noble prize-winning scientist Albert Einstein (1879-1955) opined that: “An empty stomach is not a good political adviser” Impliedly “desperation does not make good politics.” Senior Kwame Awuah, Esquire would always say: ‘ekom ye ya” (Hunger is painful), and it appeared what happened on Tuesday was more a riot than a demonstration. The NDC was there: Ofosu – Ampofo, Asiedu Nketia, and Sammy Gyamfi. The police moved from riot control to riot dispersal, stopping stone – throwing demonstrators, injuring 12 police officers and police vehicles
But the Inspector General of Police, George Akuffo Dampare had instructed them; “…those demonstrators are human beings Ghanaians like us; they are our brothers and sisters…treat them with all the respect, the civility and dignity that each and every human being deserves…treat them the way we would have loved to be treated if we were on the other side “. The police kept word with the IGP and were even seen carrying injured people from the scene! But, was the senior police officer who slapped a demonstrator obeying the IGP’s directives? No, What happened to the journalist (“I am a journalist”), then pa – pa – pa?
Gabby Otchere –Darko may have tweeted; “After 5 months of stalemate and bashing, the e-levy, after implementation, is delivering only 10% of estimated revenue; our revenues remain very low as compared to the rest of the world; debt levels dangerously high; cedi, like most currencies, struggling against the dollar…”
What Gabby did not say, perhaps thinking every Ghanaian knew, was that, with a few differences, the present hardship is a global phenomenon: Transport has come to a standstill in Sri Lanka where a demonstration led to the resignation of President Mahinda Rajapaksa; Peru workers are on strike to demand a cut in fuel prices, and Pedro Castillo’s popularity has plummeted with an annual inflation of 8%. There are protests in Ecuador against President Guillermo Lasso over high food and gas prices. In Argentina, driver Marcelo Vicente says: “We are fighting against high fuel prices.”There are huge protests in Belgium: the country cancelled all flights for some time; The OECD says the world will pay a “hefty price” for the Russia – Ukraine war.
Prof Mills urges us to: “dzi wo fie asem” so, don’t talk of queuing for petrol in Nigeria, as well as the neighboring countries… oh, “uneasy lies the head that wears a crown”. But what happened to “Kontri broke, Kontri no broke, we all dey inside”?
Africanus Owusu – Ansah