Thursday, January 15, 2009

Ghana Elections 2008: A democratic transition of power in Africa holds out hope for a troubled world

Update January 15, 2009

I had planned my first blog post for the New Year 2009 to be about the December 2008 presidential runoff-election in Ghana. This election is a milestone event for people yearning for democracy throughout Africa because they were carried out in a relatively peaceful and transparent manner, receiving high praise from governments and election observers the world over. My own personal thoughts and commentary about these important elections in West Africa will have to follow a bit later because the latest outbreak of hostilities and war in Gaza is weighing heavily upon my conscience as it must be for many people around the world.

Expressing my own thoughts and sharing the knowledge and wisdom of people who are well informed about the long-running conflicts between Israel & Hamas is what I am working on at present. My Gaza post will be ready before the U.S. Presidential Inauguration Day next week. Hopefully by then the war in Gaza will have stopped.

For my regular readers interested in news about Africa here are links to the latest coverage on the Ghana presidential election from (gasp) Western news media:

International Herald Tribune
A giant of Ghana politics watches from the sidelines
Lydia Polgreen of the The New York Times interviews Ghana’s former president Jerry Rawlings, a military coup leader and ‘political big man’ in Africa during the 1980’s and 1990’s. International
Commentary: A victory for democracy in Africa by John Stremlau. John Stremlau is the vice-president for Peace Programs at the Carter Center and was an international election observer for the Ghana presidential polls.

Africa Confidential (excerpt from the new 'Blue Lines' feature)
January 15, 2008

Ghana's cliff-hanger elections and another successful transition start Africa's year on a positive note. It left those who had been predicting mayhem puzzling why Ghana failed to follow Kenya's descent last year into chaos after a similarly close-run and disputed election.

The answers, Ghanaians say, are in their political traditions, the credibility of the electoral commission and the local media's vigilance. Yet some senior figures in the main parties still favoured fighting out the election on the streets.

Politicians across Africa are studying Ghana's vote closely ahead of more than 20 elections due in 2009. Doubtless, the defeat of a previously popular governing party reflects the effects of last year's rocketing food and fuel prices and concern about jobs.

These will matter hugely in Southern Africa's six elections this year, particularly in South Africa, where the governing ANC faces a challenge from a party of ANC dissidents. And for the first time, the economic and political chaos in Zimbabwe will be a major issue for voters in the region. That might bolster moves by the ruling ZANU-PF hierarchy finally to edge out President Mugabe.

Further north in Algeria, Congo-Brazzaville, Tunisia, Equatorial Guinea, Niger and Sudan, elections this year are unlikely to be harbingers of change: for those incumbent regimes, the vote will be a masquerade behind which the real politics continues.


My original draft post composed on January 3, 2009

The people of Ghana deserve a hearty congratulation from the world community today. In what has widely been viewed by international observers as free-and-fair democratic elections and a peaceful transition of power to boot,
Ghanaians have chosen opposition party candidate Professor John Atta Mills (NCD) as their next president, succeeding the two-term Ghanaian president John Kufuor.

One of my closest friends Sam who hails from the Ghanaian capital Accra will be especially delighted. Just last week we were discussing the runoff election and he told me that an opposition win for the office of President would be good for the country, providing a balance of power to the ruling party controlled parliament. The new president-elect
John Atta Mills (profile) comes into office with some impressive credentials having served as Vice-President of Ghana in the administration of two-term Ghanaian President Jerry Rawlings.

It is not a first for sub-Saharan Africa but it is remarkable when one reflects upon the horrible post-election violence in Kenya just one year ago or looks at the despicable behavior and violence carried out by Robert Mugabe’s goons against the people of
Zimbabwe following the sham elections of March 27th and the presidential runoff on June 27th, 2008. And it looks as if the recent coup by the military in Guinea after the sudden death of longtime dictator Lansana Conté may not get much traction. The regional intergovernmental body ECOWAS and the African Union along with key Western countries are exerting increasing pressure on the coup leaders for a rapid return to civilian rule. “Coups in West Africa will no longer be tolerated” or so they say, let’s wait and see. The Mauritania coup leaders are still in power despite similar claims from the same folks.

Democracy has taken a firm hold in Ghana and other countries in West Africa over the past few years, but it remains under-reported in much of the world press and news media (not just the Western news media as is often charged by some). I came across an interesting article about Ghana and Democracy in West Africa published last March at the Washington Post. Here is an excerpt from that piece that shows that Ghana President-elect John Atta-Mills “returned from the dead” to defeat the NPP candidate Nana Akufo-Addo

Democracy Ascendant In States of West Africa
by Craig Timberg - March 13, 2008 -

Reborn as well, over the past decade, has been democracy itself here in
Ghana and among its neighbors along West Africa's Atlantic coast. From Sierra Leone east to Nigeria, stability and at least a tentative version of multiparty politics have begun taking hold after many years of coups, military dictatorships and civil war.

Kenya has become the latest East African nation to descend into conflict, these West African countries have moved toward politics that are vigorous but rarely violent. Maysiema said she could not imagine Ghana's partisan enthusiasms ever turning bloody, no matter what the outcome of the presidential vote scheduled for December.

"Ghanaians are a naturally peace-loving people," said Maysiema, a divorced mother of seven struggling to support her family selling bread on Winneba's streets. "They will make the noise, but there's no way they will draw blood."

The progress in the region is far from uniform. Ghana and Benin have held several free elections with peaceful transfers of power; Togo, on the other hand, is still run by the son of a longtime strongman but in October had its first vote in which all major parties participated.

Civil wars in
Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast have ended, and although Ivory Coast has yet to hold its first postwar vote, Liberia and Sierra Leone have elected leaders with popular mandates. Regional giant Nigeria, where military rule ended in 1999, has had a series of deeply flawed votes, but the disputes are being settled in an increasingly independent court system.

These countries are all freer, more stable and more democratic than they were a decade ago, regional analysts say. Peace, however fragile, is the norm rather than war. And citizens of these nations increasingly are demanding responsive governance from their leaders.
(End excerpt)

Related articles and resources on Ghana Elections 2008

Voice of America Online
VOA News - Opposition Candidate Wins Ghanaian Presidency
VOA News - ECOWAS Demands Civilian-Led Transition or Sanctions on Guinea's Military Rulers
AU Commission to Meet Over Mauritania Coup D'etat

BBC News, BBC Radio World Service
BBC NEWS Africa Opposition leader wins Ghana poll
BBC World Service - Ghana Elections 2008
BBC World Service - News - Democracy in West Africa

Global Voices Online
Ghana: Waiting for a President, 12/29/08
Guinea: History Repeating? 01/01/09
Twittering the Ghana Elections, 12/08/08

My Heart’s in Accra (Ethan Zuckerman’s personal blog)
Voting again… and again… in Ghana, 01/01/09

African Elections Project –
Ghana Elections 2008

Ghana Elections 2008 – a group blog covering election news and analysis

Coalition of Domestic Election Observers: Ghana
Ghana: Atta Mills Wins Presidency in Change of Power
Ghana: Elections 2008 - The End is Here
Ghana: The Making of a President by Dele Momodu (This Day, Nigeria)

The Washington Post
Democracy Ascendant In States of West Africa by Craig Timberg, 03/13/08

West Africa Review, Issue 6 (2004)
Constitutionalism, Governance and Democracy in Africa by Kelechi A. Kalu

U.S. Department of State
Remarks to the Conference on Elections and Democratization in West Africa, 12/08/06

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Koluki said...

Great to have you back in such good form!

BRE said...

Thank you Ana (Koluki), it's good to be back. Bon Voyage and enjoy your journey to South Africa. Looking forward to hearing from you again soon upon your arrival and after you get settled in.

Don't let the South Africans give you a hard time because you hail from Angola and London. Let them know that you have close friends from America who will whack 'em at the first sign of any trouble down there. Serious.

Koluki said...

They better hear my friends...