Magazine article New African

High Noon in Ghana: With the Forthcoming Elections in Ghana Less Than a Month Away, Cameron Duodu Examines If "Extremist Rhetoric" and Allegations of Corruption Are Doing More Harm Than Good to the Country's Stable Democratic Process, Which Is Often Used as Benchmark of Democracy in Africa

Magazine article New African

High Noon in Ghana: With the Forthcoming Elections in Ghana Less Than a Month Away, Cameron Duodu Examines If "Extremist Rhetoric" and Allegations of Corruption Are Doing More Harm Than Good to the Country's Stable Democratic Process, Which Is Often Used as Benchmark of Democracy in Africa

Article excerpt

THE WORD "CRUCIAL" HAS BEEN so often used in connection with elections in Ghana in the recent past that it has become devalued of meaning. As every election looms in the country, soothsayers never cease to predict that if the result does not favour one side or the other, the country will stand in danger of being blown apart. When constitutional rule was first mooted in the early 1990s, it was assumed that the then Chairman of the PNDC (Provisional National Defence Council), Flight-Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings, would entrench himself in power with even more draconian laws, if his desire to translate himself from a military leader to a civilian president, was repudiated by the electorate. Then the opposition parties would become so fed up with the brutal military rule of Rawlings that they would resort to insurrectionary methods to try and oust him. Rawlings won the elections of 1992 and 1996, but there was no insurrection.

Nevertheless, the doomsayers did not relent in their efforts, and when Rawlings selected the late John Atta Mills to be the flag-bearer of his National Democratic Congress (NDC) for the z000 elections, the voice of doom was heard again. Rawlings wanted to hide behind Mills and rule, despite the fact that he would have enjoyed a total of 19 years and three months at the helm of affairs in Ghana. Therefore, if Mills lost, it would be Rawlings who would lose face, and since he didn't like losing face, he would find a military means of reversing the verdict of the electorate.

In the event, Mills lost--twice--and each time Rawlings feebly accepted the result of the election. Yet, each successive election has thrown out variations on the same theme. The result has been that Ghanaians, aware of the saying that 'there's no smoke without fire' now routinely view elections with a great deal of apprehension. They are right to be suspicious: in the zoo8 election, which Mills of the NDC won with a wafer-thin majority, there were rumours--confirmed by the outgoing President John Kufuor of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) in an interview with the London Financial Times, that some military personnel urged him not to accept the result of the Tain by-election that tilted the balance of the vote in favour of Mills against the NPP candidate, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo, after a runoff. Kufuor told the FT that if he had agreed to stay on, while election litigation began to take its course, "that would have been a coup." Someone who worked closely with Kufuor has told me that Kufuor showed a great deal of statesmanship at that time, because the pressures put on him by his own party were enormous.

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Despite having overcome such bitter disputes, however, the political scene in Ghana is still rampant with extremist rhetoric when election campaigns are mounted. In recent days, the most dangerous signposts for the December election have been erected by the National Organiser of the NDC. In a secretly taped address to NDC foot-soldiers, this party official revealed that he was working in cahoots with the Ministry of Finance and the security service to obtain training and security service identity cards for NDC party boys, who would be unleashed on constituencies to cause trouble and yet make it appear that those troubles were caused by the Opposition.

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The tape has been played again and again on Ghana radio stations and it appears that, for the moment, the NDC plan has been scuttled. But what the tape reveals is that the NDC is desperate to use the advantage of incumbency to win the December election and retain power. Why? Because it has allowed itself to become exposed as the "lying party" and fears the electorate no longer has any trust in what it says. Only one example will suffice to substantiate the charge that the NDC lies as a matter of course. Most people knew that the late President Mills was not in good health and had been going to the United States to receive medical attention. …

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