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Last Updated: Saturday, 11 December 2004, 01:04 GMT
Ghana's grown-up politics
By Andrew Simmons
BBC West Africa correspondent, in Accra

The market trader had a transistor radio fixed to his left ear and what he was hearing came as no surprise.

"John Kufuor has won," he said with a smile.

Market trader listens to radio
Ghanaians are justly proud of their democracy, in a volatile region
"He is a good man and we trust him. If you want to have something good you have to plan for the future, you have to suffer a lot before you get sweet things. I know John Kufuor is planning for the future of our children."

This man is old enough to remember Ghana's bad times.

A short walk away the Independence Arch stands as a stern reminder of how political promises can be broken.

The arch and the nearby Independence Square are imposing Soviet-style monuments to the liberation from British colonialism in 1957.

People like the market trader were the first witnesses of decolonisation in West Africa.

But what was to follow didn't fulfil their hopes: leftist rhetoric, grandiose projects, a failed economy. And a series of coups.

Birth of opposition

Modern day Ghana was born with the first multi-party elections in 1992.

Its architect, Flight Lt Jerry Rawlings, had been responsible for two of the coups and a share of the bloodletting.

Presidential poll:
John Kufuor: 52.75%
John Atta Mills: 44.32%
Edward Mahama: 1.9%
George Aggudey: 1%
NPP: 129 seats
NDC: 88 seats
CPP: 4 seats
PNC: 3 seats
Independents: 1 seat
Five seats to be declared

Under the new constitution he oversaw, President Rawlings could only serve two terms.

That meant he had to prepare to pass on the mantle to his vice-president, Professor John Ata Mills.

And during this time an infant democracy produced an effective opposition.

The market trader started talking about election day 2000. The new century was to bring the first peaceful transition of power since independence.

John Kufuor and his New Patriotic Party narrowly won the Presidency in a Christmas run-off.

You can show your opinion now without feeling any intimidation
Shopper at market stall
Now Ghana looks back on an economic renaissance developed over the past four years.

John Kufuor brought an inherited inflation rate of 40% down to 12.4%.

He cut the cost of borrowing by half. He is invested in the country's infrastructure and forged economic reforms that still have a long way to go. International donor support has poured in.

Impromptu debate

But even with such a turnaround there is no feel-good factor for the people.

School fees are high, petrol prices have increased dramatically after subsidies were reduced, wages haven't kept pace with an increased cost of living.

John Kufuor
Mr Kufuor has not been able to lift 40% of the people out of poverty
So why does the market trader trust this re-elected 21st Century politician?

His answer: "We have to keep stability..."

But before the sentence was finished there was a polite intervention from a poorer, younger man who had earlier been checking his change before buying some fruit.

"I am not happy," he asserted.

"They are not paying the money out. My frustration is that this system is hard for the people - the money doesn't come to our pockets."

A woman shopper then added to this impromptu debate. And she had a forcefulness that gave her the last words:

"I supported Mr Kufuor because he has maintained peace in this country and he's doing an improvement job with education.

"You can show your opinion now without feeling any intimidation. There is freedom and we can speak our mind. There is also stability so now we have given him the chance and we know he can do more."

Rawlings snipes

In less than five minutes a few people in one of Accra's bustling market places have given a snapshot of Ghana's 2004 presidential election.

The man who interrupted is poor and feels embittered. He represents 40% of Ghana's 20 million population, who live below the poverty line. He voted for Mr Mills.

The woman had touched on the issue of freedom and in doing so intimated her deep resentment towards the Flight Lt Rawlings era of politics here.

Lt Rawlings has been sniping at Mr Kufuor from the sidelines of this election, attracting headlines that attracting headlines that haven't helped his successor, Mr Mills, win votes.

There are some conclusions to be gleaned from the small gathering at a market stall.

Ghana has grown up. Instead of being cynical about its leader's motives, the majority of Ghanains feel justly proud of a democracy that sends out a positive signal in a volatile region of Africa.

Ghana's grudge match
28 Sep 04 |  Africa
Taking the pulse of Ghana
18 Oct 04 |  Africa
Country profile: Ghana
17 Jul 04 |  Country profiles

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