John Dramani Mahama was inaugurated as president of Ghana in a well attended ceremony at Black Star Square in Accra.

Nana Kofi Acquah sums up the emotions many Ghanaians share:

Ghanaian culture thrives mainly on what is not said. Actually, it isn’t that some things are not said, but that they are said in not so plain language. What we think and believe as a people, is often shrouded in proverbs, symbols, songs, drum beats, dancing and even how we choose to wear our clothes.
There’s a Ghanaian proverb that says “it is the stranger that gets offered a blind chicken”. In other words, never fall for the sheepish, unending grin and amazing humility Ghanaians throw at strangers. We are smarter than we look. We are stronger than we pretend to be.

Our thriving democracy is not an accident. This country is built on belief systems that go far deeper than most people can imagine. There is more that unite than divide us. Ghana has proven beyond all reasonable doubt, that it is not just another unstable African country, in an unstable region, in an unstable continent in an unstable world. We knew governance when the Greeks were still barbarians. We believed in God, and even called Him “great friend” before the missionaries arrived. Our souls are rooted in history deeper than colonialism.

We are a people, blessed and powerful… and I pray we never forget this. The danger is when we forget. Once a people forget who they really are, they easily accept any identity someone else slaps on them.

Am I saying Ghana is special? Let me be “unGhanaian” for a moment and shout “YES. Ghana is special”.
Congratulations, Mr. President on this special day of your inauguration.
Congratulations, People of Ghana.

© Nana Kofi Acquah at 1/07/2013 02:38:00 PM

Nana Kofi Acquah is a professional photographer who takes stunning photos. Visit his blog to see more, and to read more of his observations.

The photos below came from tweets on Twitter using the #GHInaug hashtag.

Mahama giving his inaugural address

Mahama giving his inaugural address

Mahama giving inaugural speech in Black Star Square

Mahama giving inaugural speech in Black Star Square

Read the full text of Mahama’s inaugural speech He is sometimes known as Johnny Digital Mahama. He has a degree in Communications and usually uses a tablet computer as text teleprompter for his speeches. At the inauguration he used a Galaxy Note 10.1, but most of the accounts call it an ipad.

Ghana 2013 Presidential Inauguration dancers

Ghana 2013 Presidential Inauguration dancers

Ghana presidential inauguration 2013 Azonto dance troop.  Azonto is current popular dance, seach YouTube for videos and how to.

Ghana presidential inauguration 2013 Azonto dance troop. Azonto is a current wildly popular dance, search YouTube for videos and how to.

Ghana presidential inauguration 2013 Queen Mothers

Ghana presidential inauguration 2013 Queen Mothers

The Press at the Ghana presidential inauguration 2013

The Press at the Ghana presidential inauguration 2013

See more photos of the inauguration at GhanaWeb.

The Vim Views and Versions – Blogs of a MIghTy African gives us about as good an explanation as I have seen of Why John Mahama Won Ghana’s 2012 Elections #GhanaDecides:

It’s clear many people voted for John Mahama the person vrs Nana Akufo-Addo rather than the NDC versus the NPP. Nana Akufo Addo is not liked very much in Ghana for his “arrogance and elitism”. Ask around.
… The NPP with its property-owning democracy and Republican-ish ness makes it appeal more to the rich and elitist folks in Ghana. The poorer folks, not so much? And we all know who makes the majority. 

The NDC focused on doing more around the country. If you don’t go around the country and sit in Accra or come to Ghana on holiday and sit around Accra, you wouldn’t know. Next time, travel around Ghana more. It’s quite clear that the NPP won in the urban areas. If you believe then they should be the true winner, . The real Ghana happens in the rural areas and those are the places that can really drive our economic development when they are up to speed with what we need to enjoy the Ghana we crave. I will suggest you pay more attention to these places if you care deeply about Ghana. 

We saw how Ghanaians lined up the night before to go and vote. We keep on celebrating our democracy. We see our democrazy selves demonstrate in the streets against politicians and policies. You know the demonstration of democrazy democracy I want to see? That we will hit the streets and demonstrate against indiscipline, corruption, bad mindset and the backward-thinking attitudes of Ghanaians. You know the beauty of this, you can actually make a difference here by influencing and impressing upon others.
 Let me give him a few pointers on being a great leader for Ghana and not just a president.  John Mahama should get the average Ghanaian to do more for him or herself and the community. Encourage us to work harder. Encourage us to take time off to help a child (and adult) learn to read and count, educate on health and cleanliness, teach people to be more efficient with time and resource, etc. He should motivate us to work for Ghana. Institute a volunteer day (preferably the Founder’s Day). That’s what I want from my president. Oh yeah, and leave a legacy. Like solving our electricity problems, once and for all. 

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mandela-cellphone

MXit

From the CMS Watch Trendwatch Blog, Theresa Regli writes of a visit to KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.

Most of the schools and homes in this area (including our translator’s) had no electricity or plumbing; in these parts, it costs approximately 300 ZAR (about US$30) to send a child to school for the year (including textbooks). Most people don’t own cars, so oftentimes groups of people stand along the side of the road waiting for a ride.

And while they wait, they tap away text messages on their mobile devices.

It was then I learned the Zulu word uma-khala-khukhwIni, which translates literally as “thing that rings in the pocket.” In a country where unemployment hovers around 25%, men in rural areas tend to leave for several weeks at a time to work near a city, then come home with money and things for the kids, like mobile phones. Those who don’t have electricity go to a general store in town to plug the phone in and charge it. These kids may not have running water, but they can look things up on Wikipedia.

Naturally I was curious about the economics: how could these kids afford to rack up SMS messaging costs in an area where wealth is still largely measured by cattle, and public education only arrived after the fall of apartheid?

It turns out that the communication happens via a service called MXit, a free instant messaging software application that runs on GPRS/3G mobile phones with Java support, and native to South Africa. MXit doesn’t charge for sending and receiving person to person messages, and while some service providers charge for GPRS/3G data cost, these costs are comparatively minuscule, about 1 ZAR cent, or one tenth of a US penny.

Smart companies have the foresight to think about content distribution beyond the technology elite … where mobile phones far outnumber PCs, you’d be wise to do the same.

Texting to tackle HIV

CNN reported in December:

One million free text messages will be sent every day for 12 months from Monday in South Africa in a bid to raise HIV awareness and encourage testing for the disease.

The ambitious Project Masiluleke is being rolled out across the country after a pilot period that saw calls to a AIDS national helpline shoot up by 200 percent, organizers say.

‘Project Masiluleke,’ or ‘Project M’ was set up to try to encourage people to seek testing and treatment in a country where cell phones are abundant.

Africa is cited as the fastest growing mobile-phone network in the world. In South Africa, more than 80 percent of the population has one — the country has a population of 49 million, and it is estimated that 43 million have cell phones. Almost 95 percent of the phones are prepaid.

The initiative plans to broadcast millions of health messages every month to phones across South Africa.

“This is the largest ever use of cell phones for health information,” said Gustav Praekelt, one of the project’s originators.

There is near universal coverage,” said Praekelt during the launch of the project. “And in the absence of other services, the mobile phone has become the central component for people to get access to information.”

Organizers say ‘Project M’ will offer South Africans the privacy to get tested and pursue treatment options and counseling by staff who are HIV positive themselves.

The system sends the messages using a so-called “Please Call Me” (PCM) service. This free form of text messaging, common across Africa, allows someone without any phone credit to send a text to a friend asking them to call.

Each sent PCM message has the words “Please Call Me,” the phone number of the caller, and space for an additional 120 characters. The extra space is normally filled with advertising, which helps offset the cost of running the service.

The message reads: “Frequently sick, tired, losing weight and scared that you might be HIV positive? Please call AIDS Helpline 0800012322.”

Encouraging people to get tested is a huge challenge in a country where people with the AIDS virus still face stigma and shame.

However, ‘Project M’ appears to be having an impact, since it was initiated in October.

“We have observed a dramatic increase in the call rate to the AIDS Helpline — from approximately 1,300 calls per day to a new average of 3,600,” said Milo Zama, Projects Development Manager for LifeLine, one of the partners.

Trained operators provide callers with accurate healthcare information, and referrals to local testing clinics

Many of the messages are broadcast in English and in local languages such as Zulu.

Political Robocalls in Ghana

Political robocalls are nothing new in the US. Many people regard them as more a curse than a blessing. So some may not see this as a great leap forward. Still, I suspect the trend may be just beginning in Ghana. David Ajao reports from right before the December 7 general election:

A Phone Call from Nana Akufo-Addo
By Oluniyi David Ajao
December 4th, 2008

When I saw a call on my cellular phone from a number +233 10 0000, my heart missed a bit. And why not? This was a very strange phone number that I know does not exist but I still answered the phone, albeit cautiously. Lo and behold, it was the voice of the ruling NPP’s Presidential candidate Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, speaking in Twi and essentially asking me to vote for him. The message lasted exactly 45 seconds.

I could tell that it was a recorded message. This must be one of the last minute campaign strategies by the New Patriotic Party, to sway the floating voters. I can see that we are indeed moving forward with technology in Ghana.

Unfortunately Nana, I am not an eligible voter. All the same, may the best man win!

mills-sworn-in

In a triumph for Ghana, and for African democracy, power successfully changed hands in the election, and the new President, John Atta Mills was sworn in today, January 7, 2009.

You can view more pictures in this photo report.

And read the biographical profiles of both President Mills and his Vice President, John Drahami Mahama.

Mills-and-supporters

Mills and supporters

Ghana’s President Elect is John Atta Mills. You can read Mills biography. The new Vice President Elect is John Dramani Mahama. There are additional profiles of both men here. Plus there is more information about the transition at the African Elections Project Ghana. Here is the text of Mills’ brief acceptance speech. And there are more pictures of the campaign. The Mills transition team is listed here.  You’ll find a brief video in this BBC news story on the election.  The video is of celebrations in Accra.

ghanaregions

Political regions of Ghana

January 3 update:
Mills declared winner of presidential run-off elections.

The EC has declared Prof John Atta Mills (NDC) as the winner of the 2008 Presidential run-off elections.

The President-elect won with 50.23 % (4,521,032) of the votes. Nana Akufo-Addo (NPP) got a total of 4,480,446 votes, representing 49.77 % of the valid votes. The total turnout of the run-off elections was 77.91 %.

UPDATE:

From MyJoyOnline:

The Electoral Commission Chairman, Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan will declare the winner of the 2008 presidential run-off tomorrow at 11 a.m. [GMT] … The opposition NDC is expected to garner enough votes in Friday’s vote in Tain to consolidate its lead and eventually win the race.

NPP withdraws legal suits. The New Patriotic Party has withdrawn all legal suits from the courts relating to the 2008 presidential elections.

Dan Botwe a member of the Nana Akufo-Addo campaign team says the New Patriotic Party (NPP) will not do anything to undermine the country’s fledging democracy.

Afari-Gyan declares results on Saturday 11 a.m. [GMT]

The Electoral Commission Chairman, Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan will declare the winner of the 2008 presidential run-off tomorrow at 11 a.m. This follows a successful conduct of the elections in the Tain Constituency on Friday, January 2, 2009.

The Tain Constituency held the key after close presidential race between the NPP’s Nana Akufo-Addo and the NDC’s Prof. Atta Mills.

The poll was so close the difference between the two candidates after last Sunday’s run-off was only 23,055 votes.

This knife-edge result made it impossible to declare a winner without the Tain results because the votes in the constituency could determine who actually wins the race.

A tiny little constituency which could not vote because of late arrival of election material became the battleground.

Although the ruling NPP pulled out of the election a day before the poll, that does not invalidate the process.

Provisional Results on Prez run-off elections from 131 out of 144 Tain constituency:NPP-1803 (9.01%), NDC-18208 (90.99%) from ghanaelections.

in fact, it is on par with, if not surpassing, elections that i’ve seen and participated in in the U.S. … everything I’ve seen today has been nothing short of textbook election procedure, from grantdobbe

The West African Elections project, African Elections Project Ghana, is aimed at developing the capacity of the media in ICTs in order for them to use it as a tool for election coverage and the provision of elections information and knowledge for planned elections in Ghana, Cote d ‘lvoire, and Guinea from 2008 to 2009. I hope this tool is continued and expanded. There is good background information there. There is also still much to add.

In the December 28th runoff Tain did not receive the election materials in time to conduct the runoff properly on that day. When the certified votes were tallied for the rest of the country, Mills got 50.31% of the vote, and Akufo-Addo 49.69%. The Electoral Commission decided this was too close to call without having results from Tain. So Tain is holding its runoff today. In the December 7th election the NDC got a majority of seats in the National Assembly.

Two Twitter streams from Tain today are quite informative, grantdobbe and ghanaelections.

The NPP is boycotting the Tain runoff, at least to some extent. A VoA article by Peter Clottey had this:

[T]he ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) failed in its bid to legally restrain the electoral commission from declaring the winner of Friday’s special election and subsequently the next president of Ghana. The NPP also served notice to the electoral commission that it would not be participating in the Tain Constituency election, citing security concerns, which it claimed would significantly undermine the transparency of the election. … Bernard Morna is a leading member of the opposition People’s National Convention. … He tells reporter Peter Clottey that by citing security concerns, the ruling NPP was acting irresponsible.

“I can tell you that the security acted so professional to my amazement that all of us were asked to come down from our vehicles, including the former President (Jerry Rawlings). The vehicles were searched thoroughly and we were personally searched so as to ensure that nobody went into Tain with any weaponry or with ballot papers,” Morna noted.

“Indeed at the point of our entry (into Tain), we saw the former general secretary of the NPP whose car was searched and at that point we noticed that thumb printed ballot papers for Nana Addo-Dankwa Akufu-Addo the NPP flag bearer were found and they were taken out. And we are also informed that when the current president got to Wenchi (in the Brong Ahafo region), the Wenchi chief told him that the people of Tain were going to vote overwhelmingly for the NDC. And so the president should go back to Accra to prepare to hand over power to an NDC elected president. So, I am also encouraged by the professional manner the security agents are conducting themselves,” he said.

Morna described as irresponsible claims by NPP partisans of security intimidation.

“I hold that to be a very preposterous and strange position coming from a party and a government. The ruling party that controls the security of this nation turns around to say the security if the nation is bad then that should be the reason for which the people should vote them out because they have shown gross incompetence and gross incapability of managing the security of the nation that you can’t even assure the people of Ghana that the security of something they can rely on,” Morna pointed out.

And most sad is the appalling violence that was perpetrated in a number of places during the original runoff on December 28th and in the December 7th election. I have heard some about this in conversations back home. We have been lucky and so far my family has mostly remained safe. Koranteng has not been so lucky. His uncle, a man we need in Ghana, suffered a severe beating when he went to monitor the polls according to election protocols. Koranteng writes:

Let’s start with this: they almost killed my uncle.

I really can’t write much more than that. When I look at what was done to him, when I look at the pictures, there really isn’t much more that can be said: they tried to kill my uncle, they almost killed my uncle.

The threat had been raised in 2000 and 2004 that “There will be blood on the ground”. There was certainly violence and intimidation back then but we have seen things this time in 2008 and now 2009 that are chillingly close to what transpired in places that no one should ever emulate, in countries that people use as cautionary tales.

The cynical people who incited, who fomented, who organized the political violence are as much to blame as those who attacked, who beat, who kicked, who threw stones, who threw planks, who sprayed acid and sundry powders, who held people hostage until they signed, who chased people off, who surrounded cars that arrived in their villages and towns, who shook cars, who spat, who came with cudgels and cutlasses, who threatened to burn down our family home and many others, who stole watches from bleeding men, who searched for cement blocks to take take lives, who heeded the call to slaughter the strangers in their midst.

I have written about my uncle before in these pages, noting that he was one of three psychiatrists tending to the mental health of 20 million Ghanaians. These days he might well be the only psychiatrist in Ghana since almost everyone who trains in his discipline seems to leave the country. My favourite uncle, I don’t know a gentler man.

My prayers go out to Koranteng, his uncle, and all his family. And I pray also for the many others who suffered while trying to exercise their constitutional rights as citizens of Ghana.
_____ end update _____

Today the Tain constituency in the Brong-Ahafo Region will hold a runoff election to determine the final result of the Ghana presidential election. Tain is located to the west, near the border with Ivory Coast. With luck and the grace of God, this will provide a final, legal, and constitutional conclusion to the electoral process and the next president of Ghana may be inaugurated.

After the Dec. 28th runoff, the vote was very close. All but 4 constituencies reported and certified results. Then 3 of those last 4 came in. Only Tain was left.  The totals for the runoff were so close that it was determined that there should be a final runoff for the Tain constituency that will determine the winner for the country. Tain is generally considered NDC territory, and likely to go for John Atta Mills.

The December 28 runoff was very close. There were reports of ballot boxes stolen, others that were stuffed, plus violence and intimidation of voters, voting officials, and party observers. The most irregularities seem to be in the Ashanti region, stronghold of the current ruling party, the NPP, whose candidate is Nana Akufo-Addo. There was also a fair amount of irregularity in the Volta region which is the stronghold of the NDC, whose candidate is John Atta Mills. If you do not count either of those two regions, the vote total goes to Mills.

In the Ashanti region on the December 28th runoff there was a mysterious upsurge in the numbers of people voting. In just 4 voting discricts in Kumasi in the Ashanti region, a total of 64,149 more voters voted on December 28th than on December 7th. And equally mysteriously, they all voted for Akufo-Addo. To anyone who watches politics anywhere, these figures are obviously fishy.

There have been a number of tapes made of conversations among NPP plotters planning to steal the election. The biggest scandal broke just before the runoff.

As I understand it, all indications are that this is a genuine recording of the actual conversation, despite denials:

Another tape scandal has hit the country with some leading members of the NPP alleged to have hatched a plan to rig Sunday’s run-off, and was played on Radio Gold FM.

The tape which was given prominence by Raymond Arher, Editor of the Enquirer Newspaper, and first aired on Radio Gold an Accra based Radio Station, implicates former mayor of Kumasi Maxwell Kofi Jumah, NPP campaign Chairman, Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey, and Mr Hackman Owusu Agyeman for allegedly meeting an anonymous man to hatch the plan to rig Sunday’s polls.

According to excerpts of the tape which was later aired on JoyFM on Saturday, a voice purported to be that of Kofi “Ghana” Jumah promised the anonymous man and 40 others an amount of 60 million cedis if they are able to steal ballot boxes in some regions across the country

As journalist Kofi Thompson wrote on his blog:

The tapes formed the main topic of conversation on “Election Forensics” – the radio programme hosted by the brilliant Raymond Archer and produced by that intrepid news-hound Roland Acquah-Stevens. Ghanaian democracy owes Radio Gold FM a huge debt of gratitude for putting the outrageous election-rigging activities of Maxwell Kofi Jumah into the public domain.

No one who listens to those tapes will fail to be offended by the utter contempt for ordinary Ghanaians and the unprincipled manipulation of our institutions of state, displayed and engaged in, by the current Establishment, which the Maxwell Kofi Jumah tapes illustrate so perfectly.

Personally, they remind one of similar conversations by some of Mr. Maxwell Kofi Jumah’s political forebears (who also had a similar contempt for ordinary people and for democracy), which one overhead at home as a precocious 13 year-old boy – who had a keen interest in current affairs: even at that age during the immediate post-Nkrumah years.

My loathing for politicians of Mr. Kofi Jumah’s ilk stems directly from that period of my life: when I often overhead after-dinner conversations, telephone conversations and read secret cabinet files of that era. The shocking tribal-supremacist utterances of some of the figures of history from that particular period of our history, whom one encountered at our home from time to time, were a huge disappointment to even a small boy that young then.

Clearly, the minority of powerful tribal-supremacists who have hijacked and dominated the New Patriotic Party (NPP) since the party came to power in January 2001, are determined to hang on to power at all costs – regardless of what the verdict of the people of Ghana in the presidential run-off.

Although he also writes of:

… the sense of fair play that is an inherent part of the character of ordinary Asantes: many of whom were appalled by the monstrous and abominable actions of the NPP activists throughout the Ashanti Region.

The Jumah tape is not the only tape. Another tape made it on the radio about a plot to kill former President Rawlings, who has been traveling the country campaigning vigorously for Mills and the NDC. It was released to the radio by the man supposedly hired to do the killing.

There have been other tapes and accusations as well. Apparently some disgruntled NPP members have recorded and released recordings of NPP political plotting. Some of these NPP members are angry because they have not gotten what they view as their share of the spoils. And some because they may be offended by some of the anti democratic practices.

The NPP has long accused the NDC of being the coup plotting party because of President Rawlings, and the coups he made earlier in his history. But Rawlings served two terms, and performed according to the constitution, stepping down when Kufuor was elected.

However NPP actions during this election season seem designed to prevent democracy from functioning and to maintain political power.

When Rawlings was President he did a lot to bring roads, electricity, and schools throughout Ghana. Many areas such as Tain benefited. During the 8 years the NPP has ruled, almost nothing has been done, particularly in the rural areas. In some places cocoa is rotting because people can’t get it to market, and this while the international price of cocoa is rising. There have been lots of NPP government promises but no follow through. People remember this at election time. Plus there is a lot of anger about trade and other agricultural policies that have hurt Ghanaians. The professional drivers, taxi and others, are strongly for NDC. They are angry about recent creation of a special traffic court and ask, if there is a special court that fines them and puts them in jail, why are there not special courts for armed robbery and cocaine, both of which plague Ghanaians.

The NPP even made an attempt to change already certified results:

One Kennedy Agyepong, a an NPP MP, appeared at the Electoral Commission’s strong room this. By the time he left, one EC official was attempting to change certified Ashanti Region voter figures; figures which had been certified and reported late last night. And when NDC monitoring officials questioned what the official was doing, he responded that the new figures were corrected ones from Ashanti Region; figures not certified by EC personnel at the district level and figures carried into EC headquarters by an NPP MP. And the new figures were all significantly higher than the previously certified ones that were reported to the public earlier.

The NPP has made legal attempts to block the Tain runoff. To date I understand they have been denied. There were many rumblings of violence during the week, but a lot of people were working to try and cool things down. People from a number of countries were warning if the Ghana elections go seriously wrong, the effects will ripple across the whole continent.

There was talk of a power sharing agreement for awhile. I think it was a widely unpopular (and undemocratic) notion. For now at least, that seems to have been dropped.

To follow what is happening, here are some links:

Ghana election news

Ghana latest news

Ghana headline news

December 28 results

December 7 results

Say It Loud – an unmoderated, heated, exuberantly opinionated, sometimes revealing and informative Ghanaian discussion of everything touching Ghanaian life (you need a thick skin and cool head to play on this field)

Ghana Politics – Kofi Thompson’s blog, passionate, opinionated and well informed

There is an American Peace Corp volunteer who happens to be in Tain, blogging live to the world from Tain.
See: http://twitter.com/grantdobbe

ghanaelections on Twitter