UPDATE 1-Turn-out low in Ghana for protests against economic woes

Thu Jul 24, 2014 2:30pm EDT

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* Fewer than expected protester turnout

* Commercial activities unaffected

* Protesters blame govt for high inflation, weak currency (Adds details)

By Kwasi Kpodo

ACCRA, July 24 (Reuters) - Trade union leaders in Ghana failed on Thursday to mobilise significant support for a planned nationwide protest against what they say is the government's mishandling of the economy.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC), the West African nation's largest coalition of workers' syndicates, had called upon its roughly 500,000 members to hold protest marches and observe a one-day general strike.

Some 2,000 workers marched through the streets of the capital Accra while a just few hundred joined similar protests in other cities including Kumasi, Takoradi and Tamale.

The demonstrations, which were meant to be the first nationwide protest since President John Dramani Mahama took office in January last year, had little impact on commercial activities.

"Times are very hard for the majority of citizens and we are calling for immediate action to halt the depreciation of the cedi and rising cost of living," Kofi Asamoah, the TUC's secretary-general, told demonstrators in Accra.

Once regarded as one of Africa's most promising frontier markets, Ghana is struggling with stubborn budget deficits, rising public debt and a currency, the cedi, that has shed around 45 percent of its value against the dollar this year.

Consumer price inflation in Ghana - which produces cocoa, gold and oil - hit a fresh four-year high of 15 percent in June, mainly driven by the cedi's slide.

Kudjoe Kyei, a 39-year old company driver said he joined the protest in Accra because the economic hardships had become unbearable.

"Prices of goods are going up every day and we can't continue pretending," he told Reuters, adding that one of his two daughters had dropped out of school because he no longer had money to pay for her tuition.

The demonstrators, many wearing red shirts, arm bands and headbands, red being the TUC's colour, chanted anti-government slogans and blew on Vuvuzela horns as they marched peacefully through the streets of Accra, escorted by dozens of police.

"Fatal error, Mahama's government must reboot now", read one placard held up by a demonstrator. "Fix the cedi now" and "Eh? Somalia's shilling is doing better than Ghana's cedi?" were among others. (Editing by Joe Bavier and Susan Fenton)

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