Dear reader, this text is published in the spirit of open-access as part of our new project entitled The Funambulist Correspondents. Every week for a bit over a year, we will publish a text written by one of our 28 commissioned correspondents in as many places of the world. The project is made possible through generous support from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.
Unsustainable debt, poor service delivery, failing infrastructure, widespread corruption, diminishing respect for human rights and a struggling economy that only serves a minority elite could be described as symptoms of the condition of many African nations existing in this neocolonial era. Sadly, they describe Ghana, the nation that brought Sub-Saharan Africa hope when, in 1957, the Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah voiced the words which reverberated across the continent, penetrating the souls of each and every liberation struggle:
“We have awakened. We will not sleep anymore. Today, from now on, there is a new African in the world! That new African is ready to fight his own battles and show that after all, the Black man is capable of managing his own affairs. We are going to demonstrate to the world, to the other nations, that we are prepared to lay our own foundation.”
This hope would be underscored by forward action, by a 7-year development plan, the giant, hydroelectric Akosombo Dam and other major works towards agricultural and industrial revolution, and efforts to reform education in a manner that centred the African identity and African needs.
The Osagyefo would be ousted in an illegal overthrow in 1966, precipitating decades of instability marked by coups, military regimes, and years of austerity [in fact, if not in word]. A referendum boycotted by many would bring forth the 1992 Constitution, the document that has underpinned the pendulum swing of power between two parties of one capitalistic root, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP).
Under the stewardship of the NDC and the NPP, Africa’s vanguard democracy would find herself adding partisan tensions to a growing list of trials and tribulations. The same political elite that would conveniently stand together on matters (such as the awarding of obscenely large ex gratia payments to higher ranking members of the executive, judiciary, and legislative arms of government), would conveniently divide the People, ensuring that loyalties and power were divided, allowing them to gorge themselves on the nation’s flesh while the People stagnated, denied basic needs and rights as their elected government officials flew from mansion to banquet in state funded, air-conditioned V8s.
The so-called Fourth Republic brought forth by the 1992 Constitution left the People with little power and few options in the way of recourse. And why not? A Constitution for the People would have had to have been decided on by the People; this document is instead weighed down by indemnity clauses (which protect coup makers, including those who overthrew Kwame Nkrumah) and an excessive amount of power awarded to the executive.
In 2016, the Economic Fighters League (EFL), a radical Nkrumahist movement in Ghana,declared the 1992 Constitution a Sakawa (fraudulent) Constitution and vowed to mobilize against the document itself, as well as all unjust actions that arose out of the vacuum this flawed document created. A better Ghana was possible, and it began with leadership accountability to the People.
The pressure Fighters mounted on the ‘rotten system’ would reach the first of many climaxes when Commander-in-Chief Ernesto Yeboah and Commander of Solidarity Abeku Adams were arrested in the public gallery of Parliament for disrupting proceedings by shouting “Drop That Chamber!”, the popular public refrain coined in opposition to Parliament’s intent to build a new $200 million chamber in a country in which too many of her children are still studying in dangerously dilapidated structures. As they were dragged out, Yeboah was filmed declaring, “You can kick me, beat me, but you will not stop me from speaking; I will say what has to be heard.” In a Press Conference shortly after the arrest, the movement declared an era of Civil Disobedience.
The Re-Birth of the New African
In early 2021, the frustration experienced by Ghanaians was captured in a hashtag coined by social media influencer KalyJay [Twitter: @gyaigyimii]: #FixTheCountry. The hashtag quickly united and ignited voices across the nation and her diaspora, articulating the problems faced by the People of Ghana. From high unemployment to soaring rents, from lack of development in rural communities to poor medical infrastructure, from the stealing of state funds to broken campaign promises, the elected leaders of Ghana — regardless of party allegiance — found themselves bombarded by the voices of the People who elected them into power. The hashtag continued trending for weeks, and began to show promises of physical manifestation.
The emerging movement quickly began to take loose form with no hierarchical structure but a group of conveners. With a diverse group of Conveners, including influencers, lawyers, poets, students, entertainers, media personalities, and union workers as well as the Economic Fighters League, the group undertook the difficult task of shaping the movement, bringing their respective skills and organizing ability to the fore. Thus the hashtag quickly began to expand and evolve into a movement.
As the hashtag grew in popularity and the dialogue around it dominated the media, a demonstration was announced for 9 May, 2021. Notice was issued to Ghana Police, in accordance with the Public Order Act, leading to an invitation to the office of the then Inspector General of Police, James Oppong-Boanuh. In the meeting, conveners were ambushed by the Attorney General, the Minister for Finance, the Minister for the Interior, the Minister for National Security, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, and various other high ranking officials. The IGP himself was nowhere to be seen. This would be the first in a series of actions taken by those in power, who chose to weaponize state processes against the organizers.
While the ambush meeting was happening, Ghana Police was in court seeking an indefinite injunction against the movement and any public events they wished to hold. The court obliged. The movement quickly announced that the May 9th demonstration would instead be held online, and around Ghana, people posted photos of themselves or the condition of their surroundings, dominating major media outlets and social media trends for days. On the day of the online demonstration, a large police deployment stationed at the original demonstration meeting point proved just how potent a threat to the system #FixTheCountry had become. Hot water cannons and armed vehicles surrounded the Black Star Square in Accra.
During this period, Conveners were defamed on social media, threatened in their jobs, denied access to court proceedings, had their phones tracked, and in one instance, a house was broken into.
The movement, in turn, escalated the matter to the Supreme Court, where the injunction was thrown out. Ghana Police, now with the help of the Attorney General, went before the same judge who had granted the first injunction, seeking to obtain another against the movement. On one court date, a number of #FixTheCountry activists, including social media influencer and brilliant young mind Efia Odo, were arrested and briefly detained for holding placards outside the courthouse while court was in session.
In the early hours of Saturday 26 June 2021, Fighter Ras Bamba, a leading member of the Economic Fighters League Ejura Cell in Ashanti Region, received a call that a Fighter he had been working with, Fighter Ibrahim ‘Macho Kaaka’ Muhammed had been attacked in his home by a violent mob. Bamba had been working with Kaaka on a concept where they used social media to highlight the lack of development in the small town of Ejura. Kaaka was an ardent supporter of #FixTheCountry, and had been actively recording and posting about his hometown, resulting in a written warning from the Ejura District Police Commander dated 15 June, in which it was claimed that he was committing the offence of offensive conduct and breach of peace.
News of the attack consumed Ghana, and #FixTheCountry (FTC) and the Economic Fighters League began to mobilize support for the family in various ways, from the legal advisory support provided by FTC convener Oliver Barker-Vormawor to EFL’s logistical help at the hospital. Support online gained momentum under the hashtag, #WeAreAllKaaka and #JusticeForKaaka.
On Monday 28 June, 2021, Ibrahim ‘Macho Kaaka’ Muhammed succumbed to his injuries.
The following day his body was released for burial, and in a shocking turn of events, chanting and mourning Ejura Youth returning from the funeral were fired upon by military personnel after the Youth demanded that the police surrounding the funeral disperse. Two teenagers, Abdul Nasiru and Murtala Mohammed were shot dead, while another, Awal Misbau, was injured and would later lose his leg.
Mainstream media immediately began to question whether Kaaka had in fact been an activist, and whether the murder was related to his activism. A committee was assembled and, in televised proceedings, absolved the state of responsibility in his murder and the events that followed after. Today, Kaaka’s brother stands accused of a murder that was perpetrated by a mob, despite protests by Kaaka’s own wife and family.
Arise Ghana Youth
During this period, #FixTheCountry announced 4 August, 2021, as the new date for the demonstration. Main Opposition party, the NDC, then announced that they would be holding their own ‘March for Justice’, slated for 6 July, 2021. Their demonstration was quickly cleared by Ghana Police, leading many to question the validity of their demonstration. On 5 July, 2021, the Economic Fighters League released a statement signed by Fighter-General Hardi Yakubu. It read:
“The fact is that the rotten system currently oppressing us is not upheld by the NPP alone. The NDC are equal partners in creating and sustaining the anti-People establishment that oppresses us. Once we understand this fact we are able to see why the system can deny us our #FixTheCountry demonstration and allow the NDC to march.
The rotten system is not afraid of the NDC. You cannot fear that which is of yourself.
This is what informed our #NoVote2020 campaign in the 2020 general elections where we asked people to boycott the elections and reject the system. The system is afraid when you speak to the issues in your personal capacity as a citizen, not when one of their own partners seeks to speak. It is for this same reason that the establishment attempted to strip Ibrahim ‘Kaaka’ Mohammed of his Fighters and #FixTheCountry credentials, attempting to fix him within a political party.
So why would the system be so obvious in its bias? In allowing the NDC to march, the establishment deliberately subdues and dismantles your power as citizens, further tying your hands to the rotten system where you continue to be denied your basic needs and rights.
It is this understanding that has informed our decision not to participate in the NDC demonstration. While we will not hold it against anyone for participating, it is our responsibility to tell you the truth in the hope that you will use your head.
We will see you all at the upcoming #FixTheCountry demonstration on Wednesday 4 August, 2021.”
The NDC demonstration passed, and speculation turned to whether anyone would show up for the August 4th Demo. The appointment of Acting IGP George Akuffo-Ampare, who many believe to be a righteous and just man, raised hopes that the People would be allowed to proceed.
On the morning of the #FixTheCountry Accra demonstration, organizers and conveners arrived at Obra Spot as early as 4 am GMT to prepare for the arrival of people at 7 am. By 6 am, there were already over five hundred people, singing, chanting, and waving Ghanaian flags. The four-kilometre walk to the Black Star Square in downtown Accra would yield images of what will be remembered as the march of a generation, with thousands of people demanding better for Mother Ghana. The Conveners, themselves a reflection of the People, spoke words of hope and resistance to those gathered. Bashiratu Kamal-Muslim roused the Hausa speakers with a passionate speech, before Felicity Nelson spoke of the realities on the ground. Oliver Barker-Vormawor, Okatakyie Afrifa Mensah, Avraham Ben Moshe, Captain Smart, and others rallied the crowds and, in a painful moment, Macho Kaaka’s young daughter stood among the Conveners and addressed the crowd. In his closing words, the Economic Fighters League’s leader Ernesto Yeboah announced the #FixTheCountry mobilization of one million signatures to pass a vote of no confidence in the 1992 Constitution, to be replaced with a Constitution that centres the interest of the People above anything else.
And they did not stop there. On 21 September 2021, what would have been the Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah’s 112th birthday, #FixTheCountry will be on the streets of Takoradi in the Western Region, the second in what has become a crowdfunded series of demonstrations traveling through every one of the sixteen regions in Ghana. The little village of Nkroful, where Kwame Nkrumah was born in September 1909, is also located in the Western Region. One would be forgiven for feeling the hope best expressed in the Osagyefo’s words at the Black Star Square on the eve of independence in 1957, when he said:
“And thus Ghana, your beloved country, is free forever. […] We have awakened. We will not sleep anymore. Today, from now on, there is a new African in the world!”