At least 49 persons were arrested in Ghana’s capital, Accra, on Thursday as the police tried to prevent protesters trying to storm the seat of government – Jubilee House – on Thursday over a lingering economic crisis.
The police, according to eyewitnesses, physically assaulted the protesters who had gathered in their red and black attires to show anger over hardship in the West African country. Some journalists were also picked up and later released.
“They forced us into a waiting bus and physically assaulted us at the police station. I had a cut on my left arm,” Richard Allotey, a 32-year-old unemployed graduate who was also at the protest, told Al Jazeera on the phone. “We were not armed. We only went to register our grievances over how the economy is being mismanaged and the police beat us.”
The protest was organised by Democracy Hub, a governance advocacy group which condemned the use of “brute force to thwart a peaceful protest”, according to a statement issued on Thursday. We have “proven that we are indeed not timid people”, the statement added.
Police spokesperson Juliana Obeng did not comment on the abuse but said they were picked up “in connection with an unlawful assembly”, citing a last-minute court process by the police to stop the planned demonstration.
“We would like to state that the police do not take delight in preventing any group from demonstrating… The exception, in this case, is the police disagreement with the organisers on the venue being a security zone,” Obeng said in a statement.
Ghana’s largest opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) party described Thursday’s police-civilian clash as a “shame”.
“We condemn the action of the police because there was no need to use brute force on peaceful protesters who have genuine concerns about poor governance and corruption in this country,” its general secretary Fiifi Kwetey told Al Jazeera.
On X, formerly known as Twitter, many Ghanaians bashed the government for using force to quell civilian protests.
“These people dey borrow in our name,” Popular singer Black Sherif posted in Pidgin English in reference to the ballooning debt situation. “And if the people, whose struggles you document to go ask for money, want accountability, you send Koti [a local word for police] make they dey beat them? Lord knows this battle is ours.”