A popular Ghanaian activist who organized protests against President Nana Akufo-Addo’s government was charged with treason on Monday after making a comment about organizing a coup on social media.
Oliver Barker-Vormawor, leader of the #FixTheCountry movement, which held protests in the West African country over economic hardships among other issues, was detained as he flew in from Britain on Friday.
A court in Ghana’s capital Accra arraigned him Monday on the treason charge and remanded him in police custody until February 28, an AFP correspondent said.
Outside the court, around 150 protesters rallied in support of the activist, chanting “We are all Oliver” and “Free Oliver” after he was taken inside.
“Democracy is for the people and by the people but under this government we can’t free our minds… Free speech is under threat,” said Raphael William, leader of the local wing of the FixtheCountry group.
Barker-Vormawor had posted on social media that he would stage a coup if parliament passes a controversial bill.
The legislation would impose a 1.75% tax, popularly known as the E-Levy, on electronic transactions including payments via mobile phones.
“If this E-Levy passes… I will do the coup myself. Useless Army!” Barker-Vormawor said in a series of posts on Facebook.
A police communique said the posts contained a “clear statement of intent with a possible will to execute a coup”.
Akufo-Addo’s second term has seen a series of protests over economic problems and brawls in the hung parliament as the government tries to push through tough policies it believes could salvage the ailing economy.
The #FixTheCountry hashtag began as a popular social media protest on Twitter and has since grown into a pressure group supported by the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) to stage protests on the streets.
In January last year, soldiers were forced to enter Ghana’s parliament to break up fights between rival lawmakers at odds over the election results giving Akufo-Addo another term.
Ghana’s parliament is split between the two main parties following the election, increasing the risk of gridlock as the country struggles to rebound from the impact of the global pandemic and a heavy debt burden.
Ghana is often seen as a stable democracy in the volatile West African region, although the 2021 elections were marked by opposition accusations of fraud and five people died in violence.