Ghana: Political mood keeps gaining momentum ahead of presidential elections

Ghana's new presidential palace: the Golden Jubilee House worth an estimated $50 million, incumbent Mahama and opposition leader Akufo-Addo races towards this edifice which has been disputed over its cost. PHOTO:Panoramio

Sunday, November 4, 2012

By Modou S. Joof
The political mood keeps gaining momentum in Ghana as each day passes by. One of the “most celebrated democracies” on the continent, the West African nation of Ghana is gearing up for a decisive presidential election on December 7, 2012.

With barely 38 days to go into the general polls, all political parties are on campaign spree in an attempt to convince eligible voters to buy into the policies they have for the country when voted into power.

As usual on the campaign trail are allegations upon allegations as well as unsubstantiated claims by the politicians when they mount the platform to address the people. So far, the country has remained peaceful as usual with the security agencies mapping out strategies to handle any eventuality before, during and after the elections.

As at the close of Thursday, October 18, 2012, seven political parties in addition to an independent presidential candidate were officially accepted by the Electoral Commission of Ghana to contest the 2012 general elections.

The political parties and their presidential candidates are:  National Democratic Congress (NDC) which is the ruling party has interim President John Dramani Mahama leading them; New Patriotic Party (NPP) headed by Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo;  Convention People's Party (CPP) headed by Dr Michael Abu Sakara Foster;  Progress Peoples Party (PPP) led by Dr Paa Kwesi Nduom;  Peoples National Convention (PNC) led by Mr Hasan Ayariga; United Front Party (UFP) led by Mr. Akwasi Adddai Odike;  Great Consolidated Popular Party (GCPP) led by Mr Henry Lartey;  and an Independent Candidate, Mr Jacob Osei Yeboah.

Six other political parties that had showed interest in contesting the polls had their hopes dashed when the Electoral Commission rejected their nomination forms at the close of the nominations.
They are the National Democratic Party (NDP) – a breakaway from the ruling NDC led by former first lady, Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings; New Vision Party (NVP) led by Prophet Daniel Nkansah; Ghana Freedom Party (GFP) led by Madam Akua Donkor; Independent People's Party (IPP) led by Kofi Akpaloo; YES People's Party; and the Democratic Freedom Party.

Who will win?

At the moment, the battle is clearly between the ruling NDC and the largest opposition NPP.
The two political parties have been the main front runners in any general elections conducted in the Ghana since 1992.

Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and his NPP appear to be in a good position to win this year's elections as majority of Ghanaians are complaining about the severe economic hardship situation in the country.

An opinion poll by DaMina Frontier Markets, an international research group based in the United States, has predicted a first round victory for NPP in the December 7 elections.

DaMina, which rightly predicted the outcome of the 2008 presidential elections, says its statistical model, and on-the-ground surveys, predict first round victory for NPP and a return to opposition of the now ruling Mahama-led NDC after only four years in power.

According to DaMina, the NPP would win 52 to 53 per cent of the popular vote in the first round, with the NDC winning not more than 48 per cent. It said traditional incumbency would not help President John Dramani Mahama, with barely less than two months to the vote.  

However, another opinion poll by Synovate Ghana, a research outfit, predicts the NDC will win "if the elections were held today [September 2012]". Based on empirical evidence on the ground, the late Atta Mills' party stands a better chance of winning the elections.

In a random interview, many people said they will vote for Mahama to continue the "tremendous" development that Mills started. Mahama have worked under Mills as vice-president for the past three years.
What are parties saying?

This year's elections are centered on issues ranging from Health Care, Education, Energy (electricity and gas) to keep businesses running, Shelter, Potable water, Jobs, among many others. But the key issue which the two leading political parties are dealing with is Education.

According to the opposition NPP, when voted into power, it will introduce a free fee-paying Senior High School (SHS) education policy to enable every Ghanaian of school going age access second cycle education.

Journalist Stephen Odoi-Larbi in the Ghanaian capital Accra, told me “This campaign appears to be doing a lot of damage to the ruling NDC who have mounted a stiff opposition to such claims arguing that free fee-paying SHS is only possible when the right structures including school buildings, improve teachers condition of service, text books among many others are put in place for quality education.”

Initially, their (NDC’s) argument was such a policy was not possible. However, after realizing that it was doing a lot of damage to them (NDC), they've been forced to change their tone, the Parliamentary Correspondent of The Chronicle added.

The ruling NDC party however pledges to continue to improve access and quality of education until 2016 before they will introduce the free fee-paying SHS education policy. 

Meanwhile, all other political parties that have been cleared to contest the general polls are saying that “a free fee-paying SHS education policy is possible in 2013.”

Silly path

There is civility in the kind of message the politicians put across. However, the conflict within the NDC is still rife as there is a cold war between the NDC and its founder, former President John Rawlings, observed Mr. Odoi-Labri, who is also the publisher of MyCommunityPortal.

Gambian journalist Lamin Jahateh said this is the election that will determine the future of Ghana: the elections that will determine who will preside over enormous oil revenue of the country, the  elections where a leader will be elected who will face a challenge of meeting the heightened expectations of Ghanaian citizens for material improvements to their daily lives.

“The policies of the next president will determine whether the country's petro-dollars will be used for the common good or disappear as in other oil-rich countries,” said Jahateh, who is also the publisher of Gambia News Online. “The president will have to translate the wealth from the oil fields into something the people could feel, a work that the late president, John Atta Mills has started.”

Nonetheless, some members of the electorate are displeased because the oil boom that started a few years ago has failed so far to create many jobs. Eventhough the economy grew by more than 14 percent in 2011 and is projected to surpass 10 percent in 2012, people dislike the speeding pace of inflation, which is now pegged at 9 percent.

Following the demise of president John Atta Mills from cancer on July 24, 2012 it was feared that a power struggle could erupt in Ghana, however, the State of the “Gold Coast” proved to the whole world that Ghana has graduated from such “silly path” synonymous to African power and politics.

Within hours the country’s vice president John Dramani Mahama was sworn in to replace the late Mills. Such shows the political reliability and maturity of the West African nation.

Ghana’s democracy has been hailed by President Barack Obama as a “model for Africa.”


Hopes and Fears: Sudan Referendum Draws Nearer

The author
Friday, January 07, 2011

By Modou S. Joof
As the deadline for South Sudan’s referendum to determine self-governance is winding down, with just three days to go, The Voice newspaper’s Modou S. Joof looks at the hopes and fears that engulfed the run up to the referendum and the aftermath of the votes.

In May 2010, the Executive Director of the Africa Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS), Osman Hummaida, told The Voice newspaper that the April 11 to 15, 2010 Elections that were held in Sudan as part of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), was a mechanism to addressing key causes of conflict in Sudan.

This, he said were the first multiparty elections in 24 years for Sudan and that it was an essential benchmark of the CPA, which brought the 22 year civil war to a halt.

According to him, the CPA provides a framework for legal and constitutional changes to take place over a six-year interim period, ending with the 2011 referendum for self determination in the South of Sudan and Abyei.

He admitted that the elections represented a significant step forward, giving Sudanese who never had the chance to exercise their voting rights to do so, whereas the campaign offered a unique opportunity to engage in political issues that are critical to the nation.


However, in the build up to the referendum slated for January 9, 2011, administrative government of the oil rich South Sudan has been optimistic to have the opportunity to taste self-governance. 

They have since set out a blue print development agenda and have worked earnestly to the successful but tough task of registering millions of voters. "With or without the collaboration with the North, the South said it was determined to go through the process of holding a referendum once and for all."

In September 2010, South Sudan announces that it is planning to change its major cities into "shapes of Fruit and Animal", that is, restructuring cities to take the shapes of a Rhino, Zebra etc. wherein the administrative government will be situated at the head of the Zebra. It’s an interesting initiative but such can only be visible on an aerial view. 

Prior to President Al Bahir’s visit to the South on January 4, 2011, he stressed that he will be the first to accept the decision of the south when votes are cast on January 9. 

His comments took skeptics by surprise, especially those who have always seen a gloomy atmosphere towards the build up to referendum. 

Al Bashir, who was accompanied by Sudan’s second Vice President Ali Osman Taha, reiterated his earlier comments when he visited the south on Tuesday. "If you choose to remain a united Sudan, we will welcome it. If you choose to be independent, we will still work together and we are ready to support you to achieve peace in the area", he said. 

The South felt it has been marginalized for so long and now its citizens are determined to be the architect of their own destiny. Thus, the referendum has brought hopes for many, as many of its citizens living in the North has chosen to return and take part in this historical election. It remains to be seen whether the South will secede or not, but a breakaway is more likely, analysts say and second Vice President Ali Osman Taha is likely to become its president when the region is accorded its full independence.


In an interview with The Voice newspaper in May 2010, the Associate Director of the International Refugee Rights Initiative, Olivia Bueno expressed fears that violence may erupt in Sudan in the build up to the 2011 Referendum. "In fact, there has been violence in Sudan for the past years, leading to the displacement of many citizens," she said. "Even the demarcation is likely to spark conflict given the fact that South Sudan is very rich in oil resources." 

However, Bueno said a structure has been put in place with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement to determine how such resources could be utilised without sparking conflict between the North and the South.

Will internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the South live permanently there or will have to return to their original lands provided that the South secedes from the North? Bueno said: "It is a question we do not know at the moment, there have been policies that were formulated on the issue but are so restrictive, we are trying to see how other policies that will be flexible and favourable to the IDPs can be formulated."

On January 5, 2011, the International Rescue Committee said increasing displacement from violence and a steady stream of Southern Sudanese returning home ahead of the January 9 referendum on secession are straining communities already facing dire shortages of food, water, health care and sanitation.

"We have an unfolding humanitarian crisis, layered on top of an existing and forsaken one," says Susan Purdin, the International Rescue Committee’s country director in Southern Sudan. "And then there’s the potential for mass displacement, an upsurge in political and ethnic violence and a larger scale humanitarian emergency."

Hundreds of thousands of displaced Southern Sudanese have gradually returned home since the signing of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended a 22-year civil war between Sudan’s North and South. But the pace has dramatically accelerated, with some 106,000 returnees arriving from the North over the past three months.

"The returnees are largely settling in former frontline states along the border that could be flashpoints again. They arrive with little if any money or support. Thousands are camping out at makeshift transit centers, unable to reach their final destinations. Some have nowhere to go," IRC said on Wednesday.

"These regions are struggling to recover from the last war," says Purdin. "They lack basic services, food, infrastructure, and the means to protect their civilians, and have little capacity to absorb returnees or displaced populations given the already bleak conditions."

Self-governance for South Sudan has been seen by many as a major step to curb the long standing conflict in Africa’s largest country; however, the post referendum era will determine how crucial the decision (that is if the south secedes) will be to bring lasting peace in Sudan. In a country affected by terrible suffering, the will of its citizens, if not respected, could serve as a major catalyst to the bitter experiences for people who felt marginalized. This entry was first published by The Daily News

Curbing the ‘Sociology of Grabbing’

Thursday, November 25, 2010

By Modou Joof

In The Gambia, there is not without a situation where some non-governmental organisations are guilty of exploiting poor communities, especially in rural communities.

Such so-called NGOs are usually involved in the sociology of grabbing, thereby depriving poor and helpless communities of their rights to benefit from the very projects that are said to be initiated by these NGOs.

Though the act, ‘the sociology of grabbing’ was meant for corrupt public officials in a poem written by my colleague, Saikou Jammeh, I believe that the act does not only live with government officials but private institutions and individuals as well. 

The fact that over the years the Government of The Gambia never put in place policies to protect the citizenry from being exploited by such corrupt ‘briefcase’ organisations means that largely, the affected communities had to live with it and seemingly lack the knowledge to seek redress, if that avenue has been available for them to do so.

In February this year, I reported such controversy between the people of Sam-Mbollet village and Tilly’s Tours. The later have had a number of initiatives including the provision of safe drinking water, a garden, milling machine, a bantaba, among other things to be provided for the villagers by the tour operator.

Unfortunately, after three years of fruitless relations between the two sides, they fell apart after the villagers alleged that the tour operator is exploiting them since some donors and insiders at Tilly’s Tours have consistently and reliably been informing them of monies donated to the village of Sam-Mbollet to the cause of the so-called projects initiated by the tour operator.

All initiatives failed, the monies donated were said to have been saved in an account named "GLOVE ACCOUNT" in the United Kingdom.

My efforts to get the reaction of Tilly’s Tours Manager Jakie Church proved futile, and I was reliably informed that in a bid to recover the funds donated to the village through the tour operator, the controversy reached the level of the national intelligence agency (NIA), the then Seyfo (Chief) of Lower Niumi District Alhagie Tabora Manneh and the Governor of the North Bank Region Edward Seckan.

An agreement was reached between the two parties to resume cordial relations and continue with various initiatives, after Chief Alhagie Tabora Manneh intervene. Since then, little has been gathered from the controversy and all works have halted and relations between the village and the tour operator are virtually dead.

Recently, the Minister of the Interior and NGOs Affairs in The Gambia Mr. Ousman Sonko warned that so-called NGOs formed under the pretext of helping communities in the country but rather engage in dubious activities will not be allowed to operate in the country after the enactment and approval of the proposed NGO Bill.

He said government is currently in the process of finalizing the enactment of an NGO Bill expected to streamline the activities of NGOs in The Gambia. The move will no doubt be welcomed by the people of The Gambia. What is uncertain though is how much of the Bill will be implemented if successfully made into law.

Public corruption is perceived to be high in The Gambia as the country is ranked 106 of 180 nations in Transparency International’s 2009 Corruption Perception Index.

"Though the country has put in place laws criminalizing corruption, these laws are not effectively implemented as no specific government agency is responsible for combating corruption and public officials are not subjected to financial disclosure requirements," the Inter- Governmental Action Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA) said.

The social vice of ‘the sociology of grabbing’ is not just abating in the country, now that the drug habit is unbelievably on the increase. In June 2010, police in the capital, Banjul brought drug charges against 12 foreign nationals after a massive bust by the national drug enforcement agency (NDEA) of over 2 tones, 340kgs, and 500 grams of cocaine estimated to be worth over US$1 billion.

The discovery shocked the country and exposed The Gambia as a major transit point for drugs from Latin American countries destined for Europe. The BBC said the cartels are taking advantage of the region’s weak judicial system.

On July 22, this year, President Yahya Jammeh decided to address the nation during the 16th anniversary of the July 22nd , 1994 coup, dubbed the ‘July 22nd Revolution’ on the theme: "A Definitive No To Drugs and Corruption."

"It is no secret that in the recent past, the spate of drugs in particular has increased alarmingly as Gambians became flabbergasted by discoveries of huge quantities of hard drugs involving public officers who betrayed public trust and confidence," Yahya Jammeh said.

However, President Jammeh has strongly stressed that his government will pursue the most intensive war and strictest zero-tolerance policy against drugs and corruption. "We will deploy every possible means, including a more elaborate legislative and security plan to ensure that perpetrators of all forms of crimes, including those associated with drugs and corruption are dealt with most severely," he stressed.

The Government is yet to announce publicly on how far it has gone with putting in place such policies as said by the president, however, it will equally be welcomed by many, except by drug cartels and corrupt public officials, if legislative measures are taken to curb the situation.

However, the fight against the sociology of grabbing in The Gambia is not something to be overcome overnight, in a country where earnings are relatively low, especially that of law enforcement officers.

In a situation where the common man struggles to make ends meet due to the increasing hike in prices of basic commodities, at a time when poverty is at its cruelty and a financial crisis always around, curbing the ‘sociology of grabbing’ (corruption) by public officials, NGOs and ordinary individuals needs much to be desired. This entry was first published by The Daily News

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