Recent protests have broken out in Accra, Ghana, as Ghanaians express their displeasure with the nation’s current democratic government. Rallying behind the hashtag #FixTheCountry, an overwhelmingly youthful group of protesters has taken to the streets, donning red and black and chanting patriotic songs. As these protesters call for change, it is worthwhile to investigate what they are fighting for and how certain conditions in Ghana have precipitated their outcry. Here are five facts about the causes, execution and stakes of Ghana’s #FixTheCountry protests.
5 Facts About Ghana’s #FixTheCountry Protests
- A young social media influencer masterminded the protests: People know social media influencer Joshua Boye-Doe as Kalyjay. With Twitter as his primary platform, Kalyjay, who boasts more than 450,000 followers on the site, began the movement back in May 2021 in response to raised prices and tax increases. On Kalyjay’s Twitter account, one might discover an interesting variety of memes, videos and retweets about Ghanaian soccer players and other Ghanaian athletes. Most significant, however, are the tweets that end in #FixTheCountry —“Enough is enough,” one reads, or “Tomorrow we go on a peaceful walk to rewrite history.” Each one of his tweets reaches hundreds of thousands of followers, and on August 4, his movement came to a head as he helped organize several thousand people to peacefully protest in the nation’s capital.
- Discontent and turmoil have been brewing since President Nana Akufo-Addo’s December reelection: The current democratically elected President of Ghana is Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party. He narrowly won reelection in December 2020 in a race against John Dramani Mahama of the National Democratic Congress. According to the BBC, Ghana has a history as one of the more stable democracies in all of Africa when it comes to fair and legal elections. At the same time, there has still been plenty of public outcry to Akufo-Addo’s reelection. In the week following the December election, at least 60 incidents of violence related to the election took place, with five Ghanaians killed as a result. Though independent officials described voting and polling as fair and free, Mahama refused to concede the election for several days after the announcing of the results.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated Ghana’s economic problems: Following a difficult economic year during the COVID-19 pandemic, President Akufo-Addo promised to reinvigorate Ghana’s economy, which had suffered due to price fluctuations of oil and cocoa, two of the nation’s key exports. Now in mid-2021, #FixTheCountry protesters are frustrated with the administration’s apparent inaction. Prices of basic goods and services have risen over the past year, and the government has imposed several new COVID-era taxes. Some are particularly displeased with the president’s decision to build a $200 million national cathedral, asking for $16 monthly donations from citizens. Many protesters view this project as non-essential, urging the administration to focus on fixing the economy at large.
- This kind of public protest is unusual for Ghana: Due to its strong democracy, Ghana is not a country well known for large, public demonstrations from its citizens. Ghana has a history of maintaining free media and holding relatively peaceful elections with subsequent transfers of power. Ghanaians typically utilize the power of the ballot box to voice their dissatisfaction. The 2020 election saw a voter turnout of 79%, higher than the U.S.’s 67% turnout in the same year. Though the population is incredibly politically active, perceptions abound that individuals cannot influence or pressure political officials. Eighty-five percent of responders from a 2019 survey stated that they had never contacted a member of parliament. The #FixTheCountry protests are thus somewhat unusual to see, but they connect to the fears of poverty that worry many young Ghanaians.
- This nonpartisan hashtag has become a movement: Ghana’s #FixTheCountry protests have denounced both of Ghana’s primary political parties. Rather than focusing on partisan politics, the #FixTheCountry movement has swelled around passionate, frustrated young people. With more than 70% of Ghana’s population younger than 35, this young crowd hopes to tackle and address unemployment and other economic issues. Just 10% of graduates from Ghanaian universities find a job within their first year of graduation. Among the movement’s specific demands is a new constitution with limits on the power of the executive and an economic charter that directly guarantees economic liberty, ensuring liberation from poverty.
Accra’s recent #FixTheCountry demonstration highlights the ways in which the fight to downsize poverty is continually evolving. In a developing nation like Ghana, where poverty and inequity continue to plague many pockets of the population, young people have found a voice through Ghana’s #FixTheCountry protests, organized through social media, to fight economic inequality.
– Sam Dils