PADKOS NO 113
The Ghanaian community radio station, Radio Ada, has been attacked while it exposes business concessions that undermine local people’s life, livelihood and culture. Key players from Radio Ada visited us for a memorable padkos event at CLP in 2018. On June 25th that year, Erica Ofoe and Kofi Larweh from Radio Ada were joined by Mary Akuteye, president of the Yihi Katsɛmɛ (Brave Women) movement (the latest iteration of the Ada Songor Salt Movement), and vividly described their struggle defending communal access to West Africa’s largest salt-yielding lagoon in Ghana.
Our notes on the panel introduced the contributors as follows:
Mary Akuteye – President of Yihi Katsɛmɛ: Mary is a salt winner and salt trader who has been organizing women in her home town, Bonikope for years. Her anti-atsiakpo (small scale private enclosures of the saltpan by local and national elites) stance has led her to be targeted and threatened by her neighbours. Despite this, she continues to speak for a return to communal access to the lagoon.
Erica Ofoe – Coordinator, Radio Ada: Erica has been the coordinator of Ghana’s oldest community radio station since 2015. Hailing from a Songor community, she has worked to support the emergence of women’s voices and leadership in the Ada salt movement through radio programming and hosting open movement meetings at Radio Ada.
Kofi Larweh – Ghana Community Radio Network: Kofi was the first coordinator of Radio Ada, and has been involved in Songor salt resistance going back to the 1980s. Kofi now works with the Ghana Community Radio Network, helping other community radio stations across Ghana support their communities in making change.
Jonathan Langdon – St. Francis Xavier University: Jon has been working with the Ada salt movement since 2008. As an adult educator, and social movement learning scholar, he has worked with the movement to document its ongoing learning.
Please read this important edited message from Jon Langdon:
Dear friends, comrades, and colleagues,
Two days ago, Radio Ada, … was attacked by an unknown group of armed men, telling the station to stop any programs on the Songor Lagoon – the major source of livelihood to the Ada people that has been given out by Ghana’s government and local Traditional Authorities as a monopoly concession to ElectroChem Ghana Ltd. One staff member was assaulted during this attack, others were threatened, and several thousand dollars’ worth of damage was done to the on-air studio and broadcast equipment.
This is a shocking escalation in the situation our partners from Ada had described to us earlier this past year, where they had received threatening phone calls, and a legal effort by the company to silence the station’s Manor Munyu program – a program that has been investigating the way in which decisions were made in the concession lease of the lagoon to ElectroChem by Ghana’s central government, and supported by a number of Traditional Authorities. As described by Noah Dameh, Serwaa Ware, Gideon Amanor and Julius Odoi [in discussions over the course of last year]…, the Manor Munyu program the four have been producing has translated and serialized the lease agreement passed by Ghana’s parliament, the ElectroChem Ghana Ltd. Business plan that was the basis of the lease agreement, and the Memorandum of Understanding between the majority owner of ElectroChem, Daniel McKorley and several Traditional Authority figures in Ada in support of this leasing of the Songor Lagoon. In the course of this effort to bring this information to the people of Ada, the producers have asked critical questions about aspects of the business plan, the Memorandum of Agreement, especially where what is contained in these documents diverges widely from the public statements of the company, the government, and the Traditional Authority. The show has also reached out to community members to garner their questions and views on these documents and the fact that the whole lagoon was given out in this concession – undermining the ability of artisanal salt winners to gain a livelihood from this resource moving forward, despite the fact that this is a source of not just sustenance, but also cultural relevance to the people. As has been documented in some of the publications from our ongoing research partnership, to speak Dangme (the Ada language) is literally described as being able to eat salt (Langdon, Larweh & Quarmyne, 2021).
Despite the entirely legal and appropriate nature of the Manor Munyu program, the four producers have received several threats and enticements to silence them from various quarters. Serwaa … in June described how she had received a phone call from an unknown number wanting to meet with her to discuss ending the program, and when she insisted this is something they need to discuss as a production team, the caller agreed but wanted to meet her first. She interpreted this as an effort to compromise her position in the team, and demurred. Other members of the team shared how they had received threatening texts and phone calls telling them to stop. In April 27, 2021, ElectroChem Ghana Ltd.’s lawyer sent Radio Ada a letter threatening legal action if the station did not stop the Manor Munyu program. Radio Ada’s lawyer replied on May 7, 2021, stating the station would not stop the show as it was doing the station’s normal work and was in fact sharing what the company documents stated, a job the company itself and government should have done. So far Manor Munyu has 32 episodes, one almost every week since April, 2021.
As with the threats of legal action, Radio Ada has refused to be silenced in response to the attack of two days ago. In the hours after the attack, volunteers at the station managed to put together a makeshift broadcasting rig, and spent the rest of the day broadcasting a statement of their refusal to be bullied into stopping the Manor Munyu program. The statement reads in full:
STATEMENT ON THE VIOLENT ATTACK ON RADIO ADA ON 13 JANUARY 2022
- The Management of Radio Ada 93.3 fm wishes to inform its esteemed listening community that the station was violently attacked by a group of eight mentoday,Thursday, 13th January 2022 at about 11:30 a.m.
- The attackers, one of whom was armed with a pistol, invaded the on-air studio by forcibly destroying its door open. They beat up the presenter and vandalised the on-air studio equipment, leading to the temporary shut-down of Radio Ada.
- Two Radio Ada staff together with visitors to the station were held hostage during the attack.
- The attackers openly declared that they had come to vandalise the station because of its Manor Munyu and other programmes discussing the recent developments in the Songor. They threatened to inflict further havoc should the station continue with programmes on the Songor.
- The matter has been reported to the Big Ada police who came to take inventory of the damaged equipment.
- The presenter who was beaten up has since been sent to the Ada East District Hospital for treatment.
- The attack has been reported to the National Media Commission (NMC).
- This announcement is being made to ensure that the facts of the attack are reported accurately and timeously. This announcement, interspersed with music, will be the only broadcast that Radio Ada will be makingtoday.
- The station will shut down for a few days fromtomorrowto enable it to review and repair the extent of the damage caused.
- Our listening community may be assured that Radio Ada will thereafter continue to broadcast and that its commitment to inform and to give voice to the Dangme community, particularly those least voiced, remains unchanged.
Since the attack, messages of support and solidarity with the station and the affected staff have been pouring in. Over 300 messages of support, from local and international supporters, have been posted to Radio Ada’s Facebook page. The Media Foundation of West Africa has posted a statement condemning the attack (https://www.myjoyonline.com/). Both Members of Parliament for the Ada area, Doyoe and Otuteye, have issued statements condemning the attacks. Most recently, Ghana’s Minister of Information, Kojo Oppong-Nkrumah, has called on the police to apprehend the perpetrators. In discussions with the Radio Ada team, they believe that such statements of support and solidarity are crucial to ensure this type of incident never happens again. Therefore, I am asking … [you] to please post messages from your movements/organizations and yourselves to the Radio Ada Facebook page (https://web.facebook.com/) . If you can please share the story of Radio Ada and this attack far and wide, and encourage any solidarity, this would be greatly appreciated as well.
Furthermore, former interns at Radio Ada have come together to start a GoFundMe campaign to help raise the costs of replacing and repairing the equipment and infrastructure damaged in the attack, to help support the medical costs of the staff member who the attackers assaulted, and also support the station’s efforts to set up a cctv security system to ensure any further actions against the station will be documented. The GoFundMe link is here: https://gofund.me/89a309e3 . Please share it widely.
To conclude, I hope you will join me in condemning the attacks on … Radio Ada, and in extending messages of solidarity and support, and in spreading word of the GoFundMe campaign in the days and weeks ahead. In the days just prior to the attack, members of the Ada Monor Munyu team, as well as members of the Savannah Research and Advocacy Network, Venceremos Dev’t, and a community-minded journalist from the Upper East held a Translocal Learning Network meeting on the topic of the Power of Information for Organizing and Struggle were we discussed the way in which journalists were being targeted for saying the truth. Little did we know the way this conversation foreshadowed the January 13th attack! There were many important points of learning shared in this meeting. We plan on documenting them for dissemination in the network. …
[H]ere are links to a number of media stories about the attack, including an interview I did with Canada’s public broadcaster, the CBC:
Attached is a statement from the Socialist Movement of Ghana on the issue.