Can a third political party realistically compete and thrive in Ghana?

In November 2023, Ghanaians awoke to mysterious billboards showing a masked man alongside the hashtag #TheNewForce, raising speculation about a potential presidential ambition ahead of the 2024 general elections. The enigmatic billboards featuring the masked figure gained traction on social media, fueling curiosity and discussions among Ghanaians, especially the youth. This trend suggests a palpable yearning among the young populace for a third force in the political landscape.

The multi-party system is enshrined in Ghana's constitution through the Political Parties Act 574, established in 2000. Nevertheless, the political scene is primarily dominated by two parties: the National Democratic Congress and the New Patriotic Party. As highlighted in this YouTube video by African Diaspora News, it has been remarkably difficult for anyone to achieve electoral success under any other party banner.

Weeks after the enigmatic billboards trended on social media, a video surfaced in which the New Force revealed its intentions to announce its strategy for the upcoming election. Shalimar Abbiusi, introduced as the spokesperson for the New Force, featured prominently in the video. The footage not only shed light on the challenges experienced by Ghanaians under the Nana Akufo-Addo administration but also used recent protests as a means to question the leadership's efficacy in addressing the grievances of the people.

Approximately a month later, Shalimar Abbiusi was arrested and accused of using false documents to obtain a residence permit in Ghana. According to the story on Myjoyonline, Abbiusi underwent a four-day detention during which she faced continuous interrogation regarding the New Force, its supporters, and potential presidential ambitions. Although the charges were unexpectedly dropped, she was promptly re-arrested by immigration officials and immediately deported on December 19, 2023

In response, the New Force issued a press release expressing concerns about government power abuse, the persecution of political opponents, and human rights violations during Abbiusi's legal proceedings. Meanwhile, her lawyer affirmed that the legal battle would persist despite her repatriation.

In January, the New Africa Foundation, the organization behind the New Force, promoted an event named “The Convention,” generating rumors that the leader of the movement would be disclosed at this gathering. The scheduled event, set to take place on January 7 at Independence Square in Accra, boasted an impressive lineup of dignitaries, including former Nigerian presidential aspirant Peter Obi, president of the Economic Freedom Fighters of South Africa Julius Malema, former director of the Kenya School of Law P.L.O Lumumba, and former permanent representative of the African Union to the United States Arikana Chihombori-Quao. Renowned musicians, including Efya, Stonebwoy, and Wiyaala, were slated to perform.

On the day of the event, however, organizers were forced to cancel it. During a subsequent press conference, it was disclosed that the government had interfered with the convention. Nana Kwame Badiako (popularly known as “Freedom Jacob Caesar” or “Cheddar”), revealed himself as the leader of the New Force movement during this press briefing.

Following the abrupt shutdown of the convention event, numerous Ghanaians, especially those who had invested time in attending the unveiling ceremony, took to social media to express their discontent.

Many criticized the government, alleging the use of state apparatus to suppress and intimidate the people. One irate participant wrote:

…This is an act of dictatorship. The government is suppressing us on Constitution Day, 7th of January 2024, preventing us from exercising our freedom of speech and freedom of association.

This incident was not the first time the Ghanaian government has faced allegations of suppression and human rights infringement. In September 2023, a protest in Accra resulted in numerous arrests and accusations of police brutality against peaceful demonstrators. The government received backlash for employing force to quell civilian protests.

During the New Force press conference, the New Africa Foundation disclosed that they had obtained a permit from the government to host the event. However, as highlighted in a YouTube video by Kwadwo Sheldon, and Headless YouTuber, rumors circulated suggesting that the organizers had initially presented the event as entertainment. On the day of the event, however, national security officials reportedly received intelligence indicating a potential bold political declaration during the unveiling of the masked figure. The use of Independence Square, a national edifice historically not designated for such purposes, raised concerns, prompting the government to shut down the event.

However, Dr. Nadia Adongo Fynn, deputy director of the Diaspora Affairs Directorate at the Office of the President, clarified in a press release that the cancellation resulted from an “unforeseen” state event scheduled at the same venue. In an interview with Accra-based Citi TV, Nana Kwame Badiako refuted claims of unveiling his political movement at “The Convention,” emphasizing that the event aimed to make a positive impact on people. 

Given the government's recent crackdown on an emerging opposition movement, a pertinent question arises: Can an alternative political party, desired by many Ghanaians, realistically compete and thrive, as legally guaranteed?

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