Sunday, December 7, 2008

Ghana Elections 2008 - Peace AND Prosperity?

The poll results trickle in uneventfully. The day awaited with a wary enthusiasm has arrived in Ghana. Election Day 2008. The third democratic election, the first time since the discovery of oil. Local and foreign media have been obsessing about Ghana and it’s chance to raise the image of Africa in terms of the democratic process, and the ability of an African nation to face it with calm and organization as opposed to violence and mayhem.

We stayed home today, taking it easy and keeping a low profile, as we’d been advised. I listened for gunfire or sirens but I heard roosters and birds chirping.
We tuned in to the local media stations and watched a relatively calm if not highly organized day at the polls for Ghana.

The most shocking thing to happen today is balloting materials turning up late at the polls and people being forced to break into two or three lines after having queued for hours in one line… Not earth shattering stuff.

Maybe Ghana will pull through tonight’s results like a fully democratic country, and accept the winner fairly.

There is a lot at stake though, and judging by the numerous posters and music videos by local artists, along with pleading commercials from pastors and politicians alike, begging the nation for peace, it seems that most are very afraid of something untoward happening.

I noticed today that the overwhelming message was peace. Is this the best an African democracy can hope for? That people do not tear into others with machetes, for supporting another party? Tribalsim plays a big part here in terms of who votes for which candidate and what party. This morning voters were told not to wear any partisan clothing or paraphernalia to the voting polls. One man didn’t heed the warning and was ‘almost lynched’ according to the local TV station, Metro TV.

Supporters of one or another of the two main parties take things quite seriously. We were caught up in a cavalcade of NDC supporters last night, and delayed over an hour on a short stretch of road. Buses and cars and motorcycles waving the NDC flag enthusiastically, surrounded us completely. There was a palpable frenzy in the air as the people swayed and sang and rolled their arms in the NDC campaign sign, indicating the need for change. One taxi stuck beside us for a long period caught my eye. It was an old station wagon, with three jubilant supporters waving flags and in the back seat a cow. Yes a live, full grown cow. Curled around itself in an impossible space, they would tap her head each time she tried to raise it… (these are the Kodak moments Ghana offers, when you just don't have your camera on hand!). Seemed like EVERYONE was out for the party. I guessed the cow would be part of the feast, either for the post election party or for the Eid celebrations which take place tomorrow for Ghana’s muslims.

For us visitors it’ll be the fourth day of a four day weekend. By the end of tomorrow we should know the winner. As we weaved along the road among the campaigners, I noticed as darkness fell on us last night in the car, each village we passed through, had no lights. No electricity yet. In 2008. The people came out of the dim lit rooms, paraffin lamps glowing within, to shout their support as we passed.

I wondered whether the new party would do more than maintain peace. I wondered if they would bring the basics to their people. Light in villages, schooling for the children, hope for the future.
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Leon Basin said...


Rhi said...

Who was the winner? Hopefully they can rise to the occasion. And I'm not sure how you feel about awards, but I'd love to pass one along to you. It's called the "Honest Scrap Award" and all the rules and information can be found at My Blog. Hope to hear from you soon. =)

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