Ghana’s former trade minister said on Monday he would resign from the governing party and run as an independent candidate during the next presidential election in December 2024, dividing a government faced with dwindling support as it grapples with the worst economic crisis in a generation.

Alan Kyeremanten, who has served twice as trade minister for the New Patriotic Party (NPP)-led administration since 2016, made the announcement at a briefing. The 67-year-old, who resigned from his ministerial role in January, said his contributions were not appreciated.

“The new movement will be led and powered by the youth,” he told his supporters at the event. “The [NPP] party has been hijacked by a selected group of party leaders and elders,” he said.

The NPP described Kyeremanten’s resignation as “unfortunate” in a statement. Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in the capital Accra last week for three days of anti-government protests linked to economic hardship. The police arrested at least 49 people on the first day of the protests.

Ghana, a major gold and coca producer, was once seen as Africa’s rising star and a beacon of economic and democratic stability. But it has been in economic turmoil due to spiralling public debt.

Last year, protests against soaring cost of living and other economic challenges led to clashes with police and pushed authorities to ask the International Monetary Fund for help.

The government has since focused on restructuring debt and reducing its spending to gain access to a $3bn, three-year IMF loan programme. But critics said authorities have done too little to help those struggling to make ends meet as economic growth slows.

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