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Can young protesters in Ghana become a political force?

Young Ghanaians have been shouting against bad governance under the hashtag #FixTheCountry since the beginning of May. The campaign was initiated on Twitter by social media influencer Joshua Boye-Doe (popularly known as Kalyjay) in response to the rise in fuel prices following a spate of tax hikes. # FixTheCountry protests might have petered out after a short time (public outcry are rarely held in Ghana), but the insensitive and combative attitude of government supporters, who responded with #FixYourself and #FixYourAttitude, irritated the demonstrators even more and drew attention and Provide support on their cause and trigger calls for demonstrations.

Such an outbreak of youth activism is unusual for Ghana and has not been seen recently. Although Ghana is regularly praised for its stable democracy – especially because of its largely free media and relatively peaceful elections and transfers of power – the citizens hardly demonstrate, but prefer to express their frustration among themselves or via the airwaves and social media.

Young Ghanaians have been shouting against bad governance under the hashtag #FixTheCountry since the beginning of May. The campaign was initiated on Twitter by social media influencer Joshua Boye-Doe (popularly known as Kalyjay) in response to the rise in fuel prices following a spate of tax hikes. # FixTheCountry protests might have petered out after a short time (public outcry are rarely held in Ghana), but the insensitive and combative attitude of government supporters, who responded with #FixYourself and #FixYourAttitude, irritated the demonstrators even more and drew attention and Provide support on their cause and trigger calls for demonstrations.

Such an outbreak of youth activism is unusual for Ghana and has not been seen recently. Although Ghana is regularly praised for its stable democracy – especially because of its largely free media and relatively peaceful elections and transfers of power – the citizens hardly demonstrate, but prefer to express their frustration among themselves or via the airwaves and social media.

Many Ghanaians do not believe that they can make change by putting pressure on political leaders. Many others feel averse and instead focus their energies on finding their own solutions to the myriad economic and social problems that shape life in a developing country like Ghana. The 2019 Round 8 Afrobarometer survey found that 85 percent of respondents in the past year had never contacted a member of parliament about an important issue or shared their views, while 71 percent had never contacted a member of the assembly. Instead, most Ghanaians usually wait until election time to punish politicians in the election. The latest election results speak in this regard.

Former Ghanaian President John Mahama of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) of the largest opposition party was voted out of office in 2016 after public discontent over widespread corruption among party officials, economic mismanagement and a debilitating power crisis that plagued the country for much of his term in office. had been voted out of office. The incumbent President Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) only barely won a second term in the December 2020 elections with a turnout of 79 percent.

Akufo-Addo had been widely accused of forming a "family and friends government" with 126 ministers – the largest government in Ghana's history. In 2016 he made a campaign for the Promise to Eradicate Corruption Funding to a UK company. It also drew the wrath of staff and depositors at the many financial institutions that were shut down as part of his government's financial sector rehabilitation exercise for poor regulation, bankruptcy and fraudulent activity.

NPP parliamentarians were also punished for poor performance. Ghanaians measure the performance of their politicians by the development projects they carry out in their constituencies. The NPP lost its 63-seat majority in the 275-seat unicameral parliament. The party now has 137 seats and forms a narrow majority with an independent MP.

# FixTheCountry protesters – now a full-fledged movement – have denounced both parties for their mistakes and declared the group to be non-partisan. The movement has attracted a crowd of young people who have hitherto been seething on the fringes, disillusioned with a system that has turned them into second-class citizens and left them with a precarious future. Their complaints include high unemployment and underemployment, and high cost of living.

Only 10 percent of college graduates find employment a year after graduation, and it can take up to 10 years for large numbers of graduates to find jobs, according to the Institute of Statistics, Social and Economic Research at the University of Ghana. Many graduates end up doing small jobs. The situation has deteriorated to the point that male employers and recruiters often suggest young female jobseekers as a prerequisite for employment.

The government has put in place entrepreneurship and skills training programs to provide young people with technical and financial assistance and enable them to take advantage of opportunities in priority sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing. With 70 percent of the Ghanaian population of 31.8 million people under 35 years of age, only a tiny fraction of the unemployed young people take part in such programs and benefit from them.

Ghana's capital Accra is the 87th most expensive city in the world and the 13th most expensive city in Africa according to Mercers City Ranking Index 2021 Cost of Living City. The cost of real estate and rent are particularly prohibitive for young Ghanaians. Real estate in parts of Accra costs the same or more than real estate in developed countries – mainly because of the high construction costs (equipment materials are imported and construction is overseen by foreign firms who charge more than local firms) and their popularity as investment properties for rent Expats.

Landlords also demand rent advances of up to two years from tenants. Many young Ghanaians therefore live on the outskirts of Accra or in neighboring regions, where housing and rent are cheaper; During rush hour, they drive home from their workplace in the city for up to two hours.

In a campaign, the NPP made a promise to introduce a rental loan program for eligible workers in formal employment. The program will be launched this year, but this measure will leave out a large proportion of the unemployed or informally employed youth. The regulation is also an inadequate solution as it does not go to the root of the problem: landlords are violating national tenancy law by demanding more than the maximum allowable rent advance of six months.

Protesters also tweeted against generally poor living conditions such as poor roads, inadequate health care, irregular water and electricity supplies and the lack of social services in rural parts of the country. #FixTheCountry is basically a fight for decent living conditions for all Ghanaians.

In addition, the hashtag is a forum for demonstrators to respond to and denounce government policies and measures, such as the recent attack on a journalist by National Security officials for working in the Ministry of National Security, the perpetual Ministry of National Security, filmed illegally abandoned government vehicles, had borrowing from domestic and foreign sources and official approval of salaries for the country's first and second ladies.

The government appears to have been taken by surprise by the #FixTheCountry movement. Government supporters have attempted to discredit the group by falsely associating them with the opposition NDC and shaming Efia Odo, an actress and social media influencer who led the movement.

The demonstrators had originally scheduled their demonstration for May 9th. However, the police, represented by the Attorney General, obtained an indefinite injunction against the protest, citing restrictions on public gatherings due to COVID-19. The protest leaders had been involved in a legal battle with police over the holding of the demonstration, citing campaign rallies and other cases in which the President and officials had violated restrictions on public gatherings. The police even went so far as to arrest some members of the group on the court grounds without giving a reason.

In a U-turn that raised eyebrows, police allowed the NDC youth wing to continue a demonstration on July 6th. The NDC youth demonstration was spurred on by military protesters in Ejura, a community in the Ashanti region of Ghana. The youth of Ejura had protested the murder of a parishioner, allegedly because of his #FixTheCountry activism.

The specific demands of #FixTheCountry include a new constitution that restricts the power of the executive and punishes abuse of office more specifically, an economic charter that guarantees every Ghanaian economic dignity and frees them from poverty or economic hardship, and a national development plan that is passed on a participatory basis Process and is expressly binding for all political actors.

Ghanaian politicians understand the consequences if the protesters' demands are ignored. They learned that from election results. For this reason, they adapt their election programs to the needs and grievances of the voters. Three and a half years before his term as president, Akufo-Addo has the opportunity to increase the popularity and legitimacy of the NPP by bowing to the will of the demonstrators.

There is enough fiscal space to meet their demands. The government can and must redistribute spending – from exorbitant salaries for government officials to abolishing rural schools under trees, from tax incentives and exemptions for foreign companies to building high-quality roads in working-class neighborhoods and from overdrawn contracts and other corrupt handling of well-equipped health facilities .

This shift from supporting the church interests of a few to promoting the disadvantaged will meet with resistance from those who benefit from the status quo. But it might be the only way for parties to stay popular and come to power.

If Ghana succeeds in this transition, more patriotic citizens will be attracted to politics and Ghana's politics will be less shaped by party patrons who, in return for inflated contracts and appointments, sponsor politicians who sell voters their votes because they do not trust politicians and perceive to sell votes in order to benefit from the political system, and family members and employees of members of the government are leaving lucrative jobs abroad to take positions in Ghana and make more money because "our party is in power".

The angry young people in the country are determined to win. If the government does not comply with the protesters' demands, they will continue to mobilize and likely form a new political party to fight for their interests. To be successful as a political party, they would have to adopt a completely different model than the NPP and the NDC.

Your party would have to deal intensively with the population (not just during the election cycle) so that it understands its mission and involves them in their struggle. Your party would need to make it clear to citizens that the government is asking them to be part of the solutions and that they can engage more effectively with their politicians rather than soliciting personal favors and handouts.

In order to prove that their party is incorruptible, they would have to continue to raise funds from the masses and book those funds. Party members who gain office should publicly declare their assets before and after taking office. You could also lead by example and send a strong message by rejecting the perks associated with high office and perhaps donating such funds to development projects in needy communities.

Although youth leaders are ethnically diverse, this factor does not appear to be a key indicator of their ability to attract voters from those ethnic groups that have traditionally voted for the NPP and the NDC. Both young and old from these ethnic groups are genuinely dissatisfied with the status quo and have thrown their support behind the protesters. Voters today orient themselves more to their needs than to their ethnicity or party affiliation.

Ibrahim "Kaaka" Mohammed, the murdered #FixTheCountry activist, was a member of the NPP. The youth of Busunu in the Savannah region refused to donate rice bags from their NPP MP during the Eid celebrations and instead asked for jobs; these young people were NPP fans. Similarly, fishermen in Elmina in the central region recently refused a food donation from the Minister of Fisheries in protest of their policy of banning light fishing during the restricted season.

If these events lead the way, the #FixTheCountry movement has a good chance of garnering strong support as a political party.

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