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Issues to watch as Ghana decides 2020

In total, twelve candidates will vie for the presidency. For the first time in Ghana’s electoral history, voters can choose between a sitting and a former president. Both major political parties have contested and accepted electoral outcomes and settled their scores within legal means thereby contributing to Ghana’s history of peaceful transitions.

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For a third consecutive time and between two familiar giants, a showdown is afoot between incumbent Nana Akufo-Addo, candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) running for a second term, and his challenger former President John Mahama, candidate of the National Democratic Congress (NDC). 

Ghanaians thronged to the voting booths as polls kicked off a few hours ago across 16 regions.  With about 17 million denizens set to cast their ballots in presidential and parliamentary elections for the next president for a four-year term and 275 members of congress.

Although previous elections had their knotty issues, Ghana has, over time demonstrated a preparedness and capacity for transparent and credible polls.

On Friday, presidential candidates of the two-horse race signed a peace deal to respect the verdict from the outcome of the polls.

When Mahama won the December 2012 polls, he won 50.4% of the votes. In 2016, Akufo-Addo won in the first round with 53.8% of the votes. These slim margins show the outcome would have been either way.

A campaign billboard shows John Dramani Mahama, Ghana’s president and National Democratic Congress (NDC) presidential candidate, and the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) presidential candidate Nana Addo on a street in Accra December 3, 2016. REUTERS/Luc Gnago – RTSUHLE

The 2020 Global Peace Index Report carried out by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) shows that Ghana is the most peaceful country in West Africa and the third on the continent.

In total, twelve candidates will vie for the presidency. For the first time in Ghana’s electoral history, voters can choose between a sitting and a former president. Both major political parties have contested and accepted electoral outcomes and settled their scores within legal means thereby contributing to Ghana’s history of peaceful transitions.

Today’s electoral high is meant to demonstrate the global reputation Ghanaians take pride in. It is meant to show Ghana as a prototype for democratic excellence.  

Now in its eight election cycles, Ghana has a lot of democratic attributes going for it – due to its free and open political space, most electorates express more confidence in the electoral process and have remained genuinely expectant of democratic dividends.

The country’s enviable democratic track record, more issue-focused campaigns, an increasingly professional media, a vibrant civil society, and strong institutions have been contributing to a more informed, perceptive, and engaged citizenry.   

Although the Coronavirus pandemic had impacted election preparations, having registered over 16 million voters through the initial voters’ registration exercise, the Electoral Commission has shown the technical capacity to administer elections. The Electoral Commission’s health and safety protocols for election activities were well adapted by electoral stakeholders, political parties, and civil society.   

As in past election cycles, misinformation, sheer propaganda and viral inflammatory messages disseminated through social media platforms have polarised media and raised the heat and political tensions.  

While Ghana’s democratic credentials are laudable, of concern is the consistently low number of women candidates which falls below global standards.  The emergence of NDC’s vice-presidential candidate Jane Naana Opoku-Agyemang as the first woman on a major party’s presidential ticket is laudable. NDC and NPP have fewer women parliamentary candidates for this election compared to 2016. This and other systemic gender barriers may reduce the number of women serving in parliament and women involved in the electoral process and governance.

Young voters between the age of 18-35 make over 59% of the voting populace, records show that high unemployment rates among this demography leaves young people vulnerable to be mobilised for violence by political gladiators and recruitment by vigilante groups.

It is the reason why unemployment and the management of the economy remain the two most crucial kernel to crack in the mouths of political gladiators seeking office. NPP’s thumpers point at positive economic indicators like reduced inflation, remarkable GDP growth figures and a reduced government deficit. The opposition rails the ruling party on the dissatisfaction with personal living conditions, high youth unemployment and a widening income gap.

Although Akufo-Addo’s outright victory in 2016 was partly attributed to voter discontent over an economic slowdown, forecast for the 2020 election result is one wherein the ruling NPP may retain the presidency with a reduced majority in parliament due to the infighting amongst congressional aspirants.

Issues around ‘corruption’ remain increasingly contentious in its polity and played a big role in the 2016 election. The Global corruption perception index which held Ghana at 70 in 2016, has now deteriorated to 80 in 2020. President Akufo-Addo campaigned strongly on the promise of fighting corruption.

NPP which had accused Mahama of corruption and mismanagement appointed Attorney General Martin Amidu as special prosecutor on corruption cases. Amidu resigned some months ago amid controversy. He is now a leading member of Mahama’s NDC. Last month he accused Akufo-Addo of corruption.  

If Voter turnout comes falls between 60%- 65% which is slightly less than December 2016’s polls estimate of 69.25%, then this election is Akufo-Addo’s to lose.

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East Africa News

Zambian President Grants 246 Death Row Inmates Clemency

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President Edgar Lungu of Zambia has removed 246 inmates, who were on death row, and commutated their sentences to life sentences.

Minister of Home Affairs, Stephen Kampyongo, on Wednesday, said that among the inmates includes 225 males and 21 females.

He announced the commuting of the sentences during an event held at Mukobeko Maximum Prison in central Zambia’s Kabwe town which was streamed live on Facebook.

He made the clemency of death to life sentences for over 500 after 332 inmates had their sentences commutated in 2015.

He said the commutation of sentences of inmates would help decongest the section of condemned inmates at the prison which was meant for 50 people but now has over 400 inmates.

The move, he said, was also meant to protect inmates from contracting COVID-19.

In spite of the death penalty being on the country’s statutes, Zambia has not carried out any execution since 1997.

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Health

Nigeria Confirms 15 Additional COVID-19 Deaths

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The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has confirmed 15 additional deaths from COVID-19 complications, bringing the total number of death toll in the country to 1,522.

The NCDC disclosed this on its website.

The centre also said that 1,303 new cases of COVID-19 was recorded, bringing the total number of infection in the country to 124,299.

The new infections were reported in 24 states and the Federal Capital Territory.

The centre said Lagos, FCT and Nasarawa recorded the highest number of COVID-19 infections on Monday, with 478 , 211 and 83 cases respectively.

Others state with new infections are Rivers-72, Kwara-42, Edo-36, Ondo-34, Benue-32, Kaduna-32, Katsina-26, Plateau-26, Kano-25, Taraba-25, Osun-22, Delta-21, Oyo-21, Niger-19, Sokoto-18, Ebonyi-17, Ekiti-14, Gombe-13, Ogun-12, Bauchi-11, Zamfara-eight, Borno-four and Jigawa-one.

The 1,270,523 people have been tested since the first confirmed case of COVID-19 was recorded on Feb. 27, 2020.

The agency also announced that 917 patients have been discharged from isolation centres across the country after testing negative to the virus , raising the total number of patients discharged to 99,276.

It added that the discharged included 542 community recoveries in Lagos State, 103 in Plateau and 22 in Kwara, managed in line with NCDC guidelines.

The NCDC noted that a multi-sectoral national Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) activated at Level III, is coordinating response activities nationwide.

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Police Rescue 5 Newborns from ‘Baby Factory’ in Anambra, Southeast Nigeria

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The Nigerian Police have rescued five newborns from a baby factory in Anambra State, southeast Nigeria.

According to CSP Haruna Ahmed – the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) in the state – 10 suspects were arrested over their roles in the baby factory where young girls are impregnated and their babies sold by human traffickers.

Mohammed, in a statement on Wednesday, said three more children and five pregnant girls were also rescued in a raid on the factory.

“On January 26, at about 7 a.m., following an intelligence report, police operatives attached to the SIB and Area Command, Oraifite, coordinated by the Area Commander, ACP Afolabi Wilfred raided the house.

“The house which belonged to one Melvina Uju Uba is located opposite Nnamdi Azikiwe Orthopedic Teaching Hospital Oba in Idemili South LGA of Anambra state,” he said.

The spokesman listed the arrested suspects as Edna Nnadi, 37, Ujunwa Nweke, 25, Izuchukwu Uba, 24, Chinasa Ibeh, 19, Peace Effiong, 25, Gift Collins, 20, and Chimkaso Kingsley, 25.

Others are Happiness Monday, 18, Chioma Okonkwo, 25, and Uchechukwu Nwankwo, 18.

According to Mohammed, five of the suspects are heavily pregnant.

The rescued children would be handed over to the Ministry of Social Welfare, Children and Women’s Affairs for proper care.

He added that efforts are being intensified to apprehend other accomplices in order to bring them to justice.

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