"We have been arrested, this is not the democracy” - Osagyefo Oliver Barker-Vormawor

Russell Nketiah Tannor

We have been arrested, this is not the democracy - Osagyefo Oliver Barker-Vormawor

Two leaders of the #OccupyJulorbiHouse protest were arrested by the police on Tuesday, September 21, 2023, while speaking to a TV3 reporter at the 37 Lorry Station in Accra. The protest was organized by Democracy Hub, a coalition of activists and citizens, to demand accountability and transparency from the government over the alleged purchase of a $2.8 million mansion by the Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta.

The two leaders, Osagyefo Oliver Barker-Vormawor and Safani Abdulai, were explaining the reasons for their protest and their grievances against the government when they were interrupted by a group of police officers who ordered them to stop the interview and get into a police vehicle. The TV3 reporter tried to question the police officers on the basis of their arrest, but they ignored him and forcibly took the two leaders away.

The video of the arrest, which was posted on Facebook by Barker-Vormawor, has gone viral on social media and has sparked outrage and condemnation from the public and civil society groups. In the video, Barker-Vormawor can be heard saying: "We have been arrested, this is not the democracy" as he was being dragged into the police vehicle.

Barker-Vormawor is a prominent Ghanaian activist and founder of the #FixTheCountry movement, which has championed protests in Ghana over economic hardships, corruption, and poor governance. He is also a doctoral student at the University of Cambridge and a former UN legal officer. He was previously arrested in February 2023 after making comments on Facebook about plotting a coup if Parliament passes a controversial bill, popularly known as E-Levy. The bill proposes a 1.75% tax on electronic transactions including mobile money payments. He was detained for two months and allegedly tortured by security officials before being released on bail.

Safani Abdulai is also a well-known activist and member of Democracy Hub. He has been vocal about various issues affecting Ghana such as education, health, environment, and human rights. He has also participated in several protests such as #DropThatChamber, #RedFriday, and #FreeAkuapemPoloo.

The #OccupyJulorbiHouse protest was planned to march from the 37 Lorry Station to Julorbi House, where the Minister of Finance allegedly bought a $2.8 million mansion using public funds. The protestors accused the minister of corruption and conflict of interest and demanded his resignation or prosecution. They also called for an independent investigation into the matter by the Auditor-General and the Special Prosecutor.

However, the protest faced resistance from the police, who obtained a court injunction to stop it on Monday, September 20, 2023. The police claimed that the protest was unlawful and posed a threat to public order and security. The organizers of the protest said they did not receive any formal notice of the injunction and decided to go ahead with their planned march.

The police deployed in large numbers to prevent the protest and clashed with the protestors at various points. Several protestors were arrested for defying the court order and disturbing public peace. The police also used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowd.

The incident has raised questions about the state of democracy and human rights in Ghana and the need for more respect for freedom of expression and assembly. Some analysts have also attributed the rise in protests and activism to social and economic factors such as unemployment, poverty, inequality, frustration, and moral decay.

As Ghana prepares for its general elections in December 2024, it is hoped that the government and other stakeholders will address these issues and ensure that peace and security prevail in the country.

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