‘Classism’ and Social Protest in Ghana: The Case Study of #OccupyGhana

Presented by Ufuoma Akpojivi

Monday, 18 March, 2019 - 15:00

Social protest is not a new phenomenon in Ghana, as protests have been from pre-independence era as a tool of engagement between the citizens and the state. However, July 1, 2014, marked the rebirth of social protests in Ghana when a group of ‘middle-class’ Ghanaians who were previously nonchalant about the socio-political, economic and cultural development of Ghana decided to come together and engage with the state on behalf of ‘ordinary Ghanaians’. Their demand for good governance, transparency and accountability through online activism and offline strategies of public awareness and litigation has made the #OccupyGhana movement a household name. #OccupyGhana claims to fight for the needs of the ‘poor’ and ‘voiceless’ Ghanaians and this paper seeks to examine and explore the rationale for the movement’s maintenance and use of ‘classism’ as a tool for engagement with the state and other stakeholders. In addition, the study examines the extent to which such ‘classism’ has aided the movement in the attainment of their set goals and objectives. The study argues that #OccupyGhana used classism as a tool for establishing their credibility which formed the basis for the state-movement engagement. Without such credibility, the movement would have been perceived by the state and the public as a movement whose social protests are self-serving. In addition, the study argues that although such classism helped in facilitating engagement with the state, on one hand, it excluded the ordinary poor and voiceless Ghanaians from participating in the activities of the movement, as it led to the establishment of the ‘us’ and ‘them’ discourse in their activism. Therefore, this paper proposes that there is need to rethink how social movements can balance strategic tools with the overarching objectives of citizens’ engagement and participation in their drive for social change.

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