Africa Today Seminar: Yes We Can; Will Ghana remain the beacon of stability in a region in turmoil, also after the elections of December 2008?

Seminar date: 
27 November 2008
Speaker(s): Heerko Dijksterhuis

Heerko Dijksterhuis (1953) studied Human Geography and graduated in Development Planning from the University of Amsterdam. He has worked as a freelance journalist and correspondent for the Dutch media since 1979, focusing on West Africa, and Ghana in particular. He lived in Benin, Burkina Faso and Ghana for ten years.
Dijksterhuis has been the Head of Communications for Non-Governmental Organizations like Both Ends, Oxfam Novib and the Max Havelaar Foundation in the Netherlands. He has also published on development and trade issues, with one of his publications being the Country Document on Ghana for KIT, the Royal Tropical Institute in Amsterdam.

In 1957 Ghana was the first African nation south of the Sahara to gain independence and although the majority of its population still lives in poverty, democracy seems to be firmly established. In December the liberal government of President Kufuor's National Patriotic Party (NPP) is being put to the test. Will the Ghanaian people vote to continue this stabile regime? Or is it time for a change? The opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) is ready to take over after eight years of "mismanagement, corruption and nepotism", as former president Rawlings of the NDC puts it. The international community is taking a keen interest. Ghana is a relatively stable country in a very unstable region, with conflicts in neighbouring Cote d'Ivoire, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. 
Voting in Ghana is often along ethnic lines. The dominant Ashanti in the NPP claim that Rawlings and his NDC had their chances during their twenty-year rule that ended in 2000, years that did not bring Ghana the fortune and development it longed for. But has the NPP, which has been in power since then, done enough for the country's poor regions by spreading the benefits of economic growth to win the votes it needs in the north and east?
The race will be close. Ghanaians in the diaspora are sure that the Black Star will once more lead the way for other African nations and that, regardless of any tensions, the elections will be peaceful and lead to more stability, growth and development.