- West Africa
Ghana: Lessons from an African forerunner
Ghana’s presidential candidates are almost level pegging as results trickle in from several constituencies. With Over 140 constituencies counted and about eighty more to go, tensions are running high as party enthusiasts pray their presidential hopefuls will get the 50 per cent plus of the total votes needed to win the presidential elections.
The presidential results are likely to be very close. The two main candidates Nana Akufo-Addo, the ruling party candidate, and John Atta Mills, the main opposition contender are both confident of winning. This is a real test for the forerunner of African independence as the continent patiently awaits the outcome of the elections.
Kenya, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, to name but a few, have been involved in a chain reaction of election malpractices that have led to widespread violence and marred Africa’s infant democratic process. The violence that followed these elections, particularly in Nigeria where about 400 people were killed in a few days, spread like wild fire.
The need for closer monitoring and the provision of rapid answers to issues that could contribute to the escalation of violence has led to the use of mobile phone monitoring, whereby data is sent from the various polling stations by volunteers, via mobile phones, to centres where the information helps avert foreseeable disasters.
Earlier, Ghana’s reputation as a sound democracy with an educated electorate was put to test when the contending opposition party, NDC, said in a statement that the Office of Prof. Mills was aware of moves by the NPP "to once again hijack the mandate of the people of Ghana", confirming they had "won the elections and no amount of underhand acts by the NPP and its surrogates as well as paid agents shall allow the mistake of 2004 to be repeated."
This statement was delivered at a time when barely a quarter of votes had been counted. Franck Salin, a political analyst at Afrik.com, prompted by the seriousness of this allegation indicated that "it is a dangerous and irresponsible remark from a politician".
But should Ghanaians worry over remarks that contain the potential to undermine efforts that have been made to prevent Africa’s growing electoral albatross from gaining ground in their country?
According to Monica Takyi-Appiah, a Ghanaian expatriate resident in Europe, "We have seen it all before, hence the particular desire to guard our current peace and stability ... Ghana is stable because we have come to appreciate the benefits of democracy. We saw it all in the 1970s".
"Press freedom has been key, especially with the advent of private local radio stations where all discussions are broadcast in local languages. We could attribute Ghana’s stability - in an extent- to literacy. I also think that discussions in people’s mother tongues help garner interest on issues that matter. It helps them understand the issues better and increases the likelihood of public participation in political debates.
"I must say, however, that sound policies and the absence of glaring nepotism is what will appease most social groupings. As long as people feel their interests are being taken care of …" She said.
Does Ghana hold the key to end Africa’s growing electoral albatross? As Ghanaians look forward to full results from both its presidential and parliamentary elections, the rest of Africa patiently await lessons from a continental forerunner.