The organisers of Tuesday’s much-awaited demonstration in Ghana’s Talensi District suffered a severe form of grief as the event turned into a flop in good weather.
Even the police officers, who were present to provide security during the march, outnumbered the demonstrators.
An over-prepared team of police officers, numbering fifty, got to the venue as early as 5:30 am, thinking they would be overwhelmed.
But the venue turned out to be an ‘amusement park’ for them as only twenty-one people showed up for a march the organisers had said would draw 1,000 people from the communities in the district.
Led by the district’s assembly members, the demonstration was planned against Earl International Group Ghana Gold Limited, a Chinese mining firm also referred to as Shaanxi Mining Company Limited, over the terrible conditions of the roads in the district.
The Chinese company, which arrived in the district in 2008, produces “as much as 90% of all gold ore in the Upper East Region”, according to a 2019 Minerals Commission report.
But there is nothing to show for the millions being taken in gold from the extremely deprived district in terms of infrastructure.
The demonstration was scheduled to begin at 6:00 am, with the community members expected to converge at St. Anthony School Park at Gbani, the community where the foreign company operates.
But it appeared the organisers themselves, so devastated by the extremely low turnout, retired to bed before sunset.
Their telephone lines could not be reached as people, including journalists, tried reaching them for updates and explanations after the twist of events.
One of the organisers, who had bought several yards of red cloth and shredded them into bands for the protesters to tie around their heads and wrists to show their anger during the choooboi-eih march, sat on the ground in silence and in disappointment. He was wearing one around his own neck as he sat with his legs spread apart, gawking into the sky.
He was not sure what to do with the bale of red bands and where to go from there. His eyes, at the end of the day, were almost as red as the red brands he carried to the venue.
“This is bad debt,” he said to himself, as another demonstrator lowered his body towards him and patted him consolingly on the back.
An underwhelmed Assembly Member for Sheaga, Michael Zoogah, who is said to have sponsored the demonstration with sachets of water and carted the water in large bags zealously to the venue himself, told Media Without Borders he was a sad man because the demo turned into a fiasco.
“I’m not happy. We didn’t get the numbers we were expecting,” he said.
Allegations came up later that many people refused to take part in the march after they learnt that the organisers, some of whom are said to be supporters of the Chinese company’s allies, had asked the Chinese company for money some time ago and only planned the demonstration later as a bargaining chip in negotiations after the company failed to meet their financial demand.
“I don’t know anything about that,” Zoogah reacted to the allegations. “The demonstration will surely come on. We are going to meet as an assembly to decide the next line of action.”
He, however, contested reports that those who showed up for the demonstration were twenty-one in number. He said they were up to thirty.
Some community members, sharing their views about the disappointing outcome, also blamed the failure of the rally on low publicity and disunity.
“Besides, there is also a clause in the notification letter written to the police by the organisers using the district assembly’s letterhead. The clause says if anybody misbehaved during the demonstration, the police would arrest them.
“Copies of that letter were on social media platforms. The clause scared people away from the demonstration because they feared arrest,” added a community member, Simon Atongo.
The Talensi District Assembly’s Presiding Member, John Millim Nabwomya, signed the letter written to the police on Monday, 10 July 2023, to notify them about the protest.
His telephone line could not be reached when Media Without Borders tried reaching him on Tuesday’s night for his comments on the debacle.
Source: Edward Adeti/Media Without Borders/mwbonline.org