Rudolf Amenga-Etego
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Rudolf Amenga-Etego the Ghanaian lawyer who doubles as an environmentalist

Rudolf Amenga-Etego is a public interest lawyer fronting the fight for access to clean drinking water and a campaign against the privatisation of the water sector in Ghana. His determination to change the water narrative in Ghana birthed the National Coalition Against the Privatization of Water in 2001.

Since its inception, the group under his leadership have made a tremendous impact in the sector. One such impact was stopping the water privatisation project supported by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). This has earned him recognition within and beyond the shores of Ghana. In 2004, he was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize for serving humanity.

Life as an environmentalist

The born and bred Ghanaian lawyer took a different path from his counterpart at a very early stage in his career. Rudolf Amenga-Etego built his career on his educational foundation at the University of Ghana, where he obtained a Bachelor of art degree in Literature in English in 1985.

He proceeded to the Ghana School of Law and received a barrister of law degree in 1999. Amenga-Etego, in 2007 attended the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration, earning a Master’s degree in Governance and leadership in 2009.

With his certification and knowledge of the law, he protected people who could not afford water bills or were mistreated for accessing water through illegal means for survival. The more involved he was, the more he was curious and determined to unearth factors affecting water circulation to everyone, especially to people in rural communities.

His findings revealed that the problem started with Ghana’s government, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The two international organisations offer to loan the government capital to improve the water infrastructure in the country in exchange for privatisation of the water supply.

To pay off some of the country’s outstanding loans to World Bank and IMF, in 2001, the government increased the water rates by 95%. This makes it impossible for some people to afford and about 10 or 20% of Ghanaian monthly income goes to drinking water. 

With the poverty rate in the country, 70% of people could not afford clean piped drinking water. Since water is essential for survival, people source it through different means. This resulted in an increase in diseases, especially in rural communities.

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Solving the water crisis in Ghana 

Rudolf Amenga-Etego’s discoveries have seen him become an activist for the people of Ghana for clean, drinkable water. To this end, he has successfully led some campaigns, such as the campaign to make safe, affordable drinking water accessible to all Ghanaians by 2010. He executed this through water protest rallies directed at the World Bank and IMF.

His unwavering attitude and confidence in the cause saw people from different walks of life get involved. This includes health workers, farmers, academics, environmental groups, trade unions, students, and religious leaders. In 2001, he founded the National Coalition Against the Privatisation of Water and under its umbrella, they fought against the multinational corporations who wanted to privatise Ghana’s water system.

In 2003, they successfully got the government to halt the privatisation of the sector. Also, they created international awareness about the Ghanaian water crisis. This opened the avenue for him to meet with world leaders such as Tony Blair, Dennis Kucinich and Barbara Lee. His story also motivated African countries, such as Senegal and Uganda, faced with the same issue.

Journey so far 

Rudolf Amenga-Etego is currently honourable in the parliament of Ghana. He is also a board chair and strategic advisor for Grassroots Africa.

Amenga-Etego is also serving as a board member of Food and Water Watch. He was also the African Civil Society Representative on the United Nations (UN) Sanitation and Water for All steering committee.

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