As Thursday, August 29 approaches, political tension grows in Ghana. On TV, radio and in public appearances, Ghana’s political and religious leaders call for peace and acceptance. I have heard rumors of a mandatory curfews Thursday through Sunday. I have been advised to stay home on Thursday and to withdraw extra cash beforehand to prepare for a worst-case scenario. This Thursday, the Ghana Supreme Court will announce their ruling on a petition challenging the results of the country’s 2012 presidential election, and many Ghanaians are concerned about possible reactions to the ruling, the worst of which could be violence or civil war.
Within days of the Electoral Commission’s declaration that the National Democratic Party’s (NDC) candidate and incumbent John Dramani Mahama won the election, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) filed a petition with the Supreme Court to review the election results because of alleged vote tampering by Ghana’s Electoral Commission. The NPP, who believes their candidate Nana Akufo-Addo should have won, has presented many points of election misconduct, most notably missing, altered and duplicate “pink sheets” (used to submit certified vote counts) that were collected from over 11,000 polling stations around the country. The NDC insists that election was administered within the confines of the law.
The first few weeks of my assignment at the Millennium Villages Project Bonsaaso, workers in the main offices, like most of the nation, almost always had at least one ear-bud inserted to listen to radio coverage of the hearings. On breaks, they were gathered around the TV. After the hearings, we listened to the media’s continuous speculation about the outcome, and pleas for a peaceful reaction to the ruling were being broadcast in earnest. Both sides presented final arguments to the court a few weeks ago, and now we await their ruling.
Although both parties are urging their supporters to accept the Supreme Court’s ruling, whatever it may be, the possibility for violence does exist. I don’t want to get sucked into over-dramatization by the local media and its patrons, but I also don’t want to get caught unprepared. I will take the necessary precautions, and then I will witness a political event unlike any other I’ve witnessed. It is an exciting time to be in Ghana — to observe its relatively new political and legal systems at work. I want to believe that national pride and the desire to demonstrate political stability will win out over violence. I am cheering for Ghana to shine on Thursday, to show confidence in their systems, to apply lessons learned during this election to the next one, and to set a positive example for other developing nations.