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07.05.2008 Feature Article

A tale of three elections and maybe more…

The last few months have given most observers a view of concurrent democratic processes, some of which are currently active. Thankfully, in Ghana we consider ourselves past the stage of military officers transforming themselves into civilian leaders. Pakistan is wrestling with this problem and the wanton loss of life with the suppression of the judiciary which is consistent with that stage of political development. There is no suggestion here that a former military officer cannot perform well as a civilian leader. The issue is the cost of this transformation to young democracies and the institutions that are often distorted and dismembered to achieve this end.

Many have wondered aloud whether the level of ethnically inspired post –election violence in Kenya could occur in Ghana. The Kenyan parliamentary results were announced within 3 days of the vote but some how it was more difficult to conjure the presidential vote count in the same period of time. The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM, led by Raila Odinga) had 99 members of parliament against 43 for Party of National Unity (PNU, led by Kibaki). Other small parties had 65. This indicates that Kibaki had the support of less than a quarter of the MPs but somehow he expected the world and more importantly, the Kenyan electorate to believe that they voted “Skirt and blouse” when they knew they had voted for a “full suit”.

The consequence of this disingenuous power grabbing action by Kibaki and his political hacks has been the loss of more than 1000 innocent Kenyan lives and destroyed the country's longstanding international image and its economy. Is our democracy free of these risks? Is our electoral commission independent enough to withstand this sort of attack from a leader who cannot go to the pasture and graze after the people peacefully vote to tell him so? How far is our judiciary prepared to defend the constitution of the 4th Republic? Sadly, Raila Odinga's observation that it may be easier for a Luo (Obama) to become President in the United States than it is for a Luo to become President in Kenya is such a true reflection on the state of democratic development on our continent. Busumuru Kofi Annan's hard won settlement has stopped the bleeding but may not have cured the illness itself. There is an acute case raging in Zimbabwe right now! Curing the illness will be a far more complex task, requiring many more hands on deck. What will it take?

A major attitudinal shift in how the business of national governance is conducted is long overdue. We are many steps removed from Kenyan – type internecine strife thanks to forward thinking unifying early leadership in our country's development towards nationhood. However, the malignant cancer of corruption has not met decisive treatment up till this point. Corruption and wanton greed undermine productivity and deny ordinary citizens their rights and sometimes their very lives. We need leadership which will inspire us to reconnect with our long lost values. The portrait of our founding values of high academic standards, personal integrity, hard work, incorruptible public officials and a belief in an unassailable national character has been greatly stained beyond recognition.
The upcoming elections in Ghana should speak truth to our very ideals and lost values.

The next president should have a clean break with the past methods of governance which have disenfranchised the population. Of the 3 major candidates, Papa Kwesi Nduom, the CPP standard-bearer probably has the greatest opportunity to inspire the electorate with a substantive transformation of the nation. This is similar to the current dynamic in the US democratic race, where another relatively young candidate of African heritage is promising not only “thinking outside the box” but a new box altogether. Maybe the CPP's creed of “Forward ever, Backward never” may yet have real meaning in the lives of Ghanaians.

This is not to suggest that the current government has not served us well but in the end only the voters will tell us if they have brought about enough “Positive Change” to stay on through Nana Akuffo-Addo. The NDC probably has the toughest road to hoe. They have an earlier military legacy with its attendant human rights abuses to overcome and a candidate, who though qualified, may be over-exposed and poorly presented. In the end, we need to accept the basic principle of democracy. The people are always right even when they appear to be wrong. Democracy is not about leaders it has always been about the people.

This lesson is yet to be understood by the Kibakis and Mugabes of the world. And what a price the people have paid for decades of the corrupt Kikuyu hegemony in Kenya and the cultish rule of Mugabe in Zimbabwe. The current situation in Zimbabwe is a test of broad leadership in Africa. Mugabe is being treated with kid gloves by other African presidents while the people are starved of their freedoms and basic necessities. The worst form of injustice is not by those who do wrong but by those who have the power and opportunity to stop injustice but stand silently by.

We expect a lot more from the AU and other African leaders. Condemnation of Zimbabwe's farcical elections should be unequivocally clear if we are to dissuade others from trying these approaches in the future. Mugabe should be treated as a pariah by other leaders. He has failed Zimbabwe and shamed Africa. There are lessons in Kenya and Zimbabwe for all of Africa.

Thaddeus Ulzen, Dr.
Thaddeus Ulzen, Dr., © 2008

The author has 60 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: ThaddeusUlzen

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