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Ghana's protesters take to streets

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NIPAH DENNIS/AFP or licensors


Several thousand protesters marched in Ghana's capital Accra on Wednesday in the latest rally against President Nana Akufo-Addo's government under the slogan "#FixTheCountry".

Dressed in red and black and chanting patriotic songs, protesters waved placards declaring "Corruption breeds poverty" and "Fix our education system now" as they marched in the city centre.

Wednesday's rally was the most recent anti-government protest since March, when a top court dismissed the main opposition party's challenge to Akufo-Addo's re-election late last year.

Akufo-Addo won a second term with only a small majority in parliament. But the Ghanaian leader has since been under pressure as the West African country struggles with economic troubles worsened by the coronavirus pandemic.

"Nana Akufo-Addo, we're suffering. Do something for us. Nothing is working," said Frederick Koomson, a 28-year-old mobile-phone seller. "The government must wake up."

Ghana is often applauded as one of the stable democracies in a region troubled by political strife and jihadist violence. But last year's tightly contested vote heightened political tensions.

With the economy hit hard by the pandemic, the government has introduced new taxes and high fuel prices have also hiked the cost of some basic goods and services.

Lead by social media activists, the #FixTheCountry protest on Twitter has been highlighting economic problems and government management.

"If the political authorities will not fix this country, we want to tell them that we are capable of destroying their career because we brought them to power," said Fatima Mensah, a 35-year-old activist.

Some criticised Afuko-Addo's project to build a new $200-million (169-million-euro) national cathedral, a pledge he says he made after his 2016 election victory.

Ghanians have been asked to make a voluntary $16 monthly donation to help finish it by 2024.

"Why do we waste time on unnecessary ventures and leave the most important issues?" asked Aboagye Dacosta, a shoe shiner.

In May, police blocked a planned protest citing coronavirus restrictions. For Wednesday's march, the police chief had guaranteed its safety, organisers said after meeting him.

Many of Wednesday's protesters were wearing facemasks.

The main opposition party National Democratic Congress (NDC) last month rallied several thousand people in the capital.

The NDC has called both of last year's presidential and parliamentary election flawed and an "attack" on Ghana's democracy.

In March, the Supreme Court dismissed a challenge by the electoral runner-up, NDC's John Mahama, who had asked for a rerun of the December 7 vote.

Akufo-Addo, from the New Patriotic Party (NPP), won 51.59 percent of the ballot ahead of Mahama, with 47.36 percent, according to official figures.