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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Overview of Ghana’s 2012 Presidential Election

 

On Friday Ghana will hold its Presidential Election.  Ghana presidential elections are on the same 4 year cycle as the United States, though the election is in December rather than November.  Presidents are limited to two terms, same as the United States.  This is the sixth presidential election since the end of military government.  Twice an incumbent loosing party has peacefully turned over power to the incoming winners of the election.  

The most respected pollster in Ghana, Ben Ephson, predicts that John Dramani Mahama of the NDC will win on the first round of balloting, and that the NDC will maintain a majority in parliament.

Below is a sample presidential ballot for this election. 

Sample ballot for Ghana’s 2012 Presidential election

You can find more information about each of the candidates at Ghana Decides. Click on the picture of a candidate and you’ll more information about that candidate. And you can follow news and commentary from Ghana Politics from GhanaWeb

There are a number of active political parties fielding presidential candidates, the main contest is between the NPP and the NDC. The NPP’s strongest area of support is in the Ashanti region, and the NPP candidate is Nana Akufo-Addo. The NDC’s strongest support comes from the Volta Region, although its presidential candidate, John Mahama, is originally from the Northern region. There is more information on Ghana’s regions here.

ghanaregions

Both parties have supporters throughout Ghana. Below you see totebags with the symbols of these two largest parties.

NDC and NPP tote bags for the 2012 Ghana Presidential Election

Savvy and enthusiastic young internet users in Ghana have carried on an active get out the vote effort on Facebook, BloggingGhana, BloGh, on Twitter #GhanaDecides, and Ghana Decides on Youtube. AlJazeera featured this internet presence in an article Turning Likes Into Votes.

A candidate they call “The Facebook president,” another who trended worldwide on Twitter, and a third who is speaking directly to voters via Google hangout. With only 10% internet penetration in a country with more than 14 million registered voters, what role will social media play in Ghana’s upcoming presidential election? And will online support for the candidates translate into offline votes?

In the days and months leading up to Ghana’s December 7 elections, candidates and civic organisations are using social media-savvy techniques to engage the Ghanaian electorate to get out the vote.

From #GhanaDedides comes word map of keywords used by the candidates, about the issues, and in news stories about the election.

2012 Ghana election keyword map

2012 Ghana election keyword map

Ghana has begun using biometric identification for voting. I have serious reservations about this, but will watch to see how it works. My question is who has access to this information, and who will gain access over time. We know the US government wants to collect biometric information on African political figures and activists based on the Wikileaks cables. We know the Pentagon is expanding its spy network in Africa.

 

Some electoral backstory

 

In 1992 Jerry John Rawlings ended his tenure as military leader of Ghana and was elected president. He was the flagbearer of the NDC party, which he founded. He won reelection in 1996, serving 8 years, which is the Ghana Constitutional limit, just like in the US. In 2000 he peacefully turned over power to the NPP and newly elected President Kufuor. Rawlings remains very popular but has bitter enemies as well, whose enmity he has earned. In 2000 his Vice President, John Evans Atta-Mills ran as the NDC candidate against John Kufuor, the NPP candidate. Many people thought it was time for a change, that the NDC had been running things long enough. Kufuor is a very likable guy, and he and the NPP won the 2000 election and were reelected in 2004.

Unfortunately the NPP leadership chose to work on enriching themselves rather than the country. Corruption has always been a problem, but Kufuor and the NPP leadership institutionalized corruption to new levels. They sold off Ghana’s assets and land to themselves and to foreign interests, and pocketed the profits. Money for public projects disappeared with nothing to show for it. Kufuor spent much of his terms in office traveling at taxpayer expense. In 2007 it was officially announced that significant deposits of offshore oil would be coming into production for Ghana from the Jubilee field. Kufuor arranged with Barclays Bank to set up Ghana with tax haven offshore banking.

In my observation, the NPP is very similar to the Republican party in the US. It is a party that wants to reward and advantage existing elites. Many of its leaders come from the families of people who were elites before colonialism, and enjoyed privileged status during the years of colonialism. Many of them opposed independence and then opposed the projects that would help Ghana become economically independent, such as the building of the Akosombo dam and Tema harbor. I think if the NPP had been able to dial down the corruption a bit, and produce a bit more, it would have stayed in power. The battle for votes and battles over counting the votes were fierce in the 2008 election, which went to three rounds. John Atta-Mills finally won the 2008 election. It was decided by one constituency, Tain, in the Brong-Ahafo region. Rawlings campaigned energetically for Mills. Rawlings had helped some to build up the area, but it had been mostly ignored during the tenure of the NPP. Roads were neglected and farmers could not get their cocoa to market to sell.

John Atta-Mills was distinguished by his rare degree of wisdom and honesty. That was not necessarily the case with the people around him. He was good natured and people worried he might not be a strong enough leader, though he could be tough. Rawlings wanted to continue running things through Mills and Mills quietly did not let him. Rawlings frequently railed against Mills from the sidelines throughout the 4 year term. Mills also successfully resisted the persuasions of US AFRICOM to send Ghanaian soldiers into Ivory Coast as US proxies in January 2011.

In July 2012 President Mills died suddenly and unexpectedly, though he was known to have health problems. In another democratic triumph, Ghana moved smoothly and quickly to swear in Vice President Mahama as President, following prescribed Constitutional procedures and without incident. At the time he died Mills was a very popular figure and the entire country mourned his passing. Mahama then became the NDC nominee for President and has shown himself to be knowledgeable and able.

In the NPP, Akufo-Addo, who was Kufuor’s Vice President, and who had run for President in 2008 was nominated again. In 2011 in a speech in Koforidua, speaking about his intentions for the election, in a voice shaking with intensity he said three times “all die be die”, meaning that violence is entirely acceptable if needed to win, deaths are an acceptable price for electoral victory. Akufo-Addo has shown himself prone to violence before, as when his bodyguards beat and killed fellow NPP member Seth Michael Ahyiah. Akufo-Addo has tried to weasle out of the meaning of all die be die, but has never withdrawn the words. Many are afraid he will stir up violence if he does not win. Soon thereafter the wild talking NPP member of parliament, Kennedy Agyepong saidif we do not win, Ghana will become like Rwandaand

… he has declared war on all Ewes living in the Ashanti region, and that the NPP activists in the region should attack Ewes with machetes and cutlasses. He warned that any security personnel who will try to keep the peace in the region will be lynched.

This did get Kennedy Agyepong in trouble with the law, as it should. And there are more recent reports of danger: Akufo-Addo’s all-die-be-die militants unmasked. NPP supporters are not the only source of danger and potential violence, but with “all die be die” they have been the most overt.

Most of the politicians and parties are urging peaceful behavior during the election, and that is a major message of the online electioneering. There is a strong push for peace and respect for the law from all parties.

I have dealt mainly with the political history and maneuvering here, without sufficient attention to the issues. For an understanding of the issues, you might do best listening to the IEA, Institute of Economic Affairs debates, which are on YouTube: IEA Debate in Tamale (30-10-12) [Full], and the edited IEA Final Presidential Debate (21-11-12). Overall my impression was that John Mahama was by far the most knowledgeable with the most breadth and depth of understanding. The most visionary platform (pdf) as I see it comes from the GCPP whose candidate is Henry Lartey, who wants to build a new solar energy based economy. I know little about him or the party, though his father was highly respected.

As mentioned above, you can find more information about each of the candidates at Ghana Decides Click on the picture of a candidate and you’ll find more information about that candidate. Wikipedia has articles on Ghana’s main political parties and candidates. And you can follow election news and commentary from GhanaWeb Ghana Elections 2012

 
 

Update December 9, 2012

John Mahama wins.
Dr. Afari-Gyan, head of Ghana’s Electoral Commission, reports all the votes have been counted and all constituencies have reported. 79.43% of Ghanaian voters turned out to vote.
John Mahama is President Elect with 50.70% of the vote.
Nana Akufo-Addo received 47.74%.