On 7 December 2016, the Global Justice and Global Development Academies supported a student-led initiative to follow the elections in Ghana, as part of their Innovative Initiative Fund. In this post, MSc student, Matthew Pflaum, reflects on the evening’s events.
Elections are critical processes for global social and political change, leading to new policies and reforms. Certain elections, referenda, and regions receive widespread attention and coverage – the US election and Brexit, for example – while others are less covered. Elections in the Global South tend to be disregarded by much of the world, and this is a mistake. All elections are significant, principally for local citizens, but also for the rest of the world through geopolitics and trade.
During the US election, crowds gathered in tenebrous bars and sterile classrooms to watch the event unfold, their eyes festooned to the glaring screens with constant updates of results. Americans and non-Americans watched with anticipation, feeling that the event was important to their lives. But aren’t all elections important? Should we not also gather to support elections in Burma and Botswana?
Around this time, I wondered aloud why it is that so many people follow the elections in the United States and Europe but not in Africa. “Why should we follow the US election, or Brexit, but none of the African elections?” I wondered aloud. I happened to be in the company of some good Ghanaian friends, and that was when we had a communal epiphany. “Of course! We will follow the Ghana election!” That was how the idea started. This was common sense – there is no reason to closely follow the events in Europe and the United States while eschewing those in the rest of the world. The reasoning aligns well with global movements for greater justice, equality, and awareness (such as decolonisation). The Ghana election made sense for many reasons: Serendipity (it was coming up at the end of the year); there are many Ghanaian students at the University; and Ghana is an important country in Africa in terms of economics, geopolitics, and diplomacy.
About thirty of us gathered for the important Ghanaian election on December 7th in the first floor practice suite of the Chrystal MacMillan Building at the University of Edinburgh (event info here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1201034006619568/; https://centreofafricanstudies.wordpress.com/). Despite falling in the midst of final term papers, the turn-out and enthusiasm was excellent.