Seven Photos of the Revolution in Burkina Faso

It has all the ingredients of a proper revolution: president shuffled abroad, media outlets overtaken, parliament ablaze and military seen on the streets of the capital. But it is the photos of the people that really convinces me it is indeed a revolution!

Here are my favourite seven photos shared on social media today.

https://storify.com/kajsaha/photos-of-the-revolution-in-burkina-faso

Inflation: the word on Sarkodie’s lips ( and everybody else’s)

“Times are hard!”
“It’s someway bi!”
“Chale, where do I start?”


In a recent blogpost, I narrowed the political situation in Ghana down to rampant inflation.

I wanted to explain how inflation makes life hard, how trust in money is related to (lower) life quality for Ghanaians but Sarkodie beat me to it with this rant:

Worth highlighting is how FEW (fuel, electricity and water) problems have not been solved, inflation quickly become serious for the poorest.

What I maybe miss in Sark’s angry rap is the good aspects of inflation, long term they are there! It allows Ghanaian companies to compete with formerly cheap imports making Ghana a producing country again. It makes Ghana cheap for tourists. It makes remittances from relatives abroad last a little longer. Hopefully.

Is inflation on your lips?

World Cup Discussions in Social Media in Ghana: Black Stars and Mahama

While games are ongoing in Brazil and the very popular Ghanaian team, the Black Stars, are still in the game playing Portugal later today…they seem to lose the news cycle game every day to the Ghanaian president, John Dramani Mahama.

Black Narrator

The top issues have been so far:

1. Electricity and the World Cup.

What happened: For some time now, Ghana’s power supply has been erratic. Since mid-May, the country has experienced scheduled breaks in supply. Just before the world cup, the government came out to say electricity supply will be enough for all during the World Cup.

Public verdict: I haven’t seen one single positive comment to this intervention. Although Ghanaians LOVE soccer, it seems the public opinion would prefer electricity during working hours to be able to be productive…

2. Can you insult your president?

What happened:  Before the Germany game, the president Tweeted that he had talked to the players and encouraged them that they could take on the German team. The issue quickly became politicized and many wrote angry comments to the post.

Public verdict: Here my social media friends seemed to be split between those who thought the president have more important things to do than talk strategy with fotball players and those who found the intervention worthwhile. Many however stressed that a president is president for the nation and should not be insulted.

3. Appearance fee sent by plane.

What happened: The Black Stars had been promised an appearance fee that did not come and the team expressed disappointment. Next we knew, a plane left Ghana with the appearance fee of USD 75000 for each player – (“incredibly”, says the Guardian) in cash.

Public verdict: Questions galore! Why should the team hold a poor country to ransom? How could the government prioritize this, when key functions in the country are down? (fuel crisis and owing money to school feeding programs, health professionals etc.) Why was the money sent in a plane with cash and not wired into accounts? Many were also embarrassed to see international media discuss the issue.

It seems politics and fotball intersect once again! To discuss these issues and others surrounding the World Cup, BloggingGhana’s project InformGhana will be running a Twitter discussion today between 1-3 PM Ghana time. 

 Follow @informGhana on Twitter and chip in with the hashtag #Sports4Dev

 

 

Did President Mahama Go Too Far? State of the Nation 2014 #SOTNGhana

Screenshot 2014-02-28 11.30.30This week, the Ghanaian mediascape was cluttered with comments about the state of the nation address, held on Tuesday. All well and good. The problem was, most commentators were upset about the light tone of the speech, at a time that is hard for the wo/man on the street.

See for instance CitiFM or InformGhana‘s storify-summaries of the discussions on Twitter.

Read the whole State of the Nation address here on the presidency website.

Interestingly, my last post here on the blog was on Ghanaian political humor and I personally felt the president just “joined the grammar” (“Mr. Speaker, who said ‘Tweaa’?”) and spoke about politics in the most Ghanaian way possible, with some jokes and a hearty laughter.

But clearly, I was in minority. Most commentators sighed (or even booed) and said that our politicians have lost touch with the reality on ground. What do you think?

 

Pic borrowed from InformGhana, BloggingGhana’s new project.

YesiYesi, Falling Cedi and Laughter: Ghanaians and their Political Humor

Screenshot 2014-02-18 10.29.06Probably I should not put this in a blogpost, but rather write an abstract together for an academic paper with my inspiring colleague who writes about Ghanaian politics in just this way.

Anyways, I am thrilled that YesiYesi now provides almost daily, online satire with “the onion”-like twists of Ghanaian daily news. It is the first time someone (who?) has put together online versions of the very typical Ghanaian, political humour online in such a consistent manner. In a blog! (Please join BloggingGhana!) In the last few days we have read about …Justin Bieber moving to Ghana, Ghanaian women refusing Valentine’s gifts if the Cedi can stabilise, Ghanaians soon being able to go to UK without a Visa, and my favorite, KNUST charging  toll for walking on the pavement, the rate based on your foot wear…chale wote was cheapest…haha, I have to laugh just by thinking about it!

Finally, Ghana has its own news satire, and, YesiYesi, it is on point!

 

Guest Post: When Will Ghana’s Middle Class Demonstrate?

Following the low turnout of a recent demonstration in Accra, I have invited writer Kweku Ortsin to share his views in a guest post.

It’s pretty obvious that by now political appointees in the ruling government and their families would be drinking champagne and laughing their lungs out over the failed attempt by the Truth and Accountability Forum (TAF) to mass up protest on the streets against the recent tariff increments. Some media reports suggest that while the police marshalled 250 personnel in an anticipation of a huge turnout, just about 25 people showed up for the demonstration. This is obviously laughable given what the “numbers game” mean for demonstrations in this country. But I was not surprised at the abysmal turn of events.

Let me share my personal experience with demonstrations in this country. Some years ago, I joined a demonstration organized by a political pressure group. There was a massive turn up of demonstrators running into thousands. It was very peaceful and it ended with a rally where speaker after speaker lambasted the then incumbent government. The crowd cheered and cheered with loud chants and applauds!After the rally however, something very interesting happened. On my way out of the grounds, I saw a group of people quarrelling and heckling each other. I was curious so I got closer. Then I heard one elderly woman complain bitterly in one of our local languages. I’ll paraphrase what she said:

“This demonstration is just a waste of my time. Since morning I’ve been walking and walking without even pure water. Where is the Koko they promised? Where is the Kenkey they promised? And now they want us to go home without any transportation money? This will never happen! That is why I don’t like this people. As for the other party (name of political party withheld) they pay us very well. Next time this people call me again I won’t come!”

I was shocked. It was at that point that it occurred to me that probably most of the demonstrators were all hired. Later on, I questioned one of the organizers whom I happened to know and he did not mince his words:

“My brother, demonstrations and rallies are very expensive to organize in this country. Whether you are in power or in opposition, if you don’t pay you won’t get the crowd!”

Since then I have been quite skeptical about mass demonstrations in this country. Let me cite another example to illustrate my skepticism. Soon after the declaration of the 2012 election results, some people gathered at Obra Spot, near the Kwame Nkrumah Circle, with the intention of re-enacting an Egyptian-styled Tahirir Square in Ghana. But, as most of us would recall, the protest did not last beyond three days.

Well, according to some of the protesters, they backed off when it became obvious to them that their party was not going to provide them with, “at least breakfast and supper.” They said they did not understand why they should sit in protest on empty stomach while their party bigwigs enjoyed with their families. So they dispersed not because they were unconvinced that their candidate had won, but because no one was ready to support them with “chop money”.

I have therefore no doubt in mind that the TAF demonstration failed because they probably did not have money to rent a crowd. It is sad but that is the harsh reality in our country. Our people have become so impoverished that they now have to be paid before they can realize the effects of poverty in their lives.

This is where I put the blame at the doorsteps of our middle class. It is obvious that they are the only people who can speak up or register their protests without looking forward to Koko or Kenkey or transportation money. But unfortunately, most of them are either overly partisan or they simply don’t care. That is the bane of this country! As a matter of fact, until the day our middle class rises up and demand good governance we shall continue to grope in underdevelopment.

This is a Guest Post. Kweku Ortsin is a Ghanaian writer who’s website currently is under construction, will post link here when it is up!

This Year’s Best Political News in Ghana: NDC to Change Primaries System

I just stumbled across the best news in politics for Ghana for the whole year – the leading party NDC is scrapping their electoral college for parliamentary primaries allowing all their membership to vote directly.

This just might have wonderful implications:

  • Primaries are gates for political aspirants and direct voting makes more sense – if many folks like you, you win.
  • Electoral colleges have earlier meant those who can pay off the relatively small number of people in the college wins, not the more popular.
  • When good leaders who are not rich (or make corrupt promises to the electoral colleges) cannot win, it creates political apathy – now there is a chance for the leaders Ghana needs! 
  • Hopefully this will also lead to that main contending party NPP and other parties also review their primaries systems, making these effects even more profound.

On Facebook under a link to this news, selected comments were “who cares” and “NPP and NDC are all corrupt”, but also “this is the way” and “I am strongly behind you”. I say it is the best political news this whole year.

What are your views? 

Mahama’s Biography: My First Coup D’Etat or the Lost Decades of Africa

 Screen Shot 2013-09-23 at 5.38.25 PMGhana’s president John Dramani Mahama is the first Ghanaian president to be born in Ghana – his predecessors were all born in the colony of Gold Coast. This fact was many times commented on in the 2012 elections and maybe it was an advantage to his main opponent who, 20 years his elder, belonged to the group born in the Gold Coast. What makes Ghana’s current president even more unique is he is the only Ghanaian President to have written an autobiography before entering the office.

I read it last year as prep for my election involvement. I was surprised at how well the book worked as literature. I was surprised to understand that Mahama who has an air about him to be “an ordinary man”, in fact is a descendant of kings on both sides of his family.

I felt the book expertly walks us through how someone finds themselves politically, discovers their ideology and therefore I decided to use it as a required reading for my Social Theory class. Reading a book with a group of 120 others, makes it even more come alive and also other qualities are discovered.

For instance, many of the students liked how he wrote about music and what it meant to him as a young man. Others found side stories interesting such as how he dealt with bully Ezra, the friendship with his teacher and his strange welcome into the Soviet Union as formative moments, possibly shaping his political thoughts.

There were also some surprising voids, for instance his romantic relationships were reduced to a cute story about a young Mahama falling in love with a 12 year old neighbor. What about his wife Lordina and possibly other women? What his personal relationship to Flight lieutenant Rawlings, now an elder in Mahama’s party, who led the nation in difficult years of starvation and lack of freedoms in the beginning of the 1980s and Mahama’s father was forced to leave the country?

Reviews have over all been positive. See for instance the extensive review in WSJ:

Mr. Mahama is at his best in describing this vanished world. He does so with the eye of a historian and the flair of a novelist. “My First Coup d’Etat” is a collection of personal reminiscences centered on the traditional customs of his home village, where every older man is respectfully called a grandfather and every woman a grandmother.

and blogging colleague Nana Fredua-Agyemang:

There is some ambiguity in Mahama’s (the author’s) life as described in the book. On one hand his home was better than the average Ghanaian – thus, one could – in the context of Ghana – say that he was a privileged child, regardless of the ups and downs that came with it. However, his individual life – isolated from that of the family, was average.

In this video, J. D. Mahama reads from the book. 

Frankly, I am surprised this book has not been made more readily available in Ghana (for instance through a local publisher) as it is an important, well written book that lets us understand our current president a bit better; where he –  and the country –  is coming from.

End of Elections 2012: #TheVerdict of the #ElectionPetition is in!

Yesterday in the early afternoon around 1 PM most of Ghana was tuned into a radio channel or had its eyes glued to a TV screen. Since morning, we had been waiting for the verdict of the supreme court on the election petition. The judges came in and after a few minutes, the courtroom crowd stood up. 8 months of questions about the leadership of Ghana was over.

NDC and Mahama had been confirmed as winners of the presidential election.

Canadian journalist Iain Merlow was in a restaurant as the verdict came in:

““They say we are not meant to celebrate,” the man said, as he sat down for lunch, reflecting the weeks of media discussions about the need for peace, about the need for both sides to accept the verdict without violence or rallies, without over-the-top celebrations or protests. At one point, there was a pretty vigorous media debate about whether there was actually too much talk of peace, whether some were being slightly less than genuine with their peace talk, and whether there was even a need for it all.”

Nnenna followed #theVerdict on social media:

“Oh là là, Ghana Tweeps nailed it. They took pictures, they reported. They tweeted, retweeted, shared, and kept the hype. While we waited for the judges to give #TheVerdict, we even got to the point of asking people to share what they were doing while waiting.. It will be interesting to see a MashUp of the tweets on both tags: #ElectionPetition and #TheVerdict.”

Kwaku Spider checked out the headlines.

“Judgement Day is here”

“D-Day”

Kofi Annan suggested:

“This success must not blind us to the flaws in our electoral system that the judicial review has brought to light. All concerned need to work energetically to ensure that these flaws are addressed through the necessary institutional reforms.

We have a bright future to build together, as the Ghanaian people. That future begins today.”

And taking into account that future, today, some of us bloggers met online in a GhanaDecides sponsored G+ Hangout to discuss the verdict and the election petition’s impact on our country. It was a very constructive discussion with many different opinions shared and challenged. 

The discussion is about 1 hour. For a summary, see this Storify put together by Jemila who also moderated the discussion.

The elections 2012 are officially over!

 

 

 

 

One Week at Citi FM: The Report

Last week I wrote about looking forward to my Grown Woman Internship with Citi FM:

I grew curious how they work behind the scenes – how do they prepare? How much time goes into each show? What best practises do they have to share as a successful team? How do they keep their enthusiasm when uncovering so much hardship?

Now (or rather last week, but an unfortunate issue involving ECG stopped me from posting it then), I have spent a week with the Citi Breakfast Show at Citi FM and I have to say I am the wiser for it. I did not get complete answers to all my questions, but I got a start and also many other insights. Before I get to my initial questions, here are my notes from the week:

Monday. Shocked by the chaos and the apparent ad hoc-ness of determining what happens on air. People who are coming on seem to be called the same morning or, more often, call in themselves. Learned the word “plotting”, that is planning the show by the producer of the show, Sanda. The morning was dominated by an accident blocking morning traffic into Accra and was it the man selling his girlfriend for ritual murder-story? I talked to Deputy News Editor Boakye about the news and his work schedule in the newsroom. I had a high pulse the whole morning. Talked to journalist/host Godfred over lunch. I was asked to do some research on “The real cost of Ghana’s brain-drain”.

Tuesday. Was going to be a show on values, but due to the Transparency International corruption perception index coming out, it became a show about corruption. Started to realize how much current affairs sway the content of the show. Production assistant Fred commented on my frequent tweeting.  After the show, TV program “Who’s behind” from ViaSat came to interview Bernard. That is after him spending 4 hours on air. He was still smiling. Had a talk with co-host Nhyira and production assistant/journalist Pearl.

Wednesday. Many of the institutions mentioned as corrupt had gotten in touch and the show was supposed to be a follow up of that, but a discussion on corruption in the media and an animated interview with the opposition shifted the topic. After having done extensive live-tweeting for a few days, I was asked to do twitter training with Citi people. Had lunch with a Canadian journalist from a Human Rights organization spending 6 months in the newsroom and turned in my Brain-Drain report. Hopefully, it will be the basis of a Citi Breakfast Show to come!

Thursday. We did not really know what topic to go on, the news was a bit scattered and did not provide a clear direction. I took part in the discussion. A news item on three young robbers started a discussion on the reasons behind very young criminals and a discussion on youth unemployment ensued. I quickly did some research and found  some statistics of youth unemployment in Ghana (65% in 2011 according to the World Bank) and some reasons according to academic research.  Within minutes those facts were read on air. I had lunch with two of my former students from Ashesi who were also interns at the station and compared notes. I partook in a Facebook training in the afternoon.

Friday. The morning started with a discussion on traditional practices stepping in where the state and judiciary system should be, I think a rape case in the news was the starting point of the talk. But then we compared notes and realized that no one had been able to make a call on MTN since last evening and the “plotting” turned to what we can do with this. Just complain? Bernard said he wanted answers and the producers started calling up the telcos. I started a discussion on Twitter with the hashtag #dearghtelcos and then things went crazy….People from #YaleConfGH stopped by to do promotion. At least two of these guests are on every day. As a cherry on top of my week, hosts Bernard and Nhyira did a mini interview with me on air. During the weekly Friday meeting for the team Co-host Nana Ama put a question straight to me, “Kajsa, you have been here for a week now, what do you think?” For the team to want my opinion was a golden moment for me!

 

Answers to my questions:

How do they prepare?

I learned in the reverse they “plot” on Fridays for the week, but then stay flexible to be relevant. They are four, sometimes five hosts in the studio and all of them spend hours every day reading news, features and books. In the morning before the show starts, they “plot” the show of the day, but frequently defer from it.

 

How much time goes into each show?

Do I know this? I am not sure they even know themselves as, I was surprised to find out, for all of the crew,  the City Breakfast Show  (airing 6-10am on weekdays) is NOT a full time job. All of the hosts, including the main host Bernard have jobs at the station our outside. For instance Nana Ama is the Online Editor and Bernard the Operations Manager of the station.

 

What best practises do they have to share as a successful team?

  1. They start everyday with a meeting and end every week with a meeting. – I think this is important as it creates a frame within which they can be creative.
  2. They are experts in their various fields. – They find a way to efficiently mill through heaps of data and be up to date on many fronts.
  3. They are young. – The whole station seem like a very young workplace and the vibrancy of workers allow for high tempo and fresh thinking.

 

How do they keep their enthusiasm when uncovering so much hardship?

They have a mission to influence Ghanaians and change Ghana. They aim to make radio that get results and they are getting there. I found it interesting, that people in power call them every day to explain themselves! That in an environment where we complain there is little accountability! Privately, some of them have faith, others family to fall back on, because Chale every day, it is a new, horrible story.

 

What did I learn?

  • As always, you learn more about yourself than anything else when stepping out of your comfort zone. It was really nice to be at an organization without any money changing hands, formal agreement, I felt no stress to perform. Ahhhh.
  • I also learned, I love the news room pressure – that vibe, that “the deputy minister is on the phone”, “Wait, I have the police on the other line!”, “Can you get me numbers?”, “What did the Graphic say about this? Quick!”  – it is addictive!
  • I also found I quickly assert myself and participate. I had planned to “be a fly on the wall”, but discussions were just too interesting not to take part of.
  • Finally, I like how Twitter and Facebook also allows you into a discussion that might be held on air. On Friday, we saw how many “listeners” follow through social media when in 15 minutes 80 comments flowed in via Facebook. Clearly, there is much more to explore in the Social Media/Radio interface in Ghana.

One of my readers pointed me to this article on taking an internship at the age of 30. The writer suggests being an intern after a certain age “can seem like a step backward or even feel a bit embarrassing”, and I guess it can. But then again , why should we always step forward and upward? In the wisdom of Ghanaian folklore, “Sankofa” or “go back and fetch it” suggests that we have much to learn from that which lies behind us!

In hindsight, doing a Grown Woman internship with my idols at Citi FM was a great idea, an exciting week and absolutely a learning opportunity for life!

“Dumsor-Dumsor”: Electricity and Productivity in Ghana


Last year, Ghana was among the fastest growing economies in the world. That was while supply of electricity or “light” as we say here, was patchy at best, but often cut off according to a “load shedding schedule” every other or every two days for 6-12 hours (dumsor-dumsor refers to the sound when light go off in an entire area).

I have a “tag” here on my blog for power problems (16 posts so far, 17 with this one!), set up in 2007, the year I moved to Ghana. Then load shedding was every other day. I remember it vividly as we used to go to a movie place, pay 50 pesewas to sit in a room with fans, pay no attention to whatever movie was on and go home when the dark had made the temperature drop slightly.

This week, the World Bank came out with a report “Energizing Economic Growth in Ghana” on how we could avoid being here again in 5 years time. There is nothing really new in the report, actually on radio the World Bank guy said it was 90% the same report presented in 2010! However, it made me think:

Where would Ghana be in terms of politics, creativity, productivity, growth and well being if Dumsor-Dumsor was a thing of the past?

The only sector partially thriving from dumsor-dumsor or dumso-dumso is the music industry churning out songs on the topic, one is embedded at the top!

Update: Free Speech and Disagreement in Ghana

The other day I was writing a post about two Ghanaians getting (brief) prison sentences for disrespecting the Supreme Court. This issue has been the inspiraton for jokes mimicking the telecom companies’ advertising textmessages “Talk and Get Jailed Promotion!”,  Akosua’s satires in Daily Guide have covered the issue, see above, and of course there has also been plenty of serious debate, on- and off line. In that debate, it seems many (most?) Ghanaians disagree with my point.

They feel a line was passed and it up to the Supreme Court to make the call where that line is drawn. Freedom of speech means freedom to say what you want, but then it can be judged offensive and you then have to pay the price.

All comments I got on my first blog post belong to this category, here are some excerpts:

“The rules of court proceedings are clear and the restriction of discussion on a case in court is for specific reasons. Such discussions can lead one to make pre-judicial comments” – Elikplim

“This is not a gag on free speech, it is the stifling of loose talkers and irresponsible journalism.” – Roddy Adjei

“My understanding of free speech is that one is not prevented from making a speech. just that. It cannot mean one must fail responsibility.” – Novisi

“The SC in my candid opinion did the right thing. It’s time people stop abusing “freedom of speech”.” – Abban Budu

One of the few people who did agree with me, a Ghanaian journalist now in graduate school overseas, made the point that we need those willing to test the limits to know where we stand as a nation. But also his argument was met with disbelief.

I love disagreement. Generally, it is interesting and educative and so also in this case. What I have learned is that Ghanaians are seriously concerned about the Supreme Court ruling (the one on the 2012 election outcome), tired of the people trying to stir up emotions and ready to sacrifice for stability. 

Tune into Ghana Connect on Joy FM Friday 5 July at 6.30-7.00 PM and hear Ghanaians debate the issue live.