Ghanaian view on the presidential campaign
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It’s August and it’s really hot. We are in the political silly season, and there is a lot at stake in the fall polls.

The country’s two primary political parties are at odds on just about everything, agreeing only on their visceral disdain for each other. The incumbent government, in power for eight years, has failed to deliver. Lives have not gotten better. Parents fear that their children will not have an opportunity for a better life.  I am not referring to America’s “summer of discontent,” this is the mood in the West African nation of Ghana.

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On December 7,  2016, Ghanaians will elect a new president and parliament. It is the seventh consecutive democratic elections since the end of military rule in 1992. In Ghana, power has been peacefully transferred from incumbent to opposition political parties. This is a relatively new, and still irregular, phenomena in Africa. In December, Ghana’s presidential choice will come down to the incumbent, John Mahama, the standard bearer of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), and Nana Akufo-Addo, the leader of the primary opposition party, the New Patriotic Party (NPP).

Not unlike in the US, politics in Ghana is a national pastime. Everyone has an opinion on what’s gone wrong, who’s to blame, and how things could be done better. The debate is polarizing. Not unsurprisingly, Ghanaians are just as opinionated about America’s political contest.

A conversation in Accra 

I am in Owusu, in the greater Accra metropolitan area, and I am waiting for my 3:00 PM meeting to start, it’s now 4:15 PM. About a half dozen Ghanaian professionals are in wait with me (women, men, youth to middle age). Perfect time to conduct my own informal focus group on how the US political process is viewed from West Africa. Not to mention a great distraction from constantly checking our phones to see the time, and from the warm humid air being pushed out by the air conditioning unit.

“It’s the Republicans own fault for Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpStephen Miller: Trump to further crackdown on illegal immigration if he wins US records 97,000 new COVID-19 cases, shattering daily record Biden leads Trump by 8 points nationally: poll MORE,” says Michael. “They got exactly what their demographics asked for. “Trump captured the anger in America. First he took over the party’s grassroots, and then he took all of the delegates.”

“I understand it,” says Kofi M. “Here in Africa, democracy isn’t easy, nothing seems to get done. There is so much theft and corruption. There are times when I hear African friends longing for the era of the strong man.”

“You know what it is?” Suggest Attobrah. “Trump is so politically incorrect. He says what a lot of Americans think, but are afraid to say openly. They see him as courageous.”

Says Michael, “We liked Jeb Bush. We liked his brother, George W. Bush, he did a lot for Africa, much more than Clinton or Obama. But Trump just destroyed him. And the American media encouraged it, it’s like they were complicit!”

“Okay, let’s move to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump may continue to campaign after Election Day if results are not finalized: report Hillicon Valley: Biden campaign slams Facebook after thousands of ads blocked | Majority of voters in three swing states saw ads on social media questioning election validity: poll | Harris more often the target of online misinformation Analysis: Where the swing states stand in Trump-Biden battle MORE,” I say to everyone, all so engrossed in the conversation no one seems to notice we have waited another 30 minutes.

“Well, I love her,” says Attobrah. “She has a lot of experience.” There is a pause. I wait for everyone else to agree. But they don’t.

“America is not a monarchy,” insist Ouborr. “Hillary would be nothing if she wasn’t Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonArizona: On the fast track to swing state status Trump fights for battleground Arizona The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump, Biden face off for last time on the debate stage MORE’s wife.” The American presidency is not an office you are entitled to, either by birth, or by marriage.”

“I don’t trust Hillary,” Tina jumps in. “I see nothing genuine in her, but her ambition.”

“So what would you do?” I ask. “You have to make a choice.” This time there is no pause.

Kofi F. jumps in. “The prospect of a Trump presidency is unimaginable. America would not survive it.” Everyone nods in agreement.

“Wow, I react, “you guys are more engaged than many Americans I meet, why is that?”

Tina says in a matter of fact voice, “Because everything that happens in America, impacts us. Your election is as important to Ghana as our own. We are not disinterested spectators.”

And with Tina’s final words, we are all finally called into our meeting. It is now 5:50 PM.

K. Riva Levinson is President and CEO of KRL International LLC a DC-based consultancy that works in the world emerging markets. She is the author of Choosing the Hero: My Improbable Journey and the Rise of Africa’s First Woman President (Kiwai Media, June 2016).


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.