ON Thursday, at least 49 individuals were detained by Ghanaian police in the capital city of Accra as authorities attempted to prevent protesters from approaching the seat of government, Jubilee House. The demonstrators, donning red and black attire, rallied to voice their concerns about the lingering economic crisis that has gripped the West African nation.
Eyewitnesses reported that the police physically confronted the protesters, leading to injuries among some of them. Journalists covering the event were also briefly apprehended and later released. Richard Allotey, a 32-year-old unemployed graduate who participated in the protest, recounted the ordeal, stating, ‘They forced us into a waiting bus and physically assaulted us at the police station. I had a cut on my left arm. We were not armed. We only went to register our grievances over how the economy is being mismanaged, and the police beat us.’
The protest was organised by Democracy Hub, a governance advocacy group that condemned the use of ‘brute force to thwart a peaceful protest.’ In a statement issued on Thursday, Democracy Hub asserted, ‘We have proven that we are indeed not timid people.’
Police spokesperson Juliana Obeng did not address the allegations of abuse but stated that the arrests were made ‘in connection with an unlawful assembly,’ referring to a last-minute court process initiated by the police to prevent the planned demonstration. Obeng explained, ‘We would like to state that the police do not take delight in preventing any group from demonstrating… The exception, in this case, is the police disagreement with the organisers on the venue being a security zone.’
Ghana’s largest opposition party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), decried the police-civilian clash during Thursday’s protest as a ‘shame.’ Fiifi Kwetey, the party’s general secretary, criticised the police’s use of force against peaceful protesters, emphasising the citizens’ genuine concerns regarding poor governance and corruption in the country.
On social media, particularly on X (formerly known as Twitter), many Ghanaians expressed frustration with the government’s response to the protests. They highlighted issues such as the nation’s growing debt situation, with popular singer Black Sherif posting in Pidgin English, ‘These people dey borrow in our name… And if the people, whose struggles you document to go ask for money, want accountability, you send Koti [local word for police] make they dey beat them? Lord knows this battle is ours.’
The protest in Accra is the latest in a series of demonstrations against the government led by President Nana Akufo-Addo, as Ghana grapples with its most severe economic crisis in a generation. In the past year, labour unions and traders protested against rising utility bills, rent, and transport costs.
Ghana, once regarded as a symbol of good governance in Africa, now faces challenges such as high unemployment rates, particularly among its youth. The country’s public debt has surged, with central bank records indicating a debt of $49.7bn by the end of April. Ghana has defaulted on debt payments to preserve its foreign reserves and is currently under a $3bn IMF relief programme over the next three years, making it the African country most indebted to the institution.
Critics, including activists and anti-corruption campaigners, have accused the government of mismanaging public finances, diverting resources that could have been used to create jobs and support private sector growth.
The recent wave of youth-led protests has focused primarily on allegations of widespread corruption and a lack of accountability among government officials. Ongoing investigations into suspected embezzlement, such as the case involving former Sanitation Minister Cecilia Dapaah, have fuelled discontent.
Political activist Bernard Mornah warned of growing discontent among Ghana’s youth, stating, ‘The future is bleak… The youth of this country will rise one day and demand what is due them. Our political leaders have failed them. Where are the jobs?’
Bright Simons, an analyst with the Accra-based think tank IMANI, suggested that the recent protests represented an emerging effort to fill the void left by established civil society movements, including more activist segments of the religious community.
The government has been accused of suppressing dissent through bureaucratic processes aimed at delaying protests. However, government spokesperson Richard Ahiagbah defended their record, asserting that efforts were underway to improve the lives of Ghanaians.
On Friday, a group of Ghanaian celebrities and comedians joined protesters at the location of Thursday’s clash to garner public support for another demonstration. Ghanaian actress and socialite Efia Odo, one of the participants, stressed the importance of defending their country and striving for a better future, stating, ‘Ghana is tough… If we get arrested, we’ll be bailed and come back again. What happened yesterday was shameful.’