Tuesday, January 6, 2009



5th January, 2009

Ghana’s presidential election has been applauded as a ray of hope for functioning democracy. The hotly contested poll raised tension that threatened to mar peace. While there were a few cases of violence, the vote was mostly peaceful.

In a show of maturity, ruling party presidential candidate Nana Akufo-Addo conceded defeat after the Electoral Commission declared opposition leader John Atta Mills winner. “I acknowledge the electoral commissioner’s declaration and congratulate Professor Mills,” Akufo-Addo told a news conference. Mills got 50.23% against 49.77% for Akufo-Addo.

That the incumbent conceded defeat in such a closely contested poll is a sharp contrast to what the continent experienced in January 2008 in Kenya where post-election violence claimed over 1,000 people. In Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai have been in a deadlock for months over a power-sharing agreement after disputed elections.

If the election in Ghana had gone wrong, it would have been a setback not just for Ghana but for the whole of Africa. Early this year, when the Kenyan election went wrong, the whole region was affected and to date the economies of the eastern Africa countries are yet to recover from the aftermath of the violence.

South Africa, is likely to go to the polls in March in what analysts expect will be its most tense vote since the end of apartheid in 1994, after a power struggle split the ruling African National Congress last year.

Another 20 African countries including Angola, Sudan, Botswana, Malawi and Chad will hold elections this year. To avert election violence, it would be good for stakeholders to emulate the maturity with which the Ghana contenders and the electoral commission have handled the poll.

In addition, stakeholders like the African Union should create opportunities for opponents to discuss the likely outcomes of the elections long before the poll and to prepare the contenders to accept the poll result. Stakeholders should also facilitate the electoral commissions to enable them handle the polls independently and professionally.