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Archive for January, 2017

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Matthew Pflaum is a MsC student in Africa & International Development.  He has been an active force on campus, founding the Africa Society.  Here he writes about a student initiative to generate greater dialogue around elections on the continent.

On the evening of 7th December, around thirty University of Edinburgh students met to explore and follow the Ghanaian election being held that day.

The idea emerged when groups of students and faculty stayed up late to closely follow the US elections across the campus and city – in bars, offices, and classrooms. We wanted to create similar opportunities to collectively follow African elections, starting with the Ghanaian elections, which were scheduled for just a month later . Having successfully received funding from the Global Justice Academy and the Global Development Academy, we put together a Facebook Group for the event and interest spread. 

The idea did not arise in a vacuum, but rather was part of a broader move to decolonize the study of politics. At the University of Edinburgh, we are fortunate to have regular Africa-focused events and activities. Alongside lectures, seminars, roundtable discussions, we have events like G-connect, in which a country is celebrated through food, dancing, music, and events, serves to educate and inform people about different countries and cultures. Our event was a valuable addition to this mix.

The event began around five in the evening in the first-floor practice suite in the Chrystal MacMillan Building of the University. The evening began with an introduction by Joseph Yaw Kissi, a Ghanaian student studying international development. Joseph provided an insightful overview of current politics in the country, including summaries of the major parties, candidates, and platforms. This gave a good foundation and context for the subsequent discussions and lectures.

Following Joseph’s introduction, we had lectures and question/answer sessions with two Ghanaian Professors, Dr. John Osae-Kwapong of the University of Findlay and Dr. Isaac Owusu-Mensah of the University of Ghana. They provided very important and interesting information and data from their own research and expertise, explaining regional and geographic voting trends. Throughout each lecture, students asked questions and received excellent responses from the Professors. We learned, for example, that the issue of gender has not emerged as a pivotal and critical topic during the election. We also learned that regional and global geopolitics remain lower priorities than issues like jobs, unemployment, and economics in Ghanaian elections.

Throughout the event, we feasted on the delicious food prepared by fellow students (special thanks and gratitude to Joseph Yaw Kissi, Nina Amoah-Buabeng, Micaela Opoku-Mensah, Dorcas Amoh-Mensah, and everybody else) who generously volunteered to cook despite the burden of final papers. The food they spent all day preparing – Jollof, rice, fried chicken, eggs, salad, and more – was delicious.

Thanks to this event we learned much about Ghana’s politics, culture, and history. More importantly, we were left with questions that will provoke greater interest in the country. The event served to stimulate discussion and engagement. The following day we were greeted with news that the opposition NPP candidate Nana Akufo-Addo won the election. Some people rejoiced at these results, while others lamented them. The new President has promised to serve and represent all Ghanaians in achieving political and economic progress, and Ghanaians and the rest of the world will surely follow ensuing developments closely.

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