The sea of demonstrators on the street of Accra
Yesterday witnessed one of the biggest anti-government protest marches in the country’s 57 years of independence when organised workers poured onto the streets in all the 10 regional capitals to protest against the prevailing hard economic conditions in the country.
In attendance were thousands of placard-wielding workers clad in red and black attire with arm bands to match.
Activities in Accra, the capital city, virtually came to a standstill due to heavy vehicular traffic.
Secretary General of the Trades Union Congress (TUC)the umbrella union of workersKofi Asamoah, led workers to march through some principal streets of Accra to register their protest while expressing disappointment in the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) government led by President John Dramani Mahama.
As early as 6:30 am, people had started arriving at the meeting point, Obra Spot, at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle, in droves to partake in the exercise amidst drumming, dancing and blowing of vuvuzelas in the presence of the police who were to provide protection.
With the passage of time, the numbers kept swelling till the time finally came for them to move.
By 9:00 am, the Accra procession train had started moving, with the aggrieved workers wielding placards some of which read, ‘The government must change course now’ , ‘When the poor run out of food, they will eat the politicians’, ‘Crisis or challenges; who cares’, ‘There is no money in our pockets, we don’t want diapers’, ‘Somalia’s Shilling doing better than Ghana Cedis’, ‘We want jobs, Mr. President, this is job reduction not job creation’ and ‘Corrupt government failing the country’, among others.
One thing that ran through the entire march was the ability of the enthusiastic protestors to blow vuvuzelas right from the beginning to the end of the demonstration at the Independence Square, with songs like ‘Na so-so nonsense Mahama dey do’ and chants like ‘Mahama must go’ with some holding diapers.
At every traffic intercession, the demonstrators stopped in the middle of the road for a while before proceeding.
When the protestors got to the Union building (headquarters of the TUC), they halted for close to five minutes in the middle of the road amidst drumming and dancing and blowing of the musical instruments before moving on.
The police did not have it easy when the demonstrators were about to enter the Hearts Park where they were supposed to gather.
That was when some of the protestors declined to enter the place claiming that the place was too small to hold the teeming crowd, resulting in near confusion.
Even before a decision could be reached, some agitated protestors had headed for the Independence Avenue.
The police seemed to have no option but to follow suit since they were overwhelmed by the numbers.
They eventually converged on the Independence Square where the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, Haruna Iddrisu, met them to take their concerns.
He was welcomed with boos and jeers and catcalls from the crowd amidst chants of ‘ewi oo! ewi oo!’ (to wit, ‘thief, thief’) and shouts of ‘Away, Away!’
This stalled the petition presentation process for a while since the charged protestors would not allow him to even make a comment.
Even when Kofi Asamoah tried to intervene, he was booed by the crowd with chants of Lumba’s latest hit song ‘Yentie obiaa’ (We will not listen to anybody).
By this time, one man on scooter with a mounted speaker had succeeded in attracting a lot of attention, blasting Aseibu Amenfi’s song, ‘Kanawu, NsÉ›mfoo ahi’ with most of them following him round the square.
Reading the petition to the agitated crowd and the media, Kofi Asamoah, TUC Secretary General, said the protestations were necessary in order to draw the attention of government to the dire economic and social conditions facing the majority of citizens, and the need for urgent measures to alleviate the hardship.
‘We acknowledge the effort of government in addressing the deteriorating economic situation. However, the working people of Ghana continue to face increasing economic and social hardships,’ he said.
Mr. Asamoah said times were very hard for the majority of citizens, stressing that there was a limit to what citizens could endure.
‘We deem the policies and actions of the Mahama government as deliberate, meant to impoverish and emasculate the working people of Ghana and we demand immediate action to reverse the trend.
‘Organised labour insists that the Mahama government has a constitutional duty to implement urgent and appropriate measures to arrest the economic decline,’ the TUC boss charged.
TUC has challenged government to take immediate action to halt the depreciation of the cedi and rising cost of living; take immediate and concrete measures to ensure that Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) operates at full capacity; take immediate policy initiatives and measures to ensure the provision of requisite and critical infrastructure, including putting on stream the gas pipeline, and efficiency in the production and distribution of electricity and water and to assure the citizens there would be no price hikes in these essential services; something that has been caused by inefficiency, lack of infrastructure and the headlong depreciation of the cedi.
It must take immediate downward review of prices of petroleum products as the cedi depreciates, as well as the National Pensions Regulatory Authority (NPRA) to address the challenges in the implementation of the new pension scheme, among other things.
Haruna Iddrisu, who received the petition, assured the workers that government would address the concerns raised.
By Charles Takyi-Boadu & Cephas Larbi
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