Ghana’s Akufo-Addo praised at George Floyd memorial but country’s police violently shut down #BLM protest

Nii Ntreh Jun 11, 2020 at 12:00pm

June 11, 2020 at 12:00 pm | News, Opinions & Features

Nii Ntreh

Nii Ntreh | Staff Writer

June 11, 2020 at 12:00 pm | News, Opinions & Features

A Black Lives Matter protests in Ghana's capital Accra was at the weekend violently shut down by police.

On Tuesday in Houston, Texas, at the funeral for George Floyd, President Donald Trump was both implied and mentioned, with a number of speakers, including Rev. Al Sharpton, echoing some harsh criticisms of the 45th president.

Rev. Sharpton in particular delivered what has been described by many as a “moving” message that also sought to connect how the corruption in moral leadership fosters the sort of impunity that killed Floyd.

“[Donald Trump] has not said one word of 8 minutes and 46 seconds of police murder against George Floyd,” Rev. Sharpton observed.

But there was another president who was brought up for praise. Ghana’s Nana Akufo-Addo received a standing ovation from those who had converged at the church in southwest Houston.

“The family of George Floyd will like to acknowledge the message of solidarity resolution and virtual tribute from His Excellency Nana Akufo-Addo, the President of Ghana. Yesterday, during the memorial, a video produced by the people of Ghana was broadcast for thousands of mourners as they paid their final respects to Mr. Floyd,” read Ivy McGregor.

McGregor continued: “The family is honoured by President Akufo-Addo’s decision to have Mr. Floyd’s name permanently mounted on the historic Sankofa wall at the Diaspora African Forum in the WEB Dubois centre in Africa.

“They are grateful that the country of Ghana stands with the Floyd family and the struggle of all families to change the status quo of racism and prejudice. The family is deeply moved by the generous act by the Ghanaian government.”

This praise was immediately picked up by the Ghanaian government and its officials on social media. For them, the victory in the praise was the fact that through his gestures and tribute in the wake of Floyd’s death, Akufo-Addo had won some goodwill for Ghana.

It was a PR victory that anyone familiar with Ghanaian politics would know that the ruling party would rub in the face of the opposition. But if we are being generous, we may concede that Akufo-Addo’s commitments after Floyd’s death are in the spirit of the Pan-Africanism he has tried to champion since 2017.

Akufo-Addo’s impassioned pro-Africa speech at a press conference in Accra when he welcomed French president Emmanuel Macron in Ghana’s capital, was perhaps the launchpad to announcing his Pan-African reputation.

And then there was the hugely successful campaign known as the Year of Return in 2019. Ghana reaffirmed itself as the natural home for diasporic Africans to return to as globally, black people marked 400 years since the first enslaved Africans arrived in what became the United States.

However, in spite of Akufo-Addo’s attempt to add to his feats, this time, the portrait was tainted by how police in Ghana on Saturday evening dispersed Black Lives Matter protesters in the center of Accra with brute force.

The protest was led by Ernesto Yeboah, a self-described leftist populist, once identified by Face2Face Africa as one of Africa’s brightest young politicians.

Yeboah was arrested and charged with failure to obtain a permit for the protest while the hundred-and-something protesters were dispersed with rubber bullets and tear gas – in a similar fashion to what American police have been doing to protesters across that country.

Police said the gathering had been unlawful and even questioned the responsibility of the protesters to public health in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

But since Saturday night, some of the protesters have said they believe the aggressive response of the police was motivated by other issues they highlighted in their protest, including the unsolved case of recent kidnapping and murder of three girls in Western Ghana.

The murder of the women was a monumental image blow for the Criminal Investigations Department (CID), whose director had boasted that the then kidnapped girls would be found. They were found dead a few months after the CID director’s speech.

Protesters also cited Ghana’s own problems with police and military officers assaulting and even killing civilians, without consequences. One of those cases was the killing of seven individuals in a small town just outside of Kumasi, Ghana’s second-largest city.

The police reported that those who had been killed were armed robbers from out of town, a narrative many media outlets ran with. But the families of some of the deceased challenged the police report prompting independent investigations that have since shown that some of those killed were known to townspeople as responsible community dwellers.

It is not clear how far investigations have gone on that case which happened in 2018.

As the issue of Ghana’s own police brutality against mostly the country’s poor was debated on social media, Accra-based social justice activist and artist, Nii Kotei, took the opportunity to remind his followers on Twitter about episodes of brutality he has been noting since 2019.

Meanwhile, Yeboah has been arraigned before court in Accra on Thursday but his lawyer, Francis-Xavier Sosu, has described the charges against his client as “baseless”.

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