Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Obama’s ascent to greatness

Obama’s stardom transcends national frontiers

by Etse Sikanku

There’s a very good argument that Barack Obama is well on his way to clinching the Democratic nomination.

Now I’m no mathematician but suppose the Florida and Michigan votes are disregarded and nothing dramatic happens to sway super delegates away from Obama, this may very well become reality. Should it materialize, the man who lost his first contest for a seat in the Illinois legislature may be turning history on its head.

There are many reasons why Obama’s success is iconic. He will become the
Democratic Party’s first black nominee and potentially the nation’s first African American president. But even before his meteoric political ascent Barack had achieved other significant feats.
During his law school days at Harvard he became the first ever African American president of the
Harvard Law Review.

When the people of Illinois sent him to Washington in 2004, he became only the third African American since reconstruction to be elected to the US senate.

Despite the media frenzy that has been associated with his run for the white house and his unusual personal story Obama has come up for criticisms from several quarters both home and abroad. Only a day after he announced his candidature, Australian Prime Minister John Howard aimed straight for him when he signaled that a victory for Obama will mean victory for Osama.

Howard said: "If I was running al-Qaeda in Iraq, I would put a circle around March 2008, and pray, as many times as possible, for a victory not only for Obama, but also for the Democrats."

Obama dismissed Howard’s criticism as empty rhetoric calling it ‘flattery’ before going on to say that: “… if he's ginned up to fight the good fight in Iraq, I would suggest he calls up another 20,000 Australians and sends them up to Iraq."

Others such as
Geraldine Ferraro believe that Obama is in the position he is because of his race. During the early part of his campaign before the brouhaha over Wright-gate, it was common to find right wing internet bloggers and Clinton supporters over reaching themselves to paint Obama as a Muslim.

Clinton herself and McCain have often said Obama’s campaign is being run on “empty promises” or “empty rhetoric”

But no one need doubt Obama’s abilities. There is no denying the fact that America has gone through some of its hardest years under the current president. Of all the candidates in the race I sincerely believe that Barack Obama is the one who can right the destructive abyss that this country has been plunged into.

Every single fight between Obama and Clinton has been about whom can best serve the needs of the American people and unify them. Looking at his campaign policies, his support for fair trade, his experience as a community organizer and his personal background Barrack Obama stands out as the best choice for America at this time. He opposed NAFTA which he has always maintained was “oversold” right from the beginning.

Overall he has a genuine concern for the hardworking people of this country which will inform his policies and actions as president. Internationally he’s more favorably viewed than any of the candidates with a city in Japan supporting his candidature whiles songs are being composed in other parts of the world such as Ghana and Kenya in his honor.

Such cordiality will help restore America’s reputation-which has been patently battered- on the international scene. Some Americans complain they don’t know much about him but his freshness and distance from Washington will make him a great agent of change.

By any measure, Clinton and McCain are clearly outstanding alternatives for president but what America does not have is time.

This country is in the middle of one of its worst economic, foreign policy and constitutional crisis. In politics time is everything. America cannot afford to wait.

I don’t for a moment think that Barack Obama is a prophetic messiah but this much I know: he’s the best suited to the lead the nation at such a time.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


Traditional culture is still a huge part of many African societies

by Giftypearl Abenaab
Contributing Columnist

Culture by nature is very dynamic and goes beyond music, dance, food and clothes. It encompasses people's values, beliefs, attitudes and perceptions. In today's era where the world is now a global village and 'Global partnership for development' i preached, there is the need to connect cultures.

Connecting Cultures is a current phenomenon where people from different backgrounds are linked together with the aim of exploring the different cultures. The British Council coined a project “Belongings”- a cultural exchange project which seeks to explore culture, identity and to build understanding between Africa and the UK.

I got the opportunity to gather the thoughts, feelings and experience of some of the young people who participated in this cultural exchange project and i thought i could share it with “Maadwen” readers.

“As i said goodbyee to my parents at Glasgow airport tears filled my eyes and i was not really sure of the journey i was going to take. it was not just a physical other words, i was not only leaving one country and continent to another but i was going on a cultural voyage. a self discovery journey. When i alighted at Kotoka International Airport, everything seemed so different! the people, the language, the weather etc even the air felt different!. i wondered if i could survive because it was the very fiirst time i was going to leave away from my family and close pals and it was my first time i was going to see Africa! After my two week stay with my colleagues in Ghana i learnt some values- hopsitality and politeness which i am taking home as my belongings. i can now boldly boast that i have had a practical experience of the Ghanaian culture which is quite different from what the media portray. I now appreciate culture and i think it is very important to explore each other's culture” Sarah from Glasgow.

I copied this from Maj's journal:

“My name is Majid Bashir and I am 22 years old studying in Business in Paisley University.
I came to Ghana as the 2nd part of the Belongings Project with a group of eight other young people. I cannot explain how much I have enjoyed myself and how much I miss the country and my family in Ghana. We were taken care of very well and we met with chiefs from different villages and districts and we also got to play football against the Obracherie team, which we won 2-1!!
I had various meetings with local and national radio stations and even had the opportunity to be interviewed by GTV live on the breakfast show!
We visited various schools Cape Coast, Obracherie and others where we had the chance to work with young people and also share some conversations.

I have had the best experience of my life in Ghana, staying there for two full weeks and having the chance to understand, see, hear and being part of different cultures is one of the things I will always remember. Ghana is a country full of love and peace and is a place where people are always smiling. The warmth I felt from the people is unexplainable and also unforgettable. My family in Ghana taught us everything there is to know in Ghana and also taught me some Pigeon English! This is still something I try and practice in the UK.

Mepa chaow, ye fremi Maj Kofi Baboni Baku! As you can see I also learnt a little of the Ghananian language. It is very difficult to explain my experience as everything was so very new to us and different, I have forgot to mention the weather, which I absolutely loved! The sunshine, the warmth, the humidity was just truly amazing. Never say that Africans are underdeveloped. To me you are developed because of your attitude and beliefs.

I am going to finish with something I learnt from my brothers Gideon and Prosper in the Ghananian Language:
“Ghana Yeme krome, Meya Ghana Ni”

One participant from Africa had this to say “ i was wondering what the English culture-people, food, whether accent etc was like as i sat in the plane headding towards the west. i wonder if discrimination and racism really still exist and how i was going to cope with white young people i never seen or met. After two weeks, my colleagues from Africa and those from the west had glued to each other. i experienced sweet friendship, learnt warm attitude and caring hearts. Almost every minute i hear some one ask me “are you okay?'. Their culture of neatness, punctuality is what i took home as my belongings.

Dear Maadwen reader, wouldn't it be wonderful if we connect local cultures to bridge the gap between the various ethnic groups in Africa which breeds conflict on our dear continent?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sen. Obama's litmus test

One would have thought that, several months into the presidential campaign, questions about Barack Obama's blackness would have been settled, or at least ignored.

But it's now apparent that Obama's lack of total support among the black population has nothing to do with his abilities. Instead, an unthinking spectrum of the black population - both inward-looking and self-serving - has decided to subject him to this hapless color scrutiny.
The issue about Obama's blackness first came up in 2003 when he was running for Senate. Four years later, the topic is as virulent as ever.

Considering this country has never had a black president and the perception that past leadership have not done enough to address problems of African-Americans, it's easy to assume their support for Obama would have been automatic. Yet this has not been the case. Instead, many in the African-American community are more interested in subjecting Obama to a "how-black-are-you?" test.

In November 2006, African-American columnist Stanley Crouch threw the first blows before Obama even announced his candidacy for the 2008 Democratic ticket, saying, "He has not lived the life of a black American … If we end up with him as our first black president, he will have come into the White House through a side door - which might, at this point, be the only one open."

Comments like this are silly, immature and divisive. Why doesn't anyone ask if Bill Richardson is Hispanic enough, if Hillary Clinton is feminist enough or if John Edwards is handsome enough? Why hasn't anyone asked if Mitt Romney is religious enough or why Rudy Giuliani has marriage problems? Has anyone bothered to find out if Joe Biden is tall enough or whether Ron Paul is white enough?

Obama may not represent the black community the way 50 Cent does, but he shouldn't have to. Obama's trouble with the community is that he's biracial, has a direct connection with Africa, doesn't yell racism at every opportunity and will not make reparations a campaign theme. Because Obama is a Harvard-trained lawyer ready to break from the stereotypical African-American mold, he has been given a bad name by a community that should have been his most unyielding support base.

Should the reluctance of blacks to vote for Obama be seen as a display of political maturity or a reflection of their own small-mindedness? Is the reluctance of a black person with African-American parents to vote for another with non-African-American parents - but still black - any different from a white American refusing to vote for a black person? Do we call that racism too? Or is there another name for it? Is one's blackness determined by one's parentage, culture, color of skin, educational background, prison history, propensity for violence or something the rest of us don't know about?

Actually, when did race become such an issue in presidential politics?

To cast your vote based on the color of one's skin is as simple-minded as making a judgment of one's character based on the shape of his or her nose. In any case, who has bestowed on anyone the authority to determine the blackness of a human being? When did Al Sharpton's definition of blackness become a barometer for measuring race? What were people thinking when they called Bill Clinton the first black president? We should be worried, because the factors that gave Clinton that label are nothing to write home about: a huge appetite for sex and single parenthood.

Obama is the first black candidate with a realistic chance of becoming president, so isn't it ridiculous that a prowling mass of gullible ethnocentrists are pulling the trigger on his quest to make history?

The simple truth is that playing the race card is a great disservice to the future of America and the qualities of high achieving aspirants. Race is irrelevant. I hope that one day many more Americans will move beyond the clouds of trivial politics into the high plains of thought where ability, skill and relevant qualities are considered in making a judgment of one's suitability for the White House.

Perhaps the bickering about color reveals more about the pettiness that underpins our politics than about the candidates themselves. Let us judge them on their records. Let us judge them on their policies. Let us judge them on their message and the reason of it - not on the color or discolor of their skins.

News Analysis: Zimbabwe risks falling into Kenya-style

Harare, ZIMBABWE: The MDC MP for Harare North Trudy Stevenson writhes in agony on her hospital bed at the Avenues Clinic after being allegedly assaulted with a machete in political violence that flared up in Mabvuku during the weekend. AFP PHOTO/STRINGER (Photo credit STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Tensions in Zimbabwe escalated on Sunday after announcement of a recount of the March 29 general elections' votes, raising fears that the South African nation may fall into Kenya-style post-election chaos.

State media reported that 23 out of 210 constituencies will be recounted next Saturday.
As news of the recount came, leaders of Southern African countries convened in the Zambian capital of Lusaka on Saturday for an emergency meeting to break the impasse in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe was absent from the regional meeting.

The African nation held elections for parliamentarians, local councilors and president on March 29, but the failure to release presidential results has triggered a serious crisis.

Chairman of the Southern African Development Community and Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa, who called the Lusaka summit several days ago, said the delay in announcing the presidential race result has evoked "a climate of tension" in the Zambian neighbor.

After the March 29 elections, Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) claimed its leader Morgan Tsvangirai had won outright in the presidential race.
However, there were also reports indicating that neither incumbent President Mugabe nor Tsvangirai has secured enough votesfor an outright victory.

While Mugabe's ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front envisions a run-off, the opposition has ruled out Tsvangirai's participation, saying that a second round would be undemocratic due to Mugabe's intimidation tactics.

"What the war veterans are doing is preparing for a re-run because Mugabe realizes that an announcement that he has won outright will not be believed," said political analyst Lovemore Madhuku.
Madhuku was referring to the independence war veterans that the opposition said Mugabe had sent out to ensure a second round victory.

"You will get the war veterans again on the war path. If there is a runoff the war veterans would make it difficult for some people to turn out to vote," said Madhuku, a critic of Mugabe and chairman of pressure group, the National Constitutional Assembly.

The opposition has also called for a general strike to be launched from Tuesday, the day after a court is due to rule on its bid to force the publication of the election result.

The political turmoil has added insult to injury for a nation which is deeply trapped in an economic crisis.

With inflation raging at higher and prices soaring irrationally, the government introduced earlier this month a 50-million-dollar Zimbabwe note, which could only buy three loaves of bread then and is depreciating quickly.

The International Monetary Fund said Saturday that even before the disputed March 29 election, things were bad in Zimbabwe.

It added that independent finance houses calculated inflation at around 290,000 percent in Zimbabwe compared to the official figure of 100,500 percent.

If not properly handled, the crisis in Zimbabwe has the risk of escalating toward the style of the deadly riots in Kenya, which was once one of Africa's most stable countries. The recent clashes in Kenya left more than 1,000 people killed and 350,000 others displaced.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Cameroon: Another Failed State? Cameroon's Descent

Relatives gather on February 24, 2008 in the Madagascar district of Douala in front of the house of Raoul, a 20-year-old man who was reportedly shot dead by police trying to disperse during a demonstration after protestors erected barricades on the eve. Police in Cameroon fired tear-gas and water cannon at a crowd of several hundred gathered for an outlawed demonstration against President Paul Biya's constitutional reform plans here yesterday. But opposition politicians behind the protest said police acted despite the rally being postponed at the last minute amid efforts at getting the state to overturn a ban its officials said was to avoid another 'Kenyan scenario'. A 20-year-old man was reportedly shot dead by police trying to disperse during the demonstration after protestors erected barricades. AFP PHOTO / FANNY PIGEAUD (Photo credit should read FANNY PIGEAUD/AFP/Getty Images)

By Ozong Agborsangaya-Fiteu

Unless there is clear political reform that will allow citizens to finally enjoy basic civil liberties - including full freedom of expression, free elections and the rule of law - a crisis is inevitable. But within days of our arrival in my country, riots and protests ignited by the rising costs of fuel and food resulted in a nationwide lockdown.

Much of the public's frustration is due to the stark need for political reform. Cameroon's 75-year-old president, Paul Biya, suggested in his New Year's address that he intended to modify the Constitution to extend his term in office beyond 2011.

Biya has been in power almost as long as Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe. Under his rule, Cameroon has endured endemic corruption, weak institutions, official impunity and fraudulent elections. During our trip, I found the presence of armed security forces across the capital's hilly landscapes frighteningly reminiscent of the atmosphere in Rwanda and Burundi in the mid-1990s.

Thousands of ordinary citizens suspected of participating in the protests were arbitrarily rounded up and detained, subjected to summary trials and harsh sentences, some for up to six years in prison. Witnesses reported that many people in custody were beaten, tortured and abused.

There were also reports of dead bodies floating on the Wouri River in Douala, the country's economic capital, although it is unclear how many people died. Even more disturbing is the inflammatory and divisive rhetoric by some high-level government officials seeking to incite hatred and manipulate ethnic differences. In a country with over 125 different ethnic groups, this is a sinister game that could trigger inter-community conflict. The president recently made good on his New Year's promise.

The ruling party has formally introduced a bill that would amend the Constitution to allow Biya to run for another seven-year term after his current mandate ends in 2011. It is unclear what may happen next. Resentments were simmering long before Biya's New Year's speech - resentments that could have been addressed, but weren't. Instead, the president ignored all warnings in his bid for increased power.

The outcome could be very scary indeed. Although calm appears to have returned, for now, the human rights situation is seriously deteriorating. The few human rights lawyers in the country are overwhelmed. Intolerance and hate speech are rising. Campaigners for a civil society report that the government has them under surveillance and that their family members do not feel safe. There also are reports of increased arms trafficking into the country, with ordinary citizens buying and burying guns in their backyards - "just in case." The international community could take steps to help prevent a crisis.

Unfortunately, promises of preventive measures and "never again" rhetoric regarding Africa rarely translate into action on the ground. I fear that the international community will wait until it is too late to prevent a major conflict in Cameroon - and will then have to spend massive resources in response to a humanitarian crisis. Today, many people are trying to leave the country. But most of Cameroon's neighboring countries are themselves collapsing states and cannot provide a safe haven.

Unless there is clear political reform that will allow citizens to finally enjoy basic civil liberties - including full freedom of expression, free elections and the rule of law - a crisis is inevitable. Cameroon is another Central African country where time is running out.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Essay Contest organized by UNESCO and the Goi Peace Foundation

From: UNESCO and the Goi Peace Foundation
Dear Friends of Peace,

Young people from around the world are again invited this year to enter the 2008 International Essay Contest organized by UNESCO and the Goi Peace Foundation with the sponsorship of the Earthrise Society. The theme for this year s contest is "My project to create positive change in my environment. How can I foster sustainable development in my community?"

Please submit your innovative ideas and concrete plans/projects to address the social, cultural, environmental or economic problems faced by your community. The deadline for entry is June 30, 2008. First prize winners will receive a cash award and a trip to Japan. Please see the complete guidelines on The 2008 International Essay Contest anouncement is also prominently highlighted on UNESCO website at

To read winning essays from last year's contest, please kindly visit the website

Please kindly spread the information about the Essay Contest to young people in your network and display the 2008 Essay Contest on your website(s) and publish it in your information material. Thank you so much for your kind cooperation!

And good luck to all youth leaders! May Peace Prevail on Earth! The Goi Peace Foundation

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


The 2008 elections have generated heated debate in the media and among the public


In a matter of months, Ghanaians will be heading to the polls to elect a new president and members of parliament as well. This is in line with the democracy that has been prevailing since the country opted for constitutional rule. December though seems far will soon be here and so all issues critical to realizing a successful, free and fair election, need to be addressed as early as is feasible.

A major issue that has cropped up is the fact that the election date, 7th December, falls on a Sunday. If this is what the constitution states then there should be no problem. But all of a sudden, many interest groups are calling out for a change of date for various reasons.
For the Christians, it is the day of the Lord thus we should keep it holy. Indeed we should endeavor to keep it holy but the big question is should we fail to fulfill our constitutional rights, duties and obligations just because it is a Sunday?

The Election Day falling on Sunday does not in anyway prevent people from going to worship or holding prayer sessions or performing whatever their Sunday obligations are to God. In fact we are given a minimum of ten hours to exercise our franchise and I don’t think any individual will be spending the whole of these hours in a church. Currently, most churches in the country have two to four services every Sunday, so all of us wouldn’t have to be at church at the same time. This would even help in maintaining short queues at polling stations compared to huge number of people who would eventually cause confusion were it any other day. Another opportunity the day offers us as a religious people is that we can intensify our prayers for a peaceful election whiles we take turns at the churches and polling stations.

The Muslims are also calling for a change of date as it is a time when the Hajj pilgrimage will be underway. The hajj is a yearly affair whiles the national elections come once in every four years. Our Muslim brothers and sisters will have to take this into consideration and make the right choices during this period.

As some cry for a change in date, some are also happy as their tight work schedules will more than rob them of the chance to vote on a any other day. In 1996, the date fell on a Saturday. The Seventh Day Adventists were the ones calling for a change then but the elections were conducted anyway. Are we saying they were not citizens whose rights had to be ensured? If we didn’t change it then for religious reasons, why change it now?

Let us not harp on the excusable reasons why elections should not be conducted on a Sunday but rather cash in on the good sides of the day and maintain that our constitution be upheld at all times.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Nana Addo, Nduom top choices among likely voters in new internet poll

AMES, Iowa -- With nine months to go until the 2008 Ghana presidential and parliamentary elections the latest Ghana Elections ’08 Polls Group Internet survey finds the New Patriotic Party’s (N.P.P) Nana Akuffo Addo (39.3%) leading among likely voters, while Dr Paa Kwesi Nduom(30.8%) of the Convention Peoples Party (C.P.P) polling 2nd. Nana Addo is more than ten percentage points ahead of Prof. John Evans Atta Mills (29.9 percent) leader of the National Democratic Congress (N.D.C). 93.7% of respondents said they were Ghanaian citizens. Whiles 71.8% said they were registered to vote in Ghana, 28.2% weren’t. Please note that this survey was primarily posted but not limited to users of Facebook, the popular social networking site and has been up since January 2008. The sample also included users of hi5, another popular social networking site among Ghanaians living in and outside the country.

Generally the survey was popularized among internet users worldwide where a Ghanaian community was deemed to congregate. Social Networking Sites have become popular new media trends (Levy & Stone,2006) and have been accepted by researchers and the academic community as part of modern mass communication methods. Internet usage in particular has gradually increased since 1990s allowing researchers to gain access to huge numbers of people at cheaper cost. (Pew research Foundation 1998,2000). The concept of social networking is built on the idea/theory of social capital which is based on reciprocity transactions(Frank & Yasumoto,1998), behavior influence and social control, promotion of participatory democracy and the boosting of a candidate’s image.(Farqular,2008) . Computer IPs was recorded and respondents were allowed to vote only once.

Nana Akuffo Addo
Paa Kwesi Nduom
John Atta Mills
Kwesi Amofa Yeboah
Edward Mahama
There was a response rate of 91.2% among a total of 114 people surveyed. Voters from the C.P.P (79.4%) were the most satisfied with their candidate when asked the question: Do you think the C.PP (and other parties as the case may be) elected the right candidate. 67.3% said the N.P. P elected the right candidate while N.D.C voters were the most dissatisfied with their candidate with only 42.2% thinking Atta Mills was the right choice. Last year the former Vice President beat Ekow Spio Garbrah for the N.D.C party ticket. Respondents said they were likely to vote for a different party other than the N.P.P and the N.D.C if that party had a fair chance of winning giving credence to popular notion that Ghanaians are ready to experiment with a new party in power. This was in response to the question: would you vote for a different party other than the NPP or the NDC if that party had a good chance of winning the election. 57.9% said yes 22.4% said No, whiles 20.6% said maybe. Specifically probable voters said they will vote for the C.P.P (85.7%).

Research has shown that the use of the internet can help “reach traditionally hard to reach groups, enhanced political engagement, enhanced dialogue and candidate accessibility”.
Which party are you likely to vote for other than the NDC and NPP
Ghana Democratic Republican Party (GDRP)
Ghana National Party(GNP)
Every Ghanaian Living Everywhere(EGLE)
Democratic Freedom Party(DFP)

The Ghana Elections ’08 Polls was compiled through an internet survey tool from January-March 28 2008. Of the total number of respondents polled 49.5% live in Ghana, 0.9% in another African country and 48% said they lived in a country not in Africa. The new poll presents a much different picture in the race than generally assumed where the top two candidates were Nana Akuffo Addo and John Atta Mills—leaders of the two biggest parties in Ghana. What this means is that Dr Nduom known in certain circles as the long shot candidate has a realistic chance of doing well at the December elections and probably winning the presidency. If that happens it will be the first time Ghana’s founding party the CPP has returned to power since the overthrow of its founder and leader Dr Kwame Nkrumah in 1966.

Among likely voters 70.9% were male whiles females accounted for 29.1% showing a low interest in politics by women in general. However those who took the survey seemed to be closely following politics in Ghana—a good sign for participatory democracy in the country.

How closely have you been following news about candidates for Ghana ’08 elections
Very closely
Fairly closely
Not too closely
Not at all

On the performance of the Kufuor administration 40% of respondents said the president was doing a good job whiles 45% said he was doing a poor job with the remaining 15% ticking fair. However responses were different when voters were asked the question: would you like to see a candidate continue with Kufuor’s policies or take the country in a different direction? Only 39.6% said they wanted to new leader to continue with Kufuor’s policies giving an indication that Nana Addo should not necessarily run his campaign on the achievements of the Kufuor administration.

Would you like to see a candidate continue with Kufuor’s policies or take the country in a different direction?
Continue with Kufuor’s policies
Steer the country in a different direction
I don’t care

While the responses show how people would have voted if they had the chance to vote in the December elections it is by no means generalizable in toto since the survey was mostly limited to those who had access to computers. It could however give a clear indication of voting pattern among the educated, working class, students and elites in Ghana—a demographic group who are hard to convince and where candidates should be looking to in order to convince a considerable number of independents. Also even though Ghanaians seem to be generally interested in the political development of their country very few were registered party members. 9.6% of respondents said they were members of a registered party while 90.4% said they hadn’t registered with any political party. This may be an indication of a large number of floating voters in the country. On the whole 60.2 per cent of persons surveyed said they were likely to vote in the upcoming elections.

Are you likely to vote in these elections?
I cannot vote

Considering the fierce nature of the party primaries the polls sought to find out who voters would have chosen as their candidate if they were part delegates. Ekwow Spio Garbrah(27.3%) topped the list of potential candidates giving an indication that the former minister of state blessed with excellent oratory skills has enough political capital to try another time for the NDC’s presidential ticket. He led Kofi Annan and Prof Badu Akosa (both tied at 16.2%) by more than ten percentage points.
Who would you have liked to see running as a candidate
Ekow Spio Garbrah
Alan Kyeremanteng
Prof Badu Akosa
Kofi Annan
I’m satisfied with the candidates chosen
In the past the parties have debated ways of chosing candidates to involve a much larger population similar to US presidential primaries. Nevertheless it appears voters would not have made different choices from what party delegates did last year. The question still remains as to whether people are beginning to view politics differently and if more and more qualified people are being attracted to the profession.

Overall, what’s your impression of the candidates running for this years election. (As a group)
Only fair

On the issues
Respondents said they were more likely to vote on issues and policies (64.4%) than the quality of a candidate (43.3%) or party affiliation (2.9%). If this is anything to go by the party’s should prepare for a long haul of policy debates especially from the country’s literate population instead of expecting people to vote en masse. Education, poverty, unemployment, the economy and national security seemed to feature most when voters were asked what they wanted to hear candidates talk about. Here’s a sample list of issues respondents mentioned as important to them—and which candidates should be paying attention to:

· Constitutional and Judicial reform
· What they would do to compact the loss of our native languages.... Example, make reading and writing native languages a mandate in the new Education Reform.
· Employment
· nothing
· Education
· social welfare of citizens
· an excellent system of national identification, mechanized the agric sector and improve agro-processing capabilities of the economy, pay attention to industrial/manufacturing sector seriously, improve IT and communication, make conscious efforts to support institutions of higher learning to undertake meaningful research
· Improvement of education, revising the national health insurance scheme (probably allowing private entities to handle it instead of the government. Rethinking the way they treat employees. Relooking Ghanaian stance on globalization and agriculture.
· the economy
· Poverty Alleviation and accountability
· Improvement in the quality of life for the average Ghanaian which will ball down to salaries
· Well I think this has been put together by a presidential candidate - probably Paa kwesi Nduom. They should know more than us.
· industrialization
· Security Healthcare Education Economy
· The country and not themselves!!
· Per capita income of Ghanaians
· me
· internal security, that is, protection from armed robbers etc
· socio-economic development
· employment for the youth
· Being competent and not just trying to SOUND like they can do the job!!!
· National Unity
· That all himself and all his ministers will declare their assets and work to reduce corruption
· Corruption
· Education
· civil order
· Creation of Jobs & Wealth
· Creating the environment for equal opportunity for people desiring to progress in the country
· Unemployment
· Wealth Creation for Ghanaians.
· improving agriculture

The Ghana Election ’08 Polls Group will like to thank all who took part in this survey!

About the Group
The Ghana Elections ’08 polls Group is an initiative which provides the most up to date results on voter preferences and the public’s feelings and attitudes towards candidates and the political process in the country. This is done through frequent surveys utilizing innovative techniques and will be pre tested for accuracy. The Group uses empirical methods to evaluate the study and report on the public perception of the candidates in the upcoming elections. Survey answers are anonymous. This initiative is independent, non-partisan, and invites participation from all interested persons.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

What’s up in Kenya?

Kibaki and Odinga have taken tea and watched golf since the peace deal was signed

Nearly three months after the worst massacre of Kenya's post-election violence, children's shoes and charred clothes remain in the ashes of a rural church where about 30 people were burned to death.

Wreaths of dried-out flowers lie where a mob set fire to the Assemblies of God building with 100 or so terrified villagers cowering inside. A cow nibbles grass around a fallen yellow tape reading: "Crime Scene, Do Not Cross."

All around the church, torched and trashed homes litter countryside outside the western town of Eldoret, one of the epicentres of violence that killed at least 1,200 people and uprooted 300,000 others after Kenya's December 27 election.

President Mwai Kibaki and his main challenger, Raila Odinga, have since made their peace, burying their dispute over who won in a power-sharing agreement. They have taken tea and even watched golf together at a colonial-era country club.

But on the ground, wounds from the worst bloodletting in the east African nation since independence in 1963 remain sore and many fear violence could erupt again if the deeper roots of the troubles are not tackled.

Communities are suspicious of one another. Tens of thousands of people still live as refugees. And there has been a massive population shift as Kenyans from different tribes return to the safety of their ancestral heartlands.

Less than a mile from the burnt church in Kiambaa village, police are building a new base to prevent repetitions of the attacks by Kalenjins -- who are in the majority in the Eldoret area -- on Kikuyus, members of Kibaki's ethnic group.

"We will hold the peace, and we will catch the perpetrators," one policeman said, nailing planks to new huts.

A few nervous-looking Kikuyus are back to check their plots.
"Some fear to return, some want to sell their land, some might come back and re-settle here if there is peace," said Francis Waweru, 23. His sister scorched her arm escaping from the church and has gone far away to the Kikuyu town of Limuru.

"It is hard to forget," he said, standing next to the church and describing how hundreds of Kalenjin warriors barred the refugees inside before burning the building and hacking those who tried to escape with machetes.

Down the road, locals have daubed a new name in their tribal language -- Kipnyiket -- over the Kikuyu word Kiambaa. Authorities say the perpetrators are among hundreds they have arrested nationwide. They plan a memorial at the church site.

On another side of Eldoret, scores of houses and shops are reduced to blackened rubble in scenes more reminiscent of war-riven neighbours Somalia and Sudan.

Huge boulders beside the highway also bear witness to the gangs who took over the area in January. Armed with machetes and bows-and-arrows, they had set up roadblocks to hunt Kikuyus.

"Of course we were angry. They stole the election in front of our eyes," one jobless 28-year-old Kalenjin man said.

"Now power is supposed to be shared 50-50 but they are not willing to share really," he added, echoing a widespread accusation among Kenya's non-Kikuyus that Kibaki's community has monopolised power and wealth.

Another Kalenjin man chided a visiting reporter, saying the media -- like Kibaki and the police -- had focused on deaths of Kikuyus around Eldoret, but not the killing of members of other communities elsewhere around Kenya.

"What about the house burned in Naivasha with 15 people inside? You don't talk about what the Kikuyus did," he said.

"There are no Kikuyus living round here any more. If they come back, it will depend on the 50-50 deal, if it works. Then if they return and are friendly with us, it will be OK."


According to the power-sharing deal, Odinga is set to become prime minister although wrangling remains over other posts.

Further down the line, Kenya's politicians will also have to overhaul the constitution and discuss underlying problems such as land and inequality that were laid bare by the dispute over Kibaki's re-election last December.

At Eldoret showground, 15,000 refugees -- almost all Kikuyus -- live in tents crammed together on the field.

They are either too scared to return home, have nothing to go back to, or are waiting for some way of travelling to their community's heartland in central Kenya.

"Power-sharing has brought peace to the people above, but not to us," said pastor Gideon Mwangi, whose house in Eldoret was torched and whose family fled to Naivasha.

"We are willing to go back, but only when there is real peace. There are still threats going on in the villages."

Refugee leaders are petitioning for compensation for destroyed properties, stolen livestock and lost crops.

Some Kikuyus in the Eldoret area have, however, returned to their former lives. In the centre of town, several dozen stick together for security in streets where they work as mechanics and labourers fixing minibuses.

Joseph Gitau, 23, was born in the area, saw his father killed with a poisoned arrow during inter-ethnic fighting in 1997, and admits taking up a machete to face Kalenjin gangs in January. One day, he saw seven fellow Kikuyus decapitated.

Yet he has returned to work to help feed his mother, and ten brothers and sisters. And he has no intention of returning to a tribal homeland he does not know.

"There, I have no job, no land, nothing. What could I do?" (Editing by Daniel Wallis) (For full Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit:

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Religion in Our Educational Institutions

Accra Daily Mail Editorial

A student of Adisadel College in Cape Coast recently lost his life in an attempt to run away from a teacher who was doing his duty trying to get students to obey the school's rules.

Reports say the deceased, a Muslim, was escaping from compulsory Christian worship. See our lead story. An inquiry has been instituted into the tragedy. Religious and Moral Education (RME) has of late become an issue of public debate. We reproduce the article below which first appeared in ADM late last year, written by one of the foremost educators in Ghana on the subject: By Dr. (Mrs.) Nkrumah

" we need to look at the messages and signals we, the adult population, politicians, the priests and pastors and civil society as a whole, are sending them: the message that corruption, crime, greed and lack of morality pay very well in Ghana, and students are not slow in learning that lesson well."

I have been following the various viewpoints expressed about the educational reforms and RME as a subject, and I would like to contribute a few thoughts.

All the recent debate on this issue has focused on the role of schools in the formation of a student's moral compass and value systems and both the Catholic bishops and other religious bodies as well as some concerned citizens predict dire consequences for our nation because Ghana Education Service has dropped Religious and Moral Education as a separate, examinable subject from the syllabus.

First, what are the reasons for incorporating religious and moral education into other subjects, such as Social Studies, English, Life Skills, etc? For 50 years, we have been teaching Bible Knowledge or Scripture or Religious and Moral Education in our schools as a separate subject and it has been learnt in order to pass exams, just as one learns Maths and Science, without it, in fact, having much impact on the values or morals of the society as a whole.

If we look at Ghanaian youth and society today, where do we see its impact? After all, Religious and Moral Education was only removed as a subject in September 2007 so the youth and adults in society today have all "benefited" from such teaching, so how do we explain the moral and social decay we see around us today? Apart from the recognized need to reduce the number of examinable subjects, it is clear that for the values we would like to teach our children to have a meaningful impact, we need to make those values an intrinsic part of their lives and studies, not just a "subject".

From September 2007, the new educational syllabus began such a process, by making the values society wishes to inculcate in our children an integral part of the subjects they study, rather than an examination subject they can just cram and pass. But the wider question is, why do the Bishops and society at large assume that it is the job of our educational institutions to bring up our children for us on the path of righteousness?

It is first and foremost the job of parents to bring up their children, to teach them their cultural, moral and religious values, and to demonstrate these values by example from the way they live and what they do. The church and school are only complementary institutions, to reinforce those values. The Churches have their own primary role, which is to propagate their different faiths and to give moral and religious guidance to their parishioners and society in general.

The primary role of schools, however, is to educate students to a quantifiable and pre-set standard while at the same time reinforcing the values which the society holds dear. What examples have society, and even the church, set for children to emulate? In a society where materialism, corruption, drug dealing, abuse of children, domestic violence and immorality are the daily manifestations we demonstrate to our children, is it not the height of hypocrisy to blame Ghana Education Service and its syllabus for the malaise that has affected our youth? Why is not there a daily outcry from all the churches, apparently the biggest growth industry in Africa, especially Ghana, against these vices?

Children can be coerced into silence by adults but they are not stupid. They watch, they listen, they judge, and they learn far more from what they see in their homes, on the streets, on television and from the leaders of society, than they learn from a teacher standing in front of them teaching them a subject called Religious and Moral Education.

However, if the critics of the syllabuses would take the time and trouble to examine the contents, they would find out that the ethics, moral precepts, values education are still present, embedded in the text and passages the students will read, but if we want to save the children of Ghana from the moral abyss we are presently mired in, we need to look at the messages and signals we, the adult population, the politicians, the priests and pastors and civil society as a whole, are sending them: the message that corruption, crime, greed and lack of morality pay very well in Ghana, and students are not slow in learning that lesson well.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Is the dream over for Obama?

Wright's sermons have dented Obama's presidential campaign

by Foxnews

Surrogates for Barack Obama on Sunday downplayed the significance of Obama’s relationship to a controversial pastor and suggested the discussion is a preoccupation from bigger issues in the Democrat presidential race.

“The fact of the matter is people would like to move on to other things,” said Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, characterizing remarks by Obama pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright as “outrageous,” but saying they are not relevant to Obama’s candidacy.

“He’s rejected it. He said no– he doesn’t have any association with it. He finds these comments outrageous,” Dodd, an Obama supporter and former presidential candidate, told “FOX News Sunday.” He added that “guilt by association is not typically American.”

But some political analysts say that comments by Wright could pose a major obstacle for Obama because unlike average Americans, politicians suffer from “guilt by association.”
“This is a man who he chose to be associated with. It’s not a family member.

He chose to be associated with Reverend Wright and saw advantage in it. And that’s why he exploited it up to a point when he realized, especially when he was announcing, that he couldn’t have Wright by his side for the announcement in Springfield and now seeks to somehow distance himself. But it speaks to his character, and it speaks to the judgment which is the basis on which Barack Obama has been running his campaign. So I think it could be a big problem,” said National Public Radio national correspondent and FOX News contributor Juan Williams.
It also could suggest an insincerity by Obama, said conservative syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

“This, I think, is a huge story because it contradicts the whole persona and appeal of Obama as a man who transcends race,” Krauthammer said. “I think it ought to be explored a lot more deeply.”

Out on the campaign trail on Saturday, Obama was dogged by questions about comments made by his spiritual leader of 20 years, whose quotes have been sprayed over the news in the last several days.

At a town-hall meeting in Indiana, Obama said he was not in the pews when Wright said, for example, the U.S. is run by “rich, white people” or that the U.S. created the AIDS virus to kill African Americans. The Illinois senator said he “completely rejects” the preacher’s controversial sermons, including one in which he said the United States was asking for the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks because it had supported “state-sponsored terrorism” against black South Africans and Palestinians.

“Although I knew him and know him as somebody in my church that talked to me about Jesus and family and friendships but clearly, if all I knew were those statements I saw on television, I would be shocked,” Obama said.

Obama who is new to disavowing himself from the remarks, told his audience that people should speak up forcefully against comments like Wright’s.

Meanwhile, Clinton supporters are refusing to jump on the opportunity to attack Obama for his slow response. “I mean, as you know, I prefer Senator Clinton for a whole lot of reasons, but I don’t cast aspersions on Senator Obama for what somebody else said,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

Voters should “accept what Obama has said and move on,” said Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y.
The Clinton campaign may be following a well-known operating principle of politics, which is when an opponent is shooting himself in the foot, stand back and let him. According to the results of a new, four-day Rasmussen tracking poll out Sunday morning, Obama’s national lead has narrowed to just 3 points over Clinton.

“The Clinton campaign won’t touch this with a 10-foot poll, but they don’t have to. … It will dribble, dribble out for at least a few more days and in this Internet era there’s no limit to what you can” dredge up, said Democratic strategist Susan Estrich.

Estrich said plenty of more information will come up in the weeks leading up to the Pennsylvania and North Carolina primaries.

“I don’t know, this guy didn’t give just two bad sermons, nobody … does the wrong thing just twice,” she said. “We all have to fill space for six weeks, this is how we’ll fill it.”

According to pollster, Scott Rasmussen, the recent controversy and prolonged fight between the Democrats is also turning out to be a gift for presumptive Republican presidential nominee and Arizona Sen. John McCain, whose numbers are up.

That’s a fear Democrats are hoping won’t be realized as the discussion over race and sex issues distract from their overall message of defeating McCain.

“I think we have to lift ourselves out of all of that. Look, we’re talking about running for president of the United States. We’re talking about the leader of the free world. We’re talking about the hopes, the aspirations of the American people being placed — and not like any other job in the world, placed on this person.

And I think people are much more interested on the ideas, the vision, the judgment, the plans that people have. And that’s why people are drawn to both of these candidates,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, speaking on ABC’s “This Week.” Pelosi has not yet stated her preference for the top of the party ticket.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Why Is Obama's Middle Name Taboo?

By Nathan Thornburgh

Barack Hussein Obama, Jr.: that is the full name of the junior Senator from Illinois — neither a contrivance nor, at face value, a slur. But John McCain couldn't apologize quickly enough after Bill Cunningham, a conservative talk radio host, warmed up a Cincinnati rally with a few loaded references to "Barack Hussein Obama." Asked afterwards if it was appropriate to use the Senator's middle name, McCain said, "No, it is not. Any comment that is disparaging of either Senator Clinton or Senator Obama is totally inappropriate."

The pundits were quick to applaud McCain's fatwa against the use of Hussein, and broadcasters began trying to report on the controversy without actually saying the name too much, dancing around the offending word as if they were doing a segment on The Vagina Monologues. In both cases, the word comes off as not quite illicit, but certainly a little taboo.

So who gets to say Hussein? At the Oscars, host Jon Stewart took innuendo about as far as it can go, saying that Barack Hussein Obama running today is like a 1940's candidate named Gaydolph Titler. But that reference, served up to a crowd that presumably swoons for Obama, got laughs. So maybe the H-word is more like the N-word: you can say it, but only if you are an initiate. Blacks can use the N-word; Obama supporters can use the H-word.

Obama's campaign thanked McCain's for his apology, claiming a victory for the high road. Fine. But McCain might also know that if middle names become fair game, John Sidney McCain III has his own liabilities. Recently, it has been the unmanly middle names that have caused their owners the most political trouble. In 2006, Jim Henry Webb hammered home the fact that his Virginia Senate opponent was actually George Felix Allen — a middle name that conjured up images of Felix Unger, or perhaps the real life Prince Felix of Luxemburg, either one a far cry from the tobacco-chewing good ole boy Allen styled himself as. In the last presidential election, both Bush and Kerry had middle names inherited from elite East Coast families. But Bush's middle name had much more swagger; you'll never see a TV show called Forbes, Texas Ranger.

Online, the onomastics are already in high gear. Lefty bloggers, in full Obama rapture, point out that Hussein means "beautiful". One conservative observer insinuated that Obama, as a Christian with a Muslim name, might be marked for death by even our allies in the Islamic world, if they think he converted from Islam (for the record, he was never Muslim). By that ornately twisted logic, though, one might add that it was the martyrdom of Hussein in the year 680, beheaded at Karbala in a clash with the caliphate, that gave rise to 1400 years or so of Sunni/Shi'a violence. So how on earth could Obama be a fair broker in Iraq?

The real problem is that if the right wants to start a whispering campaign about the name Hussein, Obama is only helping them. By cutting short the discussion, Obama is banishing his name to the voters' subconscious, where the dark opposites of hope — bigotry and fear — can turn the word over and over again in their minds until November.

The same day that Cunningham was dropping H-bombs on Cincinnati, Obama was at the Democratic debate in Cleveland, hastily accepting Hillary Clinton's assertion that she didn't order the leak of a picture of Obama wearing a turban in Kenya. "I think that's something we can set aside," he said.

It was a missed opportunity. He could have explained that he has nothing to hide. Explained why there's nothing wrong with him dressing in ceremonial clothes on official visits — like batik Bill in Indonesia in 1994 or headscarf Hillary in Eritrea in 1997. Maybe even explained why his middle name is Hussein — what his heritage means, and what it doesn't mean. In short, to reintroduce himself to those general election voters who are just starting to pay closer attention.

No matter what his advisers say, Obama wins nothing by shying away from his differences. After all, Obama is the candidate of change. He should take a cue from McCain's courage on Iraq. Say what you will about McCain, but he knows he's the war candidate. And though may have regretted saying it out loud, McCain clearly accepts that if voters don't buy his vision for the war, he'll lose. It's not too much risk for Obama to stake his campaign on voters' ability to rationally understand the difference between a Hawaii-born Christian and Saddam Hussein, the butcher of Baghdad.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

ANALYSIS-Seeds of class war sprout in Kenya's crisis

Kenya is a land of stark contrast: the rich drive gleaming luxury cars, can afford to enrol their children in top British schools and in the case of one local magnate, send suits to London for dry cleaning.

But most live a hand-to-mouth existence and some Kenyans believe the bloody post-election crisis that has exposed the east African country's tribal divisions could also inflame the gulf between classes and further exacerbate instability.

Although long seen as one of Africa's most promising economies, Kenya has a huge wealth gap, with 10 percent of people controlling 42 percent of the economy and the poorest 10 percent holding less than 1 percent, according to U.N. figures."If this issue is not resolved, the worst thing we would hear or see is a class war where these people, men and women, say they have nothing to lose," Abbas Gullet, secretary general of the Kenya Red Cross, told business leaders recently.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga used the argument that many Kenyans have not shared in economic growth under President Mwai Kibaki -- averaging 5 percent a year -- to win support in impoverished areas ahead of the election in December.
The dispute over Kibaki's re-election, in a vote that Odinga says was stolen, became the spark for bloodshed that has killed at least 1,000 people in ethnic clashes and battles between police and poor slum dwellers.

Chief mediator Kofi Annan, the former U.N. Secretary General, hopes for a political solution this week but nobody expects the wounds opened by the crisis to heal so soon.While Kenya's most obvious divisions follow tribal lines, those killed on both sides tend to have much more in common as peasant farmers or slum dwellers than they do with the ultra wealthy Kibaki and Odinga.

Struggle to survive
Almost half of Kenya's 36 million people live on a dollar a day and most struggle to put their children through school or pay for decent health care. Cabinet ministers take home more than 1 million shillings ($13,820) a month.

"All these politicians are using us. We fight one another and die like animals but their children are not on the streets like other Kenyans," said Ouma, a security guard in a middle-class Nairobi suburb. "The people dying are young men who should be working not dying."During the worst fighting, ethnic gangs erected roadblocks and beat up or killed those they caught from rival communities.

But some of the thugs also harassed or robbed people from their own ethnic groups if they seemed wealthier.Around 500,000 young Kenyans join the job market each year, but many fail to find work, swelling the number of disaffected youths ready to seize on any chance they can to profit."Some of them see us riding in our Mercedes or in our Hummers and they want that, just as we want the same thing for our children. T

his is the reality we are dealing with today," Steven Smith, chairman of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers, told the meeting of business leaders.Aid workers in Kenya's slums say they have to consult with so-called "emerging informal leadership" for their safety. Simply put, they have to deal with ethnically-based gangs that control slums where police and other normal government services rarely reach.

Poverty is a driving force behind high levels of crime that affect both rich and poor Kenyans.In Nairobi's Mathare slum, the murderous Mungiki criminal gang has long ruled, carrying out extortion rackets and providing illegal water or electricity connections.

Politicians have long used such groups as campaign muscle-for-hire, and did so during the election violence."They have a huge say and sway on the ground in these major slums and they are establishing their own leadership," Gullet said. "I say to many politicians ... today it is quite clear that they do not have the proper control over these people."

A local daily columnist wrote recently that it was naive to expect that pro-Kibaki and pro-Odinga gangs would only fight against each other forever."If there's no political settlement soon, at some point, the gangs will unite ... together attacking, without discrimination, the homes of Kibaki and Raila's middle-class supporters," Charles Onyango-Obbo wrote in the Daily Nation

He cited the example of rival gangs fighting for political godfathers in Congo Republic in the 1990s who sometimes called a temporary truce when their battles led them to a rich suburb. They would then loot it together, before going back to war. (Editing by Bryson Hull and Matthew Tostevin)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The politics of political endorsements

Bill Clinton (R) embraces Congressman, John Lewis at the 35th anniversary of the march on Washington event at Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs, MA, when Clinton was President.

by Godwin Y. Agboka

Why do people endorse the candidature of those seeking political office? I mean what is the criterion (or criteria) for the endorsements from governors, celebrities, civil rights leaders, and members of congress, etc. Do people endorse based on some principle or due to the promise of some material benefit in the future?

I would think that someone endorses a candidate based on some shared principle(s) between the candidate and the endorser. Thus, if I believe in Universal Health Care I am likely to endorse a candidate who shares this principle, as much as I will endorse a candidate who is pro-life, if that is my position.

Civil rights leader, John Lewis is reported to have dropped his support for Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid in favor of Barack Obama. The Democratic congressman from Atlanta is the most prominent black leader to defect from Clinton's campaign in the face of near-majority black support for Obama in recent voting. He is also a super-delegate who gets a vote at this summer's national convention in Denver.

I am sure there will be other defections, if what I have heard has any merits. My questions are: what is it that Lewis saw, initially, in Hillary that is missing? Or, which of Hillary’s principles did he share that is no more on the candidate’s cards? I am sure these will remain rhetorical questions forever!

I am told that superdelegates are independent, and, so, are free to support candidates of their choice, but it is also probable that these superdelegates can change their positions if their constituencies support a candidate which they necessarily do not. That makes sense!

However, what signals are endorsers sending to Americans if they make a swift turn to other candidates, once the candidates they endorsed, initially, are not doing as well as they expected? What drives people to endorse: principle (policy issues) or some material benefits?

The text for this piece is set to American English.

Who won, who lost?

by Andrew Romano

Plain and simple, they saved the best for last. After all kinds of ridiculousness (remember the UFO question, anyone?) the last two Democrats standing sat down tonight for a substantive--dare we say wonktastic?--discussion of serious issues ranging from health care (16 minutes!) and NAFTA to Israel and Iraq. It's a cliche to say this, but I think the voters of Ohio and Texas were the "winners" tonight; while pundits and political junkies know much of this material already, I suspect that people in Cleveland and San Antonio and elsewhere actually learned something about where the candidates stand on the issues.

Did Clinton change the dynamic of the race--which, after 11 straight losses, isn't exactly working in her favor? No. But I didn't expect her to, and I'm not sure she could have. Yes, the New York senator made some mistakes. Early on, she complained about getting the first question time and time again, implying that the media is treating her unfairly. Whether or not that's true, it looked whiny, especially when she cited an SNL skit to belittle Obama. ("Ask Barack if he … needs another pillow.") And I can imagine some people carping about her inability to get the name of Putin's successor--Dmitri Medvedev--out of her mouth intact. ("Med-medvedova, whatever.") But by and large,

Clinton was as strong and substantial as ever. It was good to hear her admit that she wants a do-over on her Iraq vote, and I think she was smart to emphasize the fact that she's a "fighter" as early and often as possible. Along with reminding women voters of what her candidacy represents (and carefully casting herself as a victim, New Hampshire-style) it's probably her best remaining option. She made both points clearly and forcefully tonight.

That said, it would be hard not to acknowledge that Obama was at least as effective. As I wrote earlier, the policy focus actually benefited the Illinois senator. One of the most persistent criticisms of his campaign is that it's all style, no substance--so tonight's in-depth discussion gave voters a chance to see his wonky side, which is somewhat difficult to display at a 20,000-person stadium rally. He acquitted himself well. By claiming that she offers solutions, not just speeches, Clinton has set the bar pretty high for herself--she needs to show that she can outwonk Obama every chance she gets. Because that didn't happen tonight, he essentially neutralized her advantage on the "specifics" front. Plus his cool, deflective style--see: the difference between "denouncing on rejecting" Farrakhan's statements, the "turban photo" flap, "bombing" Pakistan, negative campaigning, etc.--served simultaneously to minimize Clinton's attacks and make her sound thin-skinned (which, as Noam Scheiber of TNR notes, is "the opposite of the battle-tested, Republican-slayer she purports to be.")

Take her dismissal of Obama's 2002 speech warning against war in Iraq. When she pointed out that his actual Senate votes--once he actually had to cast them--closely matched hers, Obama showed his skill for parrying. "Once we had driven the bus into the ditch, there were only so many ways we could get out," he said. "The question is: Who's making the decision initially to drive the bus into the ditch?" Simply put, he's far more comfortable as the frontrunner than he ever was as an underdog.

So who won, and who lost (other than the voters)? In my humble opinion, nobody and nobody (although I have to give a shout-out to Tim Russert, who gets my award for best moderator of the season). That's bad news for Clinton, of course, and good news for Obama. But as a reader named Chris wrote near the end of the evening, "Can I say that I find both of these people incredibly impressive and inspirational? I'm very proud of both of them." As divisive as this primary election has been, after tonight I can imagine that many of his fellow Democrats would agree.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Obama: The American Dream

by Etse Sikanku

The good news about the upcoming presidential primaries is that they could present Americans with a chance to elect its first black President. Nearly 250 years after its establishment, Americans are still searching for their first non-white president. Barack Obama is the slick “political rock star,” challenging old norms and seeking to rewrite this country’s history.

Not surprisingly, the political system has mapped out a formula which has seen people from a certain class and race ascend to the White House. But with a woman, a black man, a Latino and a Mormon all front-runners for the presidency, 2008 could be a year of alterations for America.
It’s true that Barack Obama has little experience in Washington as a senator. It’s also true that some of his policies are particularly idealistic. Obama has been running a campaign admired for its style, vigor and inspiration, but is lacking in depth.
Shockingly enough Obama hasn’t earned the full endorsement of the black community and is not trusted by some core members of the democratic community. Others view Obama as too naïve and sincere for his own good, but his personal charm and electabilty credentials — buoyed by his community service, academic and professional background — are just about as appealing (if not more appealing) to a wide cross-section of Americans.

Obama has raised more money than democratic opponent Hilary Clinton, drawing in more than $34 million in the second quarter of 2007, outdoing Clinton’s $27 million. The freshman senator from Illinois seems to be Wall Street’s political sweetheart who has raked in $739,579 from top-investment banks, compared to Clinton's $424,545. Obama is reported to have almost twice as many donors as Clinton.

Consequently, this is a confirmation of America’s belief in Obama’s message. Clinton’s hopes of establishing early dominance in the democratic contest were quickly wiped by Obama’s stellar performance. More revealing about Obama’s donations are that most of them are small-dollar contributions from ordinary Americans who are dying for a change from politicians with corporate interests. Supporters are showing this quest by supporting a candidate they can identify with; that candidate is Obama.

Even more decisive than his ability to match Clinton in the contest to raise money, has been his ability to rival any of the leading democratic contenders in terms of ideas, personality and policy. This is the proof that Senator Obama is a good candidate, since no amount of money (no matter how large) can buy pristine knowledge, workable plans and the cordiality that attracts crowds to campaigns.

What is interesting about the primary race is that it has revealed the nuances of the electoral process in America. America is capitalism in action, but also a democracy on course. These are difficult times in the life of the American polity. To be sure the U.S. is a political institution which has some good intent. If we set aside its unilateral character, this country presents mankind’s best opportunity for self actualization.

Strategic interests have caused the U.S. to ignore the most pressing global issues. One clear example of this is the 1994 Rwandan genocide, during which the U.S., determined to pursue its plans in the Balkans, forced the United Nations not to send troops to Rwanda or even highlight the crisis. This was especially dreadful considering the fact that the ongoing war in Bosnia was in no way comparable to the “cleansing” of over 800,000 people during a hundred days in Rwanda.
The U.S. was swift to send NATO to bomb Serbia but slow to move in Rwanda. It is such acts of indiscretion that so often projects America as the enemy to pursue, thereby making it an unwarranted target for terrorists. Many consider terrorism the greatest thereat to America’s existence and America needs an amiable president who will erase such hateful global sentiments by presenting the U.S. as a worthy nation steeped in consensus building and ready to extend the spirit of camaraderie worldwide.

Obama is the candidate who is preaching neither the liberal nor the conservative message. He is propagating the neo-America crusade, the idyllic enterprise the U.S. was predicted to be.

The ambition originally pined for by the founding fathers — to make America the land of freedom, a symbol of international success and a model for the rest of the world to emulate — is inherently submerged in Obama’s persona which makes him the best person to lead the Democratic Party in the 2008 presidential election.
One of the best ways for the United States to ensure peace in the world is to guarantee peace at home. Obama’s charisma, depth of political experience, global appeal and progressive policies will get that and much more for America. Obama is the American dream.
Change is waiting to happen in America. The question is: will Americans accept it?

Grasscutter chase costs farmer’s life-Joyfm

On the lighter side of life in Ghana-well not so light since someone lost his life-here's a story about how a grasscutter chase led to the death of a farmer. has the story.

The Audacity of Hopelessness

by Frank Rich
New York Times Op-Ed Columnist

WHEN people one day look back at the remarkable implosion of the Hillary Clinton campaign, they may notice that it both began and ended in the long dark shadow of Iraq.

It’s not just that her candidacy’s central premise — the priceless value of “experience” — was fatally poisoned from the start by her still ill-explained vote to authorize the fiasco. Senator Clinton then compounded that 2002 misjudgment by pursuing a 2008 campaign strategy that uncannily mimicked the disastrous Bush Iraq war plan. After promising a cakewalk to the nomination — “It will be me,” Mrs. Clinton told Katie Couric in November — she was routed by an insurgency.

The Clinton camp was certain that its moneyed arsenal of political shock-and-awe would take out Barack Hussein Obama in a flash. The race would “be over by Feb. 5,” Mrs. Clinton assured George Stephanopoulos just before New Year’s. But once the Obama forces outwitted her, leaving her mission unaccomplished on Super Tuesday, there was no contingency plan. She had neither the boots on the ground nor the money to recoup.

That’s why she has been losing battle after battle by double digits in every corner of the country ever since. And no matter how much bad stuff happened, she kept to the Bush playbook, stubbornly clinging to her own Rumsfeld, her chief strategist, Mark Penn. Like his prototype, Mr. Penn is bigger on loyalty and arrogance than strategic brilliance. But he’s actually not even all that loyal. Mr. Penn, whose operation has billed several million dollars in fees to the Clinton campaign so far, has never given up his day job as chief executive of the public relations behemoth Burson-Marsteller. His top client there, Microsoft, is simultaneously engaged in a demanding campaign of its own to acquire Yahoo.

Clinton fans don’t see their standard-bearer’s troubles this way. In their view, their highly substantive candidate was unfairly undone by a lightweight showboat who got a free ride from an often misogynist press and from naïve young people who lap up messianic language as if it were Jim Jones’s Kool-Aid. Or as Mrs. Clinton frames it, Senator Obama is all about empty words while she is all about action and hard work.

But it’s the Clinton strategists, not the Obama voters, who drank the Kool-Aid. The Obama campaign is not a vaporous cult; it’s a lean and mean political machine that gets the job done. The Clinton camp has been the slacker in this race, more words than action, and its candidate’s message, for all its purported high-mindedness, was and is self-immolating.

The gap in hard work between the two campaigns was clear well before Feb. 5. Mrs. Clinton threw as much as $25 million at the
Iowa caucuses without ever matching Mr. Obama’s organizational strength. In South Carolina, where last fall she was up 20 percentage points in the polls, she relied on top-down endorsements and the patina of inevitability, while the Obama campaign built a landslide-winning organization from scratch at the grass roots. In Kansas, three paid Obama organizers had the field to themselves for three months; ultimately Obama staff members outnumbered Clinton staff members there 18 to 3.

In the
last battleground, Wisconsin, the Clinton campaign was six days behind Mr. Obama in putting up ads and had only four campaign offices to his 11. Even as Mrs. Clinton clings to her latest firewall — the March 4 contests — she is still being outhustled. Last week she told reporters that she “had no idea” that the Texas primary system was “so bizarre” (it’s a primary-caucus hybrid), adding that she had “people trying to understand it as we speak.” Perhaps her people can borrow the road map from Obama’s people. In Vermont, another March 4 contest, The Burlington Free Press reported that there were four Obama offices and no Clinton offices as of five days ago. For what will no doubt be the next firewall after March 4, Pennsylvania on April 22, the Clinton campaign is sufficiently disorganized that it couldn’t file a complete slate of delegates by even an extended ballot deadline.

This is the candidate who keeps telling us she’s so competent that she’ll be ready to govern from Day 1. Mrs. Clinton may be right that Mr. Obama has a thin résumé, but her disheveled campaign keeps reminding us that the biggest item on her thicker résumé is the health care task force that was as botched as her presidential bid.

Given that Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama offer marginally different policy prescriptions — laid out in voluminous detail by both, by the way, on their Web sites — it’s not clear what her added-value message is. The “experience” mantra has been compromised not only by her failure on the signal issue of Iraq but also by the deadening lingua franca of her particular experience, Washingtonese. No matter what the problem, she keeps rolling out another commission to solve it: a commission for
infrastructure, a Financial Product Safety Commission, a Corporate Subsidy Commission, a Katrina/Rita Commission and, to deal with drought, a water summit.

As for countering what she sees as the empty Obama brand of hope, she offers only a chilly void: Abandon hope all ye who enter here. This must be the first presidential candidate in history to devote so much energy to preaching against optimism, against inspiring language and — talk about bizarre — against democracy itself. No sooner does Mrs. Clinton lose a state than her campaign belittles its voters as unrepresentative of the country.

Bill Clinton
knocked states that hold caucuses instead of primaries because “they disproportionately favor upper-income voters” who “don’t really need a president but feel like they need a change.” After the Potomac primary wipeout, Mr. Penn declared that Mr. Obama hadn’t won in “any of the significant states” outside of his home state of Illinois. This might come as news to Virginia, Maryland, Washington and Iowa, among the other insignificant sites of Obama victories. The blogger Markos Moulitsas Zúniga has hilariously labeled this Penn spin the “insult 40 states” strategy.

The insults continued on Tuesday night when a surrogate preceding Mrs. Clinton onstage at an Ohio rally, Tom Buffenbarger of the machinists’ union,
derided Obama supporters as “latte-drinking, Prius-driving, Birkenstock-wearing, trust-fund babies.” Even as he ranted, exit polls in Wisconsin were showing that Mr. Obama had in fact won that day among voters with the least education and the lowest incomes. Less than 24 hours later, Mr. Obama received the endorsement of the latte-drinking Teamsters.

If the press were as prejudiced against Mrs. Clinton as her campaign constantly whines, debate moderators would have pushed for the Clinton tax returns and the full list of Clinton foundation donors to be made public with the same vigor it devoted to Mr. Obama’s “plagiarism.” And it would have showered her with the same ridicule that Rudy Giuliani received in his endgame. With
11 straight losses in nominating contests, Mrs. Clinton has now nearly doubled the Giuliani losing streak (six) by the time he reached his Florida graveyard. But we gamely pay lip service to the illusion that she can erect one more firewall.

The other persistent gripe among some Clinton supporters is that a hard-working older woman has been unjustly usurped by a cool young guy intrinsically favored by a sexist culture. Slate posted
a devilish video mash-up of the classic 1999 movie “Election”: Mrs. Clinton is reduced to a stand-in for Tracy Flick, the diligent candidate for high school president played by Reese Witherspoon, and Mr. Obama is implicitly cast as the mindless jock who upsets her by dint of his sheer, unearned popularity.

There is undoubtedly some truth to this, however demeaning it may be to both candidates, but in reality, the more consequential ur-text for the Clinton 2008 campaign may be another Hollywood classic, the Katharine Hepburn-Spencer Tracy “Pat and Mike” of 1952. In that movie, the proto-feminist Hepburn plays a professional athlete who loses a tennis or golf championship every time her self-regarding fiancé turns up in the crowd, pulling her focus and undermining her confidence with his grandstanding presence.

In the 2008 real-life remake of “Pat and Mike,” it’s not the fiancé, of course, but the husband who has sabotaged the heroine. The single biggest factor in Hillary Clinton’s collapse is less sexism in general than one man in particular — the man who began the campaign as her biggest political asset. The moment Bill Clinton started trash-talking about Mr. Obama and raising the specter of a co-presidency, even to the point of giving his own televised speech ahead of his wife’s on the night she lost South Carolina, her candidacy started spiraling downward.

What’s next? Despite Mrs. Clinton’s valedictory tone at Thursday’s debate, there remains the fear in some quarters that whether through sleights of hand involving superdelegates or bogus delegates from Michigan or Florida, the Clintons might yet game or even steal the nomination. I’m starting to wonder.
An operation that has waged political war as incompetently as the Bush administration waged war in Iraq is unlikely to suddenly become smart enough to pull off that duplicitous a “victory.” Besides, after spending $1,200 on Dunkin’ Donuts
in January alone, this campaign simply may not have the cash on hand to mount a surge.