From the “Aborigines’ Rights Protection Society” to “Occupy Ghana”: A History of Civil Society Organizations and Social Movements in Ghana

Ghana has a long history of civilian protest and social movements: In the country’s history, students, workers, members of the middle class and of different professions successfully protested on the streets and at the courts, applying different forms of resistance. Already in the 1890s, some inhabitants of the Gold Coast were fighting a land bill by the British that threatened traditional land tenure. Discussions among the local population culminated in the foundation of the Aborigines’ Rights Protection Society which sent a delegation to London to explain the locals’ point of view to the British government. This laid the foundation for political action which finally lead to independence. Protests of different groups trying to assert their demands remained no exception also after the struggle for independence. In 1978, members of the middle class protested against a model called Union Government by which the then military head of state Acheampong sought to perpetuate the military into government. Today in democratic Ghana, civil society organizations remain key agents in putting pressure on the government: In 2014, frequent power cuts and rising fuel prices persisted, an economic boom seemed to give way to an economic crisis. In July 2014, several hundred activists protested in the country’s capital Accra against the crisis, expressing frustration and anger about the current government. Following this demonstration, several new pressure groups evolved, among them “Occupy Ghana”. The proposed paper will discuss the role of civil society and social movements in bringing about regime changes in Ghana’s history. It will assess the possibilities to act and the success of different agents of civil society against the backdrop of different political regimes in Ghana’s history.


Andrea Noll . University of Hamburg .
Jan Budniok . University of Hamburg .

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