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.

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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”


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!





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Swedish News Article Feat. Election Petition Verdict

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While Ghana holds its breath (ok, not really) for the election petition verdict coming tomorrow, my friend sent me this timely Swedish news article from one of Sweden’s premier morning papers with a heading that reads (in translation) “Belief in Future Despite Worrying Wait for Election Results in Ghana”.

I am cited in there, from an interview done some months back, saying:


–President Mahama är säkert försvagad av att valresultatet diskuteras dagligen i tv och radio och gör inte många utspel. Det senaste halvåret har varit besvärligt med många strejker bland lärare och läkare i offentlig sektor och en elkris med många dagliga avbrott. I det område jag bor är vi av med elen sex timmar varannan dag, berättar Kajsa Hallberg Adu som bor med man och barn i Tema, utanför huvudstaden Accra.


– President Mahama is likely made weaker by that the election results daily are questioned in TV and radio and does few interventions. The last six months have been difficult with many strikes among teachers and medical doctors in the public sector and an electricity crisis. Where I live we do not have electricty 6 hours every other day, says Kajsa Hallberg Adu who lives with husband and child in Tema, just outside the capital Accra.

For the record I also spoke of things going well and stressed there was no panic. But reading this again makes me remember that times have really been tough for some time…

The article is concluded with a (wo)man on the street who voted for Akuffo-Addo who says she will accept the supreme court verdict.

–Jag kan stå ut med John Mahama också. Det gör inte så stor skillnad.


–I can live with John Mahama too. It does not make a big difference.

I have the feeling this is a pretty representative view. Tomorrow and the ensuing days will tell…

Read the article in full here.



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Back in Ghana: Ashesi, Election Petition Verdict, TEDxCapeCoastEd and a Funeral

Note the caption!! "Small class sizes, amazing teachers"
Note the caption!! “Small class sizes, AMAZING TEACHERS”

As soon as I have unpacked my bags, fall has started and I immediately have an interesting week ahead: 

Wed – Kick-off at Ashesi (who right now feature a pic of me on the website to illustrate what we do, see above)

Thu – Election Petition verdict comes in, stay tuned to Ghana Decides Website and Facebook page

Fri – Start my last year as a PhD student (hopefully!) at Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana.

SatTEDxCapeCoastEd – a conference on “broadening the frontiers of education” and maybe Chale Wote festival pre-party in the evening

And on Sunday, this being Ghana, I of course have some funerals to attend…

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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.

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Frontline Follow-Up: Are You Still A TV-Star?

The other day, as I was at the Data Bootcamp, my phone rang with a Swedish number showing. It does not happen often, so I left the meeting room and when I picked up the phone, Gustav Asplund from Swedish national radio was on the line. He told me the program was following up with people they had interviewed and asked me simply: last time you were a TV-host, how did it go and what are you doing now?

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This afternoon the program was broadcast and the pic above is from their website – headline “The TV-star in Ghana”.

Listen to the interview (only in Swedish!) here, forward to 22.48 to hear only my segment.

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My Blogging Year 2012

In September, my blog was hacked into and all my pics disappeared. Still today, all photos before September 8th, 2012 are missing. That is painful! But there were good times as well. Here is my Blogging Year 2012:


We had the first meeting of the year with BloggingGhana, I tried to launch the hashtag #GHhousing (and failed terribly) and BBC inaugurated their new debate program in Accra.


I found myself in the middle of a breastfeeding debate, and prepared for a presentation of my research so wrote about it and on using Google forms for research.


In this month, I went back to work at Ashesi University after my parental leave. Also the GhanaDecides initiative was launched together with our first campaign, iRegistered!


I started a series, Blogs I Read. First out was Holli’s new blog. I took my family to the Chale Wote festival organized by the AccraDotAlt crew and reported about our family addition: poultry!


In May, BloggingGhana held our first major event: BlogCamp. I wrote about it before it happened, then a report and then a post with pictures. And then I couldn’t help but compare it to a Swedish blog event! I also discussed the galloping inflation Ghana was experiencing.


A plane crash in Ghana was reported in social media before in traditional media channels – this was a tipping point for social media in Ghana! I had my first guest post and met with other people who were covering the elections online. Thanks to Google Ghana for hosting us!

July and August

I needed passport photos to travel and then I was off for vacations!


I came back from my vacation, revamped my blog, only to see it hacked as discussed above. I also launched a new career as a TV host!


With my new career, my blog readership increased big-time from around 50 on a good day to 1500! I was also chosen as the Blogger of the Week (BOW) by BloggingGhana and posted photos from my first TV interviews with Abu Sakara, Papa Kwesi Ndoum and others. This was a splendid month for my career, but luckily I also had time for some family fufu and for Sister Deborah’s hit video “Uncle Obama“.


The Melcom Disaster happened, killing 14, again a news that was carried by social media in Ghana. I also went to a social media and a humanist conference, both in Accra. At work, I was interviewing politicans and doing research…or rather watching the Azonto.


The last month of the year was dominated by the Ghanaian elections. I am proud to say that both online and on the TV-screen, I had taken part of informing the citizens of Ghana about their choices. Then the results were declared on Facebook (my post on it was read by 3000 in the first 24 hours) and soon after the opposition vowed to challenge them! On Friday, the opposition filed their complaint against the EC and the president-elect.

In conclusion, it has been a very eventful year, both for me personally and for Ghana. Specifically,  I think this is a year where social media in Ghana has really taken off and more and more people turn to the Internet for their news and communication needs. Next year, BloggingGhana will meet on how to sustain the debate we created with GhanaDecides, I will meet with TV3 to see how I can be involved in future political programming. I will of course teach, have some other projects on my mind and hope to collect data for my thesis. Recently, I met someone who presented herself as an “Academic Entrepreneur” and I humbly aspire to be just that in the next year!

Thanks for reading my blog and happy new year!

For more of this, here is My Blogging Year 2011.

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Opposition Files Complaint Against Election Results: Now What?

Just now, the news was released that Ghana’s main opposition party, NPP, has officially filed the petition with the supreme court over this year’s presidential election results. The news was expected, the continuation is not as clear…

Now it will be very exciting to see what the Supreme Court will do.

  • Will it speed up the trial process?
  • Will it make the evidence public?
  • Will it order a recount of the vote? (the Supreme Court cannot change the results, only at most order a recount).

Today was the very last day to file (officially 21 days after election results are declared, but as the 30th falls on a Sunday…) and NPP have been very sparse with information of their case. I was nervous they wouldn’t even make it! Yesterday, journalists were waiting in vain!  Finally, it was the party flag bearer, his vice and the party chairman who signed the petition as a registered voter has to complain, not  a party.

Hopefully, this examination of the election will close what ever loop holes is still out there and strengthen the Ghanaian democracy. However, likely, the investigation will take a bit of time and the president elect, John Dramani Mahama will still be sworn in as planned on Jan 7th.

What then happens if a recount is ordered by the supreme court and it indeed confirms the election results add up to a different result? 

These are indeed interesting times.

See TV3 and Daily Graphic for more details.


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Opposition Challenges Election Results in Ghana

Yesterday at 5 PM the main opposition party came out of their closed doors meeting with the message that they will challenge the election results as presented by the Electoral Commission on Sunday. However, this was not exactly news.

The party never conceded defeat and since Sunday afternoon, when a press conference was held by the opposition New Patriotic Party asking the EC to wait with announcing the results until a review of some detected anomalies had been done, we all knew they were not going to accept the results. Later on Sunday, a meeting was held with the EC at the EC premises with the opposition, the party in power, National Democratic Congress, and the National Peace Council. Before the meeting was over, the results were declared (Wayan calls it the Facebook tipping point, by the way) and then a press conference followed. However, that press conference also told us NPP were not going to accept the results as they remarkably were not present.

So, back to last night: 30 minutes after the message from NPP, I get a Google Alert that Swedish media is writing something on Ghana – and there it is “opposition challenges election results in court”. Now the world is discussing this, and still I don’t really know what to think, hence I thought I’d ask some Ghanaian friends on their view of the intended appeal:

Friend 1: Oh, they are just sore losers, we all knew this was going to happen. Don’t worry. The case will take forever and it won’t change a thing. Well, maybe except for Ghana’s reputation of a beacon of hope for African democracy.

Friend 2: It’s great they are going to court, this is a real addition to our democracy. Look at us, no violence on the streets, going through the correct channels, discussing this thing peacefully. I am sure the opposition is doing the right thing, keeping silent would have been wrong.

Friend 3: This is so typical, first its all peace this, peace that, now nobody involved cares about Ghana, only about themselves. I’m sure Ghana in the end has to foot the bill for the court costs!

Friend 4: What? They said they are going to court? I thought they said they were going to think about it? I always thought they’d come out and say “we have discovered some irregularities, but we will not open any case, here is the evidence, we should improve our system for next election year”. They would save face, we would all win. Actually, this is still an option as they haven’t taken it to court yet!

Friend 5: Where is the government in all of this? They should come out and spur the investigations into this on, I mean else they will be seen as trying to hide something or taking power from the people. They have the most to loose, so they should act!

Apparently, election season is not yet over. What do you think of the opposition’s decision to challenge the results of the election in court?



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Why Did Ghana’s Electoral Commission Declare Presidential Results on Facebook?

First a little background from the last couple of days: Ghanaians went to the polls on December 7th and surprisingly also on the 8th, due to malfunctions of biometric (finger print) verification machines in around 18% of polling stations. Results started to trickle in and the media and online resources that I described in an earlier post publicised them as they came in. Late yesterday evening, I went to bed. It was then an excruciatingly even race and I thought my prediction of a second round would come true. However when I woke up this morning, Joy News /Multmedia had projected that incumbent John Dramani Mahama of the NDC would win. Numbers started to tilt over 50 percent for NDC and it still was close, but with only a few constituencies left to count seemed possible to call. Then in the afternoon, the main opposition party called to a press conference and reported irregularities on the collation centre level where they claimed votes had been added in their thousands.

Fast forward to the point when we were all waiting for the electoral commission to come out and say something. As we were waiting for EC:s press conference, TV channels were showing the empty halls of the EC premises and the EC was said to be in an emergency meeting with the National Peace Council (NEC) and the two main opponent parties, the NPP and the NDC. Just before they all came out  a few minutes to 9 PM, this was posted on the EC Facebook wall:

Twitter and Facebook went wild, people were sharing this document like crazy – it appeared to be a summary of election results. Was it genuine? Why was it released on Facebook? As GhanaDecides points out, we cannot know, but here are some guesses that were mentioned on social media:

1. The Electoral Commission’s own Website came down earlier in the day (too many visitors?) and as that channel was not working they chose the next available thing, their Facebook page.

2. The meeting with the parties and the NEC was dragging out and the results were provided to show the meeting delegates that postponing declaration of results was not an option.

3. As the media was waiting in a adjacent room since a couple of hours, the results were released on Facebook to calm nerves of the press corps and the country.

Shortly after the Facebook post, the press conference finally started and the Electoral Commission confirmed the results and declared a president elect – John Dramani Mahama. However for half an hour or so, the results in Ghana’s 2012 presidential election was only available on Facebook. As the above are only guesses, hopefully we will get clarity on the process behind this historic Facebook post – the first ever Facebook post for presidential election results? – in the days to come.

In social media the discussion is ongoing if it was “good” or “bad” for Ghana that Facebook was used for this important message. As someone who works with promoting the use of social media for societal good (I am the chair of BloggingGhana, the mother organization of GhanaDecides), I think we could not have wished for a better showcase of that Ghana and Ghanaian institutions are indeed using social media and finding new and innovative uses for it for societal good. After all, Facebook is a direct and interactive channel to citizens. 

What do you think?

Currently the results have been shared 1390 times on Facebook and ECs page has over 18 000 likes.

UPDATE: Read DK’s worthwhile article on the same issue here. He concludes:

“Part of social media’s appeal to the young African is its ability to enpower individuals and communities to reflect and/or portray our lives and values, both to our peers and to international onlookers. Over the past few months we turned our Facebook feeds into mock parliamentary chambers, debating the issues of the day. We turned our timelines into soapboxes, expounding our 140-character political theories. We hung out in Google+ chatrooms, like old chums in a chop bar talking politics.

Barring the odd incident, the path, though potholed, has been successfully navigated and Ghana has indeed decided. With a turnout rate just shy of 80% (up 10pp on 2008) the real winner has to be democracy. In the light of all this, perhaps it was only fitting that a nation with a dual appetite for social media and politics, has had its appetite for politics fed by a simple post on a feed.”


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Election Morning on Swedish Radio and at the PreSec Polling Station in Tema

This morning I woke up early to see the sun rise over Ghana’s election day. Before 7 am I had both spoken to Swedish radio and visited my local polling station.

Find the link to the Swedish radio program here. I talked about my role in the elections, the two main contenders, the closeness of the poll and about the 6 additional contenders for the presidency.

At the local polling station about 150 people were already lined up to vote and the voting materials were about to be unpacked. I spoke to two gentlemen who had waited since 2.30 and 5.30 am respectively! The feeling is very calm and the only problems reported so far seems to be voting materials arriving late and polling not starting on time at every polling station, however even so, people are patienly waiting to vote.

Voters waiting to vote, queu in the back.
Voting booth
Local election observer
Street was calm


Now, we are off to the polling station where my husband is to vote. Follow my reports on Twitter @kajsaha and the hashtag #GhanaDecides

UPDATE: Now GhanaDecides live stream is up so you can follow election events as they happen.

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One Week to Election Day – Will We Go for a Second Round?

Today, Friday, we are seven days, one week, away from the presidential and parliamentary elections here in Ghana. There is a slight fatigue in the air and I saw one of the most prominent journalists in Ghana say on Twitter he wishes voting can happen early so “it can all be over”.

But of course that will not happen, more likely is that the presidential elections will go to a second round as polls have failed to give any one party a comfortable 50% plus one vote needed for a “one touch” victory. With eight parties contesting the presidency, only a few percentages of votes directed to other parties than the two major parties currently running neck to neck will lead to that no party can secure the votes needed to win. Therefore, I say we will go for a second round. That second round will then take place on the 28th of December.

What do you think?

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