A test elections for Ghana in 2008

Sun, 30 Dec 2007 Source: Jeffrey, Peter

Will it be free and fair

Ghana’s image is known to mirrors that of sub-Sahara Africa countries. Ghana, the first sub-Saharan African country to gain her political independence is once again setting the pace in good governance and prudent economic management, a yardstick for sustainable development and an escape route from poverty. Almost all the countries in the region are following Ghana’s example. The question most commentators and analysts are asking is, can Ghana maintain this pace of democratization and economic growth or degenerate into electoral violence? which many argue, can have repercussions across the vast “virgin” continent.

Ghana’s foremost president and father of the nation, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, the man sub-Saharan Africans (majority were not even born and or too young to know him when he died) voted greatest African of the 20th century and was awarded a posthumous medal by United Nations, still dominates politics in Ghana and the sub continent. In the first half of the 20th century, Kwame Nkrumah set alight the independence torch that spread across the entire continent. Kwame Nkrumah, as many sub-Saharan Africans now realize, was far ahead of his time. He is credited as the only African leader who put the interest of the whole continent before self.

In 1965, Dr Kwame Nkrumah published one of the greatest non-fiction classics of post-colonial Africa, "Neo Colonialism - The Last Stage of Imperialism". Dr Nkrumah accurately predicted Africa would suffer persistent interference by the intelligence agencies of foreign governments which would leave death, destruction, political instability and economic chaos in many African countries without any due regard to native Africans as events have later proved. The west saw Nkrumah as the major stumbling block to their planned plunder of Africa. Dr Nkrumah's simple solution is for all the countries in Africa to form a federation, based on United States of America. In a cynical way, the west plotted to get Nkrumah out of the way which later led to his death.

Today China and India have joined the scramble for Africa's vast natural resources. Today there are security agencies from all the major countries, including China and India (yes, China and India) all conspiring to maintain the status quo in Africa, to keep Africa under-developed, and plunder her resources. Today, Africans are seen as the poorest of the poor with no hope insight. The few gains African made in the 1960s have been eroded by the harsh austerity measures of the Bretton Woods Institutions under the guise of Structural Adjustment Policies and Highly Indebted Poor Countries programs. Today, from Senegal to Sudan and from Mali to South Africa, Chinese and Indian multinationals are the new kids on the block! Today, politicians in Africa, from Bamako to Cape Town and from Mombassa to Dakar invoke Dr Kwame Nkrumah's name to win electoral votes. Nkrumah's name dominated the 2007 African Union held in Accra.

The Ghana and Africa that Dr Nkrumah left in the 1960s has changed markedly. Ghana is again emerging as a democratic and economic model for Africa after a long period in the economic wilderness. In December 2008 Ghanaians will go to the polls to elect their 3rd successive president, their fifth ballot in 16 years since democracy was resort by the Rawlings PNDC military junta.

At the beginning of 2007, news about the December 2008 elections was dominated by the New Patriotic Party and National Democratic Congress until the emergence of rejuvenated Convention Peoples Party. CPP elected as its presidential candidate, a Young Pioneer, Dr Papa Kwesi Nduom. Papa Kwesi Nduom's selection as CPP's Presidential candidate, it seems has changed the political landscape in Ghana. Nduom's entry into the race has sent shock waves across the country. Despite serving in the NPP administration, some see him as a potent campaigner and one that NPP feared most, other disagree and equates him to a “political prostitute and an opportunist”. Over the next 12 months this writer will concentrate on the man, Papa Kwesi Nduom, his policies and what he stands for. For the first time since 1979, the Nkrumaists has the opportunity to win the up coming Presidential elections if they unite behind CPP. The question many commentators and analysts, including this writer, are asking is, will the Nkrumaists parties unite under the rejuvenated CPP umbrella or fight the elections as a divided group. Already a couple of known Nkrumaist newspaper editors are “openly and blatantly” supporting the New Patriotic Party flag bearer, Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo Addo.

Over the past 2 years there have been 5 elections in the West African sub-region, Nigeria, Mali, Togo, Sierra Leon and Liberia. Apart from the Nigerian elections which the international and Nigerian election monitors condemned as flawed, the rest were all deemed as “free and fair”.

Despite the wide spread vote rigging in the Nigerian elections, the international community quickly rallied behind the declared winner, Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua as President of Nigeria, to forestall any large scale riots. Everyone accepted that the Nigerian election results were dubious. Many have cited the acceptance of the flawed results by the international community as a very dangerous precedent, which many feared if repeated in Ghana, can throw the whole region in chaos and erode the gains made since the 1990s. The crisis of Ivory Coast is a case in point.

Elections around the world even today are marred by pre-electoral conflict and intrigue. In his studies about elections, Dennis Austin (1994) notes about elections in India and Sri Lanka, “Prior to most elections, the graph of violence rises. The pot boils over. As Churchill once said ‘democracy may be the casualty of elections’ “. Similar accounts about political unrest before elections can be found in most parts of Africa, including Ghana. In the last Ghanaian elections, pre-election violence erupted in the form of beatings, property damage and intimidation around the country by the supporters of New Patriotic Party and National Democratic Congress.

There is small but growing literature on the relationship between democracy and political unrest in elections, especially presidential elections, and the use of force to affect electoral outcomes. In his acceptance speech after winning the Mo Ibrahim prize for good governance and excellent leadership in Africa, former Mozambican President Joachim Chissano called for electoral transparency and accountability in African politics.

In Ghana, the voters are calling for a change, however until the beginning of 2007 there was no hope in sight, since the NDC and NPP can no longer be trusted with the running of the country, that is, until the re-emergence of Convention Peoples Party.

CPP was rejuvenated by the Young Pioneers, the boys and girls that Dr Nkrumah trained for leadership in the early 1960s. During the period in question, members of the Young Pioneers Movement pledged to be the vanguard of the workers, fishermen, farmers, market mummies, students and the youth. They were trained to offer selfless service to their motherland. Almost 50 years after independence, the boys and girls of the Young Pioneer Movement have to the fore to offer the leadership they were trained for. The Young Pioneers are a special breed of leaders; articulate, compassionate, skillful, intelligent, selfless and patriotic. The Young Pioneers abhor corruption, graft, rent seeking, poverty and misuse of state resources. They believe in giving each and every one the opportunity to help themselves by offering decent education, health care and good housing. They believe working men and women must share in the Ghanaian dream by being able to own their home through public and private investment. Leaders that sadly many countries in Africa lack. Their duty is first and foremost to their country and their countrymen. Many Ghanaians now see CPP as the best party to restore Ghana's pride and image and position the country as a place of choice for investors. The philosophy and ideas that underpins their policies are a mixture of Export-Led growth and Import Substitution Industrialization, under the 7 Year Development Plan.

Earlier this year, the flagbeaerer for NDC and former vice President of Ghana, Professor Atta Mills and CPP UK branch called on the ruling New Patriotic Party to ensure the coming 2008 elections is “free and fair”. Professor Mills in particular warned the ruling government of the consequences if they tried to emulate the Nigerians by rigging the elections. Professor Mills has threatened to call mass action against the ruling party and make the country ungovernable. Vote rigging and electoral fraud is nothing new, even in mature democracies. In the US elections in 2004, there was some evidence of irregularities in Ohio and Florida against Senator John Kerry. For example in Ohio, more votes were counted than the number of people on the electoral roll.

In December 2007, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s party won the parliamentary elections amid widespread claims of vote-rigging. This prompted the White House to urged Russia to investigate opposition claims of widespread ballot-rigging in the vote.

Already opposition parties have started to accuse the ruling NPP of planning to “use the old electoral fraud tactics” of ballot-stuffing, vote buying, intimidation, detention of observers and gifts in exchange of pro-NPP vote. These are “just allegations” which the ruling party must quickly debunk if they do not wish to see that country thrown into chaos, come December 2008.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Columnist: Jeffrey, Peter

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