Minister for Employment and Labour Relations Haruna Iddrisu had to scream to an impatient, angry and hostile demonstrators while assuring them of a better Ghana sooner than later.
“You have to break an egg in order to eat an omelet,” the minister said in a strained voice but the demonstrators hardly listened.
They were cursing, chanting, hooting and singing away their hardships caused by what they said was government’s harsh economic policies.
The minister’s address was to crown hours of protests by the workers who decorated the principal streets of Accra with red, and brandished many placards which were less complimentary to government.
“Somalia’s shilling is now stronger than Ghana’ cedi”; “John Mahama, Judgement Debt man”; “When stealing becomes the norm, rebellion becomes a duty”; “When the poor run out of food they will eat the politician;” some of the placards read.
The demonstration started rather slow at the Obra Spot in Accra around 8:30 am with a few thousands of protesters singing. Others joined later. Those who did not join, solidarized with the demonstrators, singing, waving their red clothes from their offices or in their cars.
The police were fully armed in their gears but were a lot friendlier and even more professional.
It was nearly incident-free but something had to happen, even if it was not chaotic. The police led a section of the demonstration to the Hearts Park to be addressed by the leader of the Trades Union Congress, Kofi Asamoah but the demonstrators insisted the Hearts Park was too small to accommodate the huge number of protesters.
They wanted the Independence Square but the Police will not budge- the Hearts Park was cool, the police signaled. Even if the police did not explain the reason for threatening to confine the demonstrators to the Hearts Park, it was not farfetched- a wall away from the Independence Square was President John Mahama at the Asomdwee Park who led a few government officials and other well wishers to commemorate the second anniversary of the passing of the late President John Mills.
It was not a smart security thing to do allowing angry picketers grumbling and howling over harsh economic conditions to come anywhere close to the man whom they blame for their woes; the man who for hours had been slandered in words, gestures and in deeds.
The police formed a human shield right in the middle of the road in front of National Lotteries preventing the demonstrators from moving any further.
The pressure began to mount. The demonstrators were getting impatient. The police tried to talk to the leaders to remain where they were but their minds had been made up. Occupy Independence Square was their call and nobody will stand in their way.
The police had to give in. It was a wisest thing to do. The pressure from thousands of angry demonstrators was far more than a few police hands held together could take. There was a possibility of a stampede. The police had to think fast, act fast. Even if they were forced by the circumstance, the police gave way and demonstrators run through the human barricade in jollity, chanting, as if a new independence had been won; as if their demands for better economic conditions had been granted.
But no it was still the same. It was just a feeling of momentary victory against a force they suspected represented the voice of an oppressor. In glee they ran and headed towards the Independence Square for a final showdown.
Kofi Asamoah, the Secretary General and convener of the historic demonstration was cheered and buoyed by his men at the Independence Square; media men women buzzed around him with outstretched recorders, cameras battling for a shot, a word and an exclusive. It was hard to find but it was worth the try.
He had to address the crowd but there was no PA system. His voice had been lost. He had been talking all week to the government, defending why it was necessary for workers to be on the street; telling the media what form the demonstration would take and to the workers why they had to be on the streets.
They were now on the streets; government waited for the petition. It was the only and yet most important role he had to play in this demonstration. It was also the most difficult task to perform.
The demonstrators hailed and praised their Secretary-General who chronicled a litany of aberrations by government. He sang their songs of pain but they cheered. He was their hero and Haruna Iddrisu a villain.
Haruna stood unassuming, seemingly overwhelmed, shoulder-to-shoulder with Asamoah, listening. His heart was resting with the demonstrators but his mind had to run fast in search of the right words and the right sentences to use.
He had to support government and appease the demonstrators at the same time. It was a difficult thing to do. He tried. Even if the demonstrators refused to listen, his job was done but only for the day.
The real job of government to deliver the people from the shackles of poverty has only began.
The workers say Thursday’s demo was only the beginning. They will be back on the streets if government fails to address their grievances.
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