Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Strengths and weaknesses in Ghana's democracy

Ghana's democracy is robust compared to some other ECOWAS countries, including Gambia. On the same day Ghana's president Mahama accepted defeat, the first sitting president to lose an election in Ghana, the president of Gambia decided he didn't want to accept his electoral defeat after all.

Ghana has had peaceful multiparty elections for 25 years, and Decembers's election marks the third democratic alternation of power between parties, but in other ways Ghana's democracy shows weaknesses, as described in a recent Monkey Cage post from Nic Cheeseman, Gabrielle Lynch and Justin Willis. The whole thing is worth reading but here are some highlights:
During the campaign, a widely shared video showed Mahama allegedly “buying votes” — handing out money to women at a market.

71 percent of respondents in that survey said they prefer democracy to any other form of government — ... But the results suggest that despite Ghana’s impressive experience of open and competitive elections, Ghanaians accept some problematic electoral practices

For example, 43 percent of Ghanaians ... answered that bribing voters was either “not wrong at all” or was “wrong but should not be punished.” Similarly, 76 percent of Ghanaians ... felt that politicians should not be punished for directing development projects toward areas that support them. 
... our survey reveals that many politicians and voters do not consider giving gifts to voters to be an illegitimate act. In fact, many voters expect or even demand such practices.

... research shows that such practices have problematic consequences. Gift-giving during the campaign makes people forget that MPs are not just sources of patronage but are also supposed to debate legislation and scrutinize government. It encourages voters to judge a politician’s performance by what Americans call “pork”: whether they have built a clinic or paid for school fees in someone’s home town. 
And that has unhealthy consequences for accountability, because it encourages voters to turn a blind eye to where the money to fund these activities has come from.

Math can be dangerous

... especially when you're counting ballots in a country where the president doesn't want to lose.

From Reuters:
The head of Gambia's electoral commission has fled to Senegal due to threats to his safety after declaring that President Yahya Jammeh lost last month's election, a defeat the ruler has refused to accept.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Dueling claims about Boko Haram stronghold - either Sambisa forest was captured or it wasn't

From Reuters last week:
A man purporting to be the leader of Nigerian Islamist militant group Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, denied the jihadist group has been pushed out of its stronghold in the Sambisa forest, but the army said the base had been captured.
President Muhammadu Buhari on Saturday said Boko Haram's last enclave in the forest, a former game reserve in northeastern Nigeria, had been captured in the "final crushing" of the group.
Reuters has been unable to independently verify that the area was captured.
"We are safe. We have not been flushed out of anywhere," the man identifying himself as Shekau said in a video ... "If you indeed crushed us, how can you see me like this? How many times have you killed us in your bogus death?" ...
Nigeria's military has in recent years said it has killed or wounded Shekau on multiple occasions. 
Such statements have often swiftly been followed by video denials by someone who says he is Shekau, but poor footage makes it hard to confirm if the person is the same man as in previous videos. ...
Here's some evidence from Niger that might support the Nigerian government's claims:
Dozens of Boko Haram fighters have given themselves up to authorities in southern Niger, the interior minister said, days after the Islamist group suffered key losses over the border in Nigeria.
Although the Sambisa forest isn't very close to the Niger border, so maybe the events are unrelated (see map).

Gambia election follow-up: ECOWAS forces on alert

From Reuters:
Gambian leader Yahya Jammeh accused West African regional body ECOWAS of declaring war, after it said it was putting forces on alert in case he refused to step down at the end of his mandate this month. ...