Hundreds of residents of Ada took to the streets of Accra on Thursday to protest the lease of the entire 41,000 acres of the Songhor Lagoon to Electrochem Ghana Limited (ELG), owned by Daniel Mckorley.
The protestors marched from the Obra Spot to the Independence Square in Accra, chanting war songs and waving placards to attract the government’s attention to what they said was an imminent danger to their livelihoods.
Although residents of Ada had organised several protests against the lease, the demonstration in the capital city was the first of its kind.
Drawn from over 80 communities within the Songor Lagoon area, the demonstrators expressed their disappointment at the government’s failure to implement the recommendations in the blueprint for salt production in Ghana—”Master Plan for Salt Production in Ghana”— derived from PNDC Law 287.
“In order to avoid what could give cause for conflict which could again seriously hamper salt production, it is necessary to establish control for the interrelationship in the lagoon usage and the pacific coexistence of the companies and the Ada people. None of the interested parties alone can assume management of so complex a matter,” the master plan approved in 1991 stated. At the time, four companies were operating in the area.
Dubbed the “March for Justice Demonstration”, the protesters urged authorities to investigate the “gross violation” of human rights by the military and police during their raids on the Ada communities. Additionally, they demanded accountability on the activities of Electrochem Ghana Limited, the company mining salt at the Songhor Lagoon. They accused the company of using land guards to intimidate residents of the community who had depended on salt mining for decades.
The demonstrators also called on the Inspector-General of Police to launch an investigation into the raid on Radio Ada, a community radio station, and punish the culprits. They maintained that the raid on the station was an attempt to silence the station’s journalists, Noah Dameh being a particular target.
“We would also sincerely like the government to take note that Nene Abram Kabu Akuaku III, Paramount Chief of Ada Traditional Area; officials from the paramountcy and the Ada Traditional Council do not speak for us the people of Ada Songor Lagoon Basin and, therefore, want to be engaged directly,’’ Nene Dadebom Anim II, Chief of Toflokpo- Salom, said. He is also the patron of the Ada Songhor Lagoon Association (ASLA), an association of salt miners.
The protest is the latest in a series of ongoing confrontations between residents of Ada and the EGL, a subsidiary of the MacDan Group of companies. The residents accuse the owner of Electrochem Ghana Limited of seeking to monopolize salt production in the area.
“We will come back if they fail to act on our petition,’’ 57-years-old Kate Maamle told The Fourth Estate.
According to the protestors, Electrochem Ghana Limited was initially granted a lease for a portion of the Songhor Lagoon (Songhor Salt Project). Per this lease, the agreement was to be reassessed and renewed based on performance after 15 years.
They accused five local chiefs of conniving later to covertly lease the entire lagoon to the company, including areas that contained privately owned lands. The demonstrators are calling for an impartial investigation into the matter as they allege that the mining lease was granted without considering their concerns.
A 15-year-old girl, Charlotte Ginerfah, abandoned school and joined the protest.
Charlotte wore a T-shirt emblazoned with the words “Our Salt, Our Future,” a slogan she and her fellow protesters had crafted to rally support for their cause.
The teenage activist had a backpack loaded with homemade signs and pamphlets that talked about the threat to the Songhor salt industry. The backpack also held a notebook, filled with meticulously researched facts and figures about the economic and environmental consequences of the takeover.
As the demonstrators made their way through the capital city, Charlotte spoke passionately about the heritage and cultural significance of the Songhor Lagoon, painting a vivid picture of the community’s deep connection to their livelihood.
“We don’t have money to go to school because they came for our Songhor. McDan has diverted the water and it is flooding our homes and we want to tell the president we are not happy about it,” the teenager said.
“That one is not important for now,” she said of missing classes. “We are here to fight for our livelihood. The lagoon is our heritage,’’ Charlotte, a form two pupil of Toflokpo Junior High School, said.
The female protestors, including 68-year-old Mabel Adabang, resorted to using a piece of cloth. It was due to limited resources, Mabel explained. Like many others in her community, Bornikope, Mabel Adabang, relied on the Songhor Lagoon for her livelihood. The lagoon had provided sustenance and economic opportunities for generations. Its takeover threatened their way of life, she said.
The use of traditional sanitary pads for headscarves had a profound impact, according to Mabel. Mabel said it highlights the direct impact that the takeover had on the lives of women in the community.
“It is not supposed to be there [her head], but we are at war, that is why I put it there,’’ she said.
The protestors handed over their petition to a Deputy Chief of Staff, Emmanuel Adumua Bossman.
Mr. Bossman commended them for a peaceful demonstration and assured them of a swift investigation to bring peace and justice to the area.
“The president has sworn an oath to protect the interest of natural persons like yourselves and legal persons like companies so we will look into it and see where the merits are and what needs to be done. The president will react accordingly,” he said.
In November 2020, the government of Ghana leased the lagoon to the private company, EGL. The company, in its work plan, said it will produce over a million metric tons of salt per annum mainly for the export market. Its ambition is to make the Songhor salt mine the largest in Africa.
“And we are set to make a remarkable contribution to the Ada community in terms of job creation and social impact,” the company said.
But residents insist the takeover had been their worst nightmare as they have lost their livelihoods and are unable to cater to the basic needs of their families.
Timelines of activities in Ada concerning the Songhor Salt mining