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'#FixTheCountry' protestors move online after government bans demonstrations 'until further notice'

Activists contradict ministers' account of meeting which scuppered mass protests planned for 9 May

Organisers of the '#FixTheCountry' group pushed ahead with localised protests and Twitter campaigns after the police obtained a restraining order from the High Court barring a mass demonstration at Black Star Square in central Accra on 9 May.

Judge Ruby Aryeetey ruled the protest would have broken the state's restrictions on large gatherings during the Covid-19 pandemic. About 15 police and riot control vehicles cordoned off Black Star Square early on 9 May.

Government officials are using co-option and confrontation against the '#FixTheCountry' campaign, which lambasts the economic and social policies of President Nana Addo Akufo-Addo's government. The protestors' targets are: rising youth unemployment, corruption, poor public healthcare, polluted water, power cuts, rising rents and fuel prices (AC Vol 62 No 9, Port chiefs defend Bolloré deal after probe finds the state could lose over $4 billion).

Understanding the power of social media campaigns (Twitter is locating its Africa headquarters in Ghana), the government has launched its counter campaign 'Let us #FixTheCountry Together'.

On the day of the banned protest, Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta invited journalists to his office, setting out the government's record, promising a US$200 million jobs and skills programme, more investment in sanitation and a new development bank to channel funds to local businesses.

Last week '#FixTheCountry' activists led by their convenor Oliver Barker-Vormawor applied for a permit to organise a socially-distanced protest. They were summoned to a meeting with Inspector General of Police James Oppong-Boanuh on 7 May and police vehicles were sent to pick them up.

However, the police vehicles changed route after picking them up and took them to an unscheduled meeting with the ministers of national security (Albert Kan-Dapaah) and finance (Ofori-Atta) and the Attorney General (Godfred Dame).

There, the activists said they were served with a court injunction against the demonstration and ministers asked them to work constructively with government.

Barker-Vormawor said one of the group's mobile phones was 'cloned' while deposited with government security and that security officials were now monitoring their calling records.

A war of words ensued on social media with Information Minister Kojo Oppong Nkrumah denying the ministerial meeting was 'an ambush' or that the activists' phones had been tampered with (AC Vol 62 No 5, The wrong side of the law).



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