A few housekeeping notes:
1) the keyboard i'm typing on is missing some keys and a few others stick, so i apologize for any typos. and there is no spellcheck.
2) i wasn't able to send out an email yesterday because i couldn't get to an internet cafe. sorry.
I found my contact at the Free World Foundation.
I have had some time to talk to my contact about the elections. He said that he will direct me on election day to some spots that have had problems in the last several elections. He did election observing in 2000 and 2004. He said that he went to the Volta Region (a few hours east of here) in 2000 and some of the other observers were kidnapped for a while.
There are 2 major political parties:
NPP - is the party currently in power. They talk a lot about the infrastructure developments of the last 8 years.
NDC is the main opposition party. They talk a lot about the need for change.
According to a source: there is a problem with people registering to vote twice. One person was given a 7 year sentence (the max) for it and another is has been arrested. The NDC has accused that the voter roles are bloated with double registrations. When you register to vote you give them your name parents' names, age etc. and they take a photo of you. Unfortunately, the electoral commission doesn't have the software to do facial recognition matching on the pictures, so checking for doubles has to be done manually. Apparently, the two men caught so far were caught quite easily, as they used their real names for both registrations.
According to the same source: in 2004, some men stole 5 of the election ballot boxes in an attempt to delay the announcement of the vote beyond the statutorily mandated 72 hours. The election commission got around this with a little arithmetic. Apparently the NPP had 52% of the vote and even if the NDC won every single vote from the 5 missing ballot boxes, the NPP would still win by 500,000 votes.
I have seen many commercials and billboards warning people not to try to vote twice or else they will be arrested. They are pushing that very hard.
My contact at the Free World Foundation filled me into the details in the North of the country, where the worst violence has occurred. A synopis, according to him (parts of which I have verified from other sources):
The tribe in the area is the Dagbon (spelling?). The YaNaa (chief) can come from two different "gates" (clans), Abadu and Andani. When the 1972 coup occurred, the General who took control of the country dethroned the sitting YaNaa, but did not kill him. The people chose another King (using the traditional oracles), but there was a problem in that the other YaNaa was still alive.
So, the former YaNaa was from the Abadu clan (I think). The new YaNaa was from the Andani clan as have all successors since. In the run-up to the 2000 elections the member of parliment from the area is alleged to have said that if the NPP is elected, that they would remove the YaNaa from the Andani clan and install one from the Abadu clan. Apparently, this was credible because the Vice-Presidential candidate was Abadu, as was the member of parliment alleged to have made the comment. NPP did win, but did not dethrone the YaNaa.
In 2002, the Member of Paliment (who was by now Minister of the Interior) cancelled the annual Yam Festival, for fear of violence. The sitting YaNaa went to the capital and got the government to allow them to hold the Yam Festival. To make a long story short, violence did break out at the Yam Festival and 40 people were killed, including the YaNaa (who was beheaded). Now there is no YaNaa, but the former YaNaa's son is acting as regent.
The problem now, apparently, is that politicians grappling for power are using the tensions between the Abadu and Andani clans. The NPP has become aligned with the Abadu and the NDC with the Andani.
I'm headed up there in a few days.
I interviewed a few Muslims, who reported no problems with the election related to being the minority religion in the country.
Few people seem keen to talk about any troubles with the election. There seems to be a sense that in talking about the troubles, one might make them more likely to happen. For example, one man said there had been "little troubles." When asked what they were he said things like "rock and bottle throwing." When pushed further, he conceded that a member of paliment had been attacked. When I asked him about the town up north, he told me the name. When I asked what happened, he said that people were killed and houses burned. That seems a far cry from the "little" stone throwing.
This hesitancy makes my job difficult. People are slow to talk about problems. When I pry, it feels like I look eager to find problems. It also grates against my sense that people don't want to talk about it for making it so.
All of the Ghanaians I have met have been so friendly. One gentleman in a bus station gave me his name and phone number and said I should call him when I get to Tamale (in the north) so I could stay at his house. In America you would call that creepy. In Ghana you call it hospitality.
Today I will explore Kumasi, particularly a slum that is an NPP stronghold in a sea of NDC supporters. Tomorrow I will head to Tamale in the north.