Stars Demo In Limbo

There is a clandestine attempt by some elements in the government, together with some ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) leading members, to stop the vigil to be spearheaded by some celebrities to protest the current worsening power crisis (known as dumsor).

While the Ga Traditional Council is trying to use the police to stop the well-publicised vigil on Saturday, May 16, Total Petroleum Ghana Limited, which owns On The Run fuel station at Legon – where popular actress Yvonne Nelson and her colleagues intend to converge for the demonstration – has said it would not allow them to use its space for the peaceful exercise.

The University of Ghana, which premises the celebrities had decided to use as a converging ground for the vigil, had also said it would not allow them do that.

President’s Caution
President John Mahama’s comment last week on the growing criticism by the celebrities of his government’s inability to handle the protracted electricity crisis appears to have set the tone for others to mount pressure directly or indirectly on Yvonne Nelson and her colleagues to stop the planned demonstration in its entirety.

The president wrote on Twitter, a social media platform: ‘The division in our politics is bad enough. Let it not spread to our creative industry. Let’s cease the polemics,’ – a comment which his critics claim was a subtle way of asking the celebrities who are in the music and film making industries not to hit the streets.

The Ga Traditional Council’s ‘excuse’ is that there is currently a ban on noisemaking and therefore the vigil is going to breach the traditional observance.

A former NDC MP and failed Greater Accra Regional chairman aspirant, Jonathan Nii Tackie Kommey, is spearheading the traditional council’s request as their spokesperson.

He told Joy FM that the council was not going to entertain any activity that would disturb the peace associated with the period of the ban on noise-making – a caution which could compel the police to stop the vigil to avoid any clash.

The former MP said the essence of the ban was to ‘enable them [Ga people] confer with their Maker’ and feared the dumsor vigil ‘will not be in conformity with the ban’, even though organisers of the vigil insisted that there would be no need for noise-making as the protest is a simple and peaceful march with candle lights, lanterns and bobo, depicting the dumsor situation which has made life unbearable.

La Jurisdiction
Contrary to the claim by the Ga Traditional Council, some traditional elements say the University of Ghana is under the jurisdiction of the La Traditional Council and not Ga Mashie (Ga Traditional Council) and that their (La people’s) ban on noise-making had not yet come into force.

‘It is interesting how Ga Mashie would want the police to stop the vigil which is taking place in another council’s jurisdiction,’ one traditional ruler (name withheld) underscored.

Kofi Bentil’s Reaction
Kofi Bentil, who is one of the lawyers of the organisers, wrote on his Facebook wall: ‘Our government people are spending lots of energy trying to stop a simple lawful vigil of concerned citizens, instead of stopping the terrible energy crisis and dumsor which is killing our people.’

However, Editor of Business Finder, Toma Imihere, said the government and its supporters are attempting to divert attention away from the power crisis by labelling the celebrities leading the dumsor campaign as members of the New Patriotic Party (NPP).

He indicated that it was no surprise when some supporters of the NDC accused the celebrities of working for the largest opposition party since the members of the pressure group, OccupyGhana, suffered the same fate.

‘Yes, they will be tagged but just like in the case of OccupyGhana, we all know that when government is on the defensive, they will definitely try to turn the issue away from the substance,’ he said.

‘In this case, government and the supporters are simply trying to divert attention from the substance and defend themselves by claiming that there is a political agenda,’ he added.

Speaking on Citi FM’s, The Big Issue, Toma Imihere said the celebrities ‘have every right as a professional grouping to register their complaints. Their argument is that it is affecting their profession and if they are coming from that angle, I think they have every right to do it.’

The President of IMANI Ghana, Franklin Cudjoe, pointed out that the celebrities and Ghanaians are quite angry at the government because of the way the political class come to the table with some explanations, sometimes with even ‘outright insults, which is wrong because there must be an admission and this is why I think the issues of policy coherence must come into play.

‘I’m happy President Mahama has stopped giving timelines but we also need to be clear that when you are going to make statements on a very difficult crisis, you’ve got to be sure about what you are really saying.’

The IMANI boss argued that the complaints of the group must be heard because ‘it’s a different crop of voices which I think ought to be heard.’

The vigil which is part of the #DumsorMustStop campaign is being organised by award-winning movie actress Yvonne Nelson and colleagues such as Sarkodie, Lydia Forson, Ama K. Abebrese, DKB, Van Vicker, EL, Kwaw Kese, Efya, D-Black, Confident Haugen, Nicky Sammona and many others.

A lot of Ghanaians have also signed up to join the vigil.

By William Yaw Owusu
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