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Opinions of Monday, 7 January 2008

Columnist: Aboagye, Abdulai

Ghana -Avoiding The Kenyan Debacle In 2008

Kenya which used to be a beacon of peace and civility in a region of political unrest, war and civil strife is now gradually descending into the abyss of political mess.

The reason which is probably obvious to most people is the shady election results which gave President Kibaki a second five year term. This is a sad day for Africa and all the peace loving people of the world. This political mess which has claimed over 300 lives has dwindled the the already dim hope people have for democracy in Africa. The loss in economic terms cannot also be disputed.It is reported the country loses 31 million dollars everyday due to the ongoing chaos. The tourism industry which earns Kenya over 800 million dollars a year has been greatly affected as more and more countries continue to advise their citizens not to travel to Kenya. The psychological effects and the social disharmony which will follow this conflict- even if they are resolved quickly- cannot be quantified.

For us as Ghanaians, while we pray that the situation will resolved, we should also begin to analyse the Kenya debacle and take some lessons from it as we prepare forour own general elections in 2008. Personally I think that for us to avoid similar situation the following principles must apply

RESPECT FOR AGREEMENTS- Part of the reasons this debacle has befallen Kenya is that the political establishment refused to adhere to agreements they themselves committed themselves to. For example, The Kenya Standard newspaper reported that the country's Inter Party Parliamentary Group had agreed that all parties must be consulted and should come to an agreement before the head of the electoral commission is appointed. This policy was adopted when Mr Kibaki was in opposition. However, when it came to time to appoint a new head of the electoral commission, Mr Kibaki flatly abused this agreement. The effect was that even before the start of the election there were widespread suspicion, and acrimony among the contesting parties. I hope Ghanaians will take a cue from this and avoid this mistake. Be it a written or gentleman's agreement, I hope that parties will adhere to any Standard of Operation which they may have committed themselves to. This will help stem the feeling that some parties are not playing by the rules.

TRANSPARENCY - Perhaps the biggest reason why people think that the election was stolen was how some of the tallying of the results were shrouded in secrecy, especially in the stronghold of President Kibaki. EU and other international observers were reportedly barred from some of the tallying centres in the stronghold of President Kibaki. As a result the international observers, the EU in particular said they cannot certify that the election was "up to the standard of fair elections". This assessment of the international observers give some cedibility to the opposition claim that the election was a stolen. I hope that Ghana will learn from this and let transparency prevail in the 2008 election. If you have nothing to fear you have nothing to hide, therefore to avoid the perception that one group wants to steal the election, there should be no room for secrecy in the tallying of the 2008 in Ghana.

PROMPT ANNOUNCEMENT OF RESULTS- One other reason which led to the speculation that the Kenyan election has been stolen is the delay in announcing the results from some parts of the country by the ECK (Electoral Commission of Kenya) For whatever reason known only to the ECK the results from the stronghold of Mr Kibaki was delayed for the last. And so a "false" impression was given that Mr Odinga, the opposition leader had won the election. Then suddenly the results from Mr Kibaki's stronghold started trooping in and it turn out it was enough to help him 'win' the election. This action fuelled the speculation that those results were deliberately delayed so as to inflate them for the President. And somehow they were justified. As reported by the EU observers, some of the results that were announced in Nairobi for Mr Kibaki were far different from what was actually recorded at the polling stations. For example when the results for Molo constituency was tallied at the constituency Mr Kibaki got 50,145,yet when it was announced in Nairobi he was credited with 75,261 votes. As to where the additional 25116 votes came from, I wil let you be the judge. Ghana can surely learn from this and do better.

STOKING VOLATILE SITUATIONS- There is no doubt that tempers are always high during elections but a person who aspire to lead a whole nation should try and maintain his cool when the going gets tough. In fac,t the actions of both Mr Kibaki, the President, and Mr Odinga leaves much to be desired. They are both guilty of inciting their followers. They are both guilty of inciting tribal sentiments. Their actions inflamed the already volatile situation which led to the carnage that ensued.This is a great warning to Ghanaian politicians and their followers. If we allow tribal politics to take the better part of us in 2008, we will have ourselves to blame. I hope that the good people of Ghana will reject any politician or political party which tries to play the tribal card.

NATIONAL INSTITUTONS- One other problem which led to the mess in Kenya is the way national institutions set up as neutral arbitars of the t system became stooges of the some of the politicians. Mr Kiviuti, the Kenyan electoral commissioner, is reported to have said he does not know who won the election because he was pressured to by both the government and the opposition to release the results of the elections. He is also reported to have said that by the time he got to the headquarters of the ECK the chief justice was there to swear in Mr Kibaki. So how could this happen? One could argue that these people may have been pressured but, nothing stopped them from resigning their positions. I hope that Ghanaians will learn from this situation and do whatever they can to let independent institutions stay independent. So far we have done well and I hope that the trend continues in the 2008 election.

Ghana has come very far with our infant democracy and I believe that everything will be done by the governing NPP and the opposition parties, especially the NDC, to ensure that the 2008 election does derail our democratic train. God bless Ghana!!!

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.