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Last Updated: Friday, 3 December, 2004, 15:23 GMT
Is politics too personal?
Ghana election hopefuls
Do politicians listen to you?

The BBC's Africa Live asks: What is our obsession with political personalities costing us?

In Ghana, where voters go to the polls on Tuesday, there is concern that the campaigns have been dominated by "sleazy" personal attacks rather than key issues affecting a majority of Ghanaians: Unemployment, increasing levels of poverty and corruption.

The politicians have seized every platform public rallies, local newspapers, radio and television to trade accusations and counter accusations.

And in South Africa, President Thabo Mbeki and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have been embroiled in a bitter slanging match.

In a previous Africa Live debate on elections, you told us that voters' needs are often ignored by politicians.

Are the real issues being lost as the "Big Men" fight? Is the media to blame for this obsession with personalities? Or is the character of a politician as important as his or her policies?

Tell us what you think by using the form on the right and join the debate on Wednesday 8 December at 1630GMT and 1830GMT on the BBC World Service.

If you would like to take part in the discussion, please send us your comments with your telephone number, which will not be published.


Candidates do not present visions for the future, but keep themselves busy by exploiting ethnic differences
Kehleboe Gongloe, Liberian in US
Unfortunately, politics in Africa is always personal. The primary reason is that the government is the largest employer in all African countries - whoever controls power controls life for the vast majority. Elections should be about the future, but in Africa, elections are generally about decades of problems. Candidates do not present visions for the future, but keep themselves busy by exploiting ethnic differences. In spite of this, I still believe Africa can do better if we try to be creative at organising our elections, not necessarily based on the current model.
Kehleboe Gongloe, Liberian in US

Most candidates only talk about the topics that could help them win the elections. In industrialised countries, those topics are mostly people's needs. In Africa, personal attacks have a stronger effect and therefore, are a great asset for politicians. Is it good for the people? Maybe. Africa needs leaders with strong personalities and strong beliefs. The personality war might just be the best way to choose those leaders.
Leo, Austin, US

The only way to prevent the politics of personal attacks becoming an integral part of our young democracies would be for the electorate to vote against those who engage in it. But, of course that assumes a well-informed population who can discern between the relevant issues and trash. Hopefully the young democracies of Africa will mature soon where the energies and resources of politicians will be devoted to positive things that benefit all our people.
Michael Asante, US

Most of the current politicians have lived under the oppression of colonialism in the sixties. So they've been trying to prove to Europeans that they can lead their own country, which has been a hard and impossible mission. Angola, Zimbabwe, DR Congo are very good examples. Meanwhile, American and European complicity has been responsible for such a bad administration.
Julio Cesar, Portugal

Politics in Africa is still laced with western conceptions. The African scene still has to invent some form of African accountability that seeks to put honesty and community ahead of personal interests.
Weru Macharia, Brighton,UK

Politics was meant to be a service, but has now turned out to be a perennial profession for some of Africa's politicians. The media have also made it worse by accepting that newspapers cannot sell if there is no news of one politician insulting the other. Because most of the politicians lack anything of substance to talk about in election campaigns, they end up pouring dirt on each other. Instead of attacking the policies, they attack their opponents in a way that has nothing to do with policies. Shame on you African politicians.
Reginauld Ntomba, Zambia

The reality, for instance in Nigeria, is that people enter into politics to have their own share of the "national cake" basically because they have witnessed how those who were there before them suddenly grew rich and dominated the others. Politics has been turned into a personal affair where one can buy power, abuse power and escape justice. I hope politics in Nigeria will find its lost glory.
Chidi Nwamadi, Nigerian in France

If a politician cannot stand up and take personal attacks, then he is not ready for the most challenging job which is leading a country
Marvel, Sierra Leonean in US
I don't believe that politics in Africa is too personal. If a politician cannot stand up and take personal attacks, then he is not ready for the most challenging job which is leading a country. People also base their vote on a politician's personality. Being personal sometimes creates debates which is a good thing for Africa.
Marvel, Sierra Leonean in US

The media must play a more important role in building Africa's budding democracies. Media reports should only be on concrete policies and issues that directly affect the people and will make a direct contribution to their standard of living. There should be no room for personal abuse of opponents. Personal issues should be permitted, only if they affect a politician's judgment or the performance of their duty.
Martin Kwakwa, Australia

The media has the responsibility of giving proper direction to the electorate. It is about time we started to scrutinise what the parties have on offer for us. If we are learning to be democratic, let us go the proper way and stop copying the sleazy attacks as witnessed in the American elections recently.
Kwaku Henaku, UK

Politics is the most lucrative venture in Africa
King Yemmy Adu, Nigeria
Politicians in Africa are as confused as their followers. It is appalling to see our people praising and helping these self serving politicians who come to power, knowing full well that they are going to be of no use to citizens. Nigeria is a good case study. We praise our leaders if they are elected from our regions but criticise them if they are not from our regions. Politics is the most lucrative venture in Africa and our people are always willing to do anything to grab power or steal it.
King Yemmy Adu, Nigeria

We all fail to understand politics in Africa. In Africa, politics is about personalities rather than issues. Take the case of Ghana where only a tiny minority can understand the economic parameters and what they mean in their everyday lives. Many people vote for the guy they like most and do not care about the issues. Who cares about issues anyway, if one can buy votes.
Quami Yeboah, London-Kumasi

Politics in Africa will improve only after we stop electing "kings" into office and start voting in servants of the people. We are always looking for someone to rule over us but never to serve our interests. So in search of our "king" through ill-advised methods, we cannot help but make politics too personal. The people must first become better informed about their rights and the role of a good government in order for them to really know what is important when electing anyone into a political office. Until the average African becomes well informed about the role of politics, we are going to continue in engaging in personal politics to the detriment of us all.
George Kyalo Mutua, Kenya

Politics is an individual achievement at the expense of free will voters
Shuttie F.N.Libuta, Zambia/Central Africa
Politics is the most personal profession under the sun. Anybody who wants to improve their standard of living just wakes up one morning and organises a few unsuspecting individuals to back him up and hey presto, they are in power. Those that vote for these individuals must not think for one moment that these politicians will ever fulfil their promises. They make sure that they reap as much wealth as they can regardless of who is agreeing with their policies. No politician has been able to listen to the electorate and grant their wishes. The media has its share of the blame when it covers certain politicians. It is not a question of whose policies are going to benefit humanity. It is a matter of who will be taking part in some unjustifiable activity. The character of a politician is as important as his or her policies. Politicians are too occupied with personal goals instead of what affects their societies. Politics is an individual achievement at the expense of free will voters.
Shuttie F.N.Libuta, Zambia/Central Africa

It is sad when people who are supposed to be our leaders, prefer to trade in insults and just grab power from the electorate. Some Ghanaian politicians are culprits. Many Ghanaians are politically illiterate and are not concerned about issues. It is my hope that the last few days would be devoid of frivolous comments that may degenerate into conflict. Ghanaians should accept the polls as a true representation of the people's voice and in the end, peace shall reign supreme on our land.
Joe Darko, Ghana

Politicians are liars and have nothing to offer the electorate. They engage in slander and mudslinging because they know that all campaign promises will never be kept. In Africa, good intentioned public figures change overnight. In Cameroon, they have just organised presidential elections. Once you join politics you have lost credibility in the eyes of your family members, because they know you have become a professional liar and blackmailer. Most African politicians have overstayed their welcome in politics. They are short of ideas and have deceived the electorate. The media is also to blame. At times, instead of reporting events, the media adds comment about the personalities concerned. In Cameroon, every politician has his own journalist to sing his praises and blackmail his opponent. Since most journalists are poor, they are easily manipulated by politicians.
Teneng Lucas Chefor, Cameroon

Politics is always personal when one candidate feels he or she might lose. It was said to have become personal even in the US where both Bush and Kerry resorted to all kinds of tactics to defame each other in front of the electorate. Politics is personal and always has been and that's why they call it 'a dirty game'
Vivian, Ghanaian in the U.S

People go into politics to earn a living, hence people are prepared to do anything to protect their source of income.
Kwame, Ghana

Politics is a profession in Ghana. People go into politics to earn a living, hence people are prepared to do anything to protect their source of income and food. How then do you expect politics to be an honest representation of the people?
Kwame, Ghana

Politics of personal attack is used by American politicians too, because it works. It's healthy in my opinion. Is it fair game? That's another question because all the candidates are not afforded equal coverage by the media.
Joseph Abey, Cameroonian in US

African leaders miss the issue once they are in the spotlight, they seem too confused to an extent that they allow the press to lead them into attacking each other verbally rather than facing issues such as fighting corruption, unemployment and improving people's standard of living.
Mobi Iloabuchi, Nigeria

In African politics, what the politicians say before elections is often not what they do once they are in power. Besides, in most African countries the needs of the electorate are much the same: Basic needs like health, education, jobs, roads, food and a roof over their heads. Beyond these the politicians have nothing to talk about than bring on "sleazy and sensational" attacks against opponents to make headlines.
Ken Apen, Ghanaian in US

Politics is war, and yes it is personal.
Leo, US

That is 'Democrazy' for you! It is not unique to Africa, and was evident in the recent American elections with President Bush and his Democrat opponent, John Kerry trading insults. Politics is war, and yes it is personal.
Leo, US

We have just in the past one month seen a real political clash between President Bush and John Kerry. So Africans will also exchange accusations. We have not seen in any African country where leaders listens to their country men and women.
Raphson Amentor, Ghanaian in Sierra Leone

The media has an important role to play. Today's leadership in Africa does not care for the suffering in society. The media has the duty of bringing to us citizens the real understanding of each individual standing for public office, what they stood for and they tackle key issues.
Robert Coker, Dafur, Sudan




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SEE ALSO:
Ghana's grudge match
28 Sep 04 |  Africa
Taking the pulse of Ghana
18 Oct 04 |  Africa
Country profile: Ghana
09 Nov 04 |  Country profiles


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