Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

from Africa News blog:

Ghana steps back from the brink

Ghana's epic nail-biter of an election has finally ended with opposition leader John Atta Mills being declared the winner by the narrowest of margins: barely 40,000 votes out of 9 million, or less than 0.5 percent of votes from the past week's run-off.

Virtually everybody was expecting a close race, but the contest got tighter and increasingly acrimonious as both rival camps sensed power was within their reach. As the vote went down to the wire, to be decided with delayed voting held in one final constituency on Jan 2, the ruling New National Party (NNP) announced a boycott and launched legal proceedings to postpone the poll and freeze the announcement of results
 
After a year that has seen electoral bloodshed in Kenya and Zimbabwe one analyst who has followed the vote closely warned that incidents of violence during the polls indicated Ghana "may be coming close to that abyss of no-return".
 
Yet shortly after the Electoral Commission announced results on Saturday, Akufo-Addo conceded defeat, congratulated Mills and both candidates were stressing the need for cooperation and consensus between their two parties.

What a difference a few hours makes - although Whether they are able to make that promise a reality for the party rank and file caught up in the bitter rivalries of the past few months, only time will tell.
 
So what was all the fuss about? By the most alarming interpretations, Ghana has stepped back from the brink of chaos. Others say it was just healthy competition.
 
Some observers say the simple fact the country's institutions, especially its Electoral Commission, were able to cope with such a tense, tight race and ensure both sides respected the results, is proof of the deep roots democracy has in Ghana. That is a point of pride for many Ghanaians aware of their country's history as the first sub-Saharan colony to achieve independence and one of the first to adopt democratic politics under outspoken former coup-leader Jerry Rawlings, who appointed Mills as his vice-president in the 1990s.
 
So is the bitter wrangling between the two main parties a "slur on Ghana's democratic credentials", as one analyst put it? Or should the country be proud that even such a hard-fought election should end without widespread violence? Do the past month's elections show Ghana's democracy is alive and well, or expose its weaknesses? How does it compare with elections elsewhere in Africa? And, given many people say there is little difference between the manifestoes of the centre-right NPP and Mills's centre-left National Democratic Congress (NDC), was the election worth the risk?

(Picture: Supporters of Mills of opposition NDC party celebrate their candidate's win after elections in Accra. Luc Gnago / Reuters)

Cheers for Africa’s new military ruler. For now.

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Fifteen years ago this month, Guinea’s late ruler Lansana Conte made clear what form democracy would take under his rule.

We answered a summons to a late night news conference to hear the result of his first multiparty election, speeding through silent streets where armoured vehicles waited in the shadows. The interior minister announced that ballots from the east, the opposition’s stronghold, had been cancelled because of irregularities. Conte had therefore won 50.93 percent of the vote. There was no need for a run-off because he had an absolute majority.

More power-sharing in Africa?

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Kenya’s power-sharing government was only born after weeks of election violence that killed 1,300 people. Zimbabwe’s power sharing agreement is yet to bear fruit as southern Africa’s former breadbasket crumbles into economic ruin.

So will power sharing in Central African Republic, where one of Africa’s most forgotten conflicts has been simmering for more than half a decade, fare any better?

Ghana’s elections: Dare Africa hope?

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As Ghanaians get set to elect a new president and parliament on Sunday, there seems to be as much attention on what a new leader will mean for Ghana as on what message Ghana will send the world about the state of Africa today. After a dismal year with elections rigged or marred by violence in Kenya, Zimbabwe and most recently Nigeria, to name but a few, Africa could do with a pick-me-up.

Despite some wobbles and sporadic violence in northern Ghana where several people were killed in the early stages of the campaign, preparations for Sunday’s elections have gone relatively smoothly.

Zimbabwe sinking fast

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From a distance it is always hard to picture just how hard life is in Zimbabwe and to imagine how much worse it can get. For so long we have been writing about economic collapse, inflation statistics beyond comprehension, the fact that at least a quarter of the country has fled to seek work abroad and that life expectancy has tumbled.

Commentators have long spoken of the dangers of a possible ‘meltdown’. The signs of what that might look like have grown stronger this week.

Drugs and guns in Guinea-Bissau

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Members of Guinea-Bissau’s unruly armed forces have blotted the military’s record again with another attack against the country’s political institutions. Early on Sunday, Nov. 23, renegade soldiers, their faces hooded, sprayed the Bissau residence of President Joao Bernardo “Nino” Vieira with machine-gun and rocket-propelled grenade fire. The president survived unhurt this latest apparent attempt to topple him.

 

But The attack underlined the fragility of the small, cashew nut-exporting West African nation, one of the poorest in the world and a former Portuguese colony which has suffered a history of bloody coups, mutinies and uprisings since it won independence in 1974 after a bush war led by Amilcar Cabral. The assault followed parliamentary elections on Nov. 16 which donors were hoping would restore stability and put in place a new government capable of resisting the serious threat posed by powerful Latin American cocaine-trafficking cartels who use Guinea-Bissau as a staging post to smuggle drugs to Europe.

Where now for Zimbabwe?

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It was not hard to see which of Zimbabwe’s rivals felt he had come out on top from the regional summit at the weekend.

 

President Robert Mugabe described the leaders as “persuasive”. Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said he was “shocked and saddened”.

Will Zimbabwe deal ever work?

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Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe addresses supporters at Harare airportZimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has sworn in two vice-presidents ahead of talks on power-sharing. He has also allocated important ministries to his ZANU-PF parties.

It’s a familiar pattern.

Mugabe imposes his will and MorganTsvangirai’s opposition cries foul.

Will former South African President Thabo Mbeki be able to mediate a breakthrough? After being ousted as president by his ANC party, he might not be so confident to be seen walking hand in hand with Mugabe at the airport as he has in the past.

Is Mbeki’s time up?

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Thabo Mbeki, president of South Africa, speaks during a news conference at United Nations headquarters in New York

South African President Thabo Mbeki did not get to bask long in the success of securing Zimbabwe’s power-sharing deal before finding himself in the firing line again at home.

Now his most strident foes - who can be found within his ruling African National Congress – say he should be pushed from office after a judge made clear he saw political interference in the corruption trial against ANC leader and longstanding Mbeki rival Jacob Zuma.

What chance for Zimbabwe’s deal?

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President Robert MugabeThere have been so many swings from optimism to pessimism and back again, that Zimbabweans might find it hard to believe there finally appears to be a power-sharing deal after two months of talks.

According to both sides, President Robert Mugabe has agreed to share power with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai after 28 years of rule that concentrated power in his own hands.

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