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Last modified: Friday, December 5, 2008

IU faculty member co-leads Ghana election observer team

Dec. 5, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Amos Sawyer, a research scholar at Indiana University's Workshop on Political Theory and Policy Analysis, is helping lead a team from the Economic Community of West African States that will serve as observers for national elections in Ghana on Sunday.

Sawyer is co-leader of a 200-member ECOWAS team that is deploying to every region of Ghana to monitor the elections. Gen. Yakubu Gowon, the former head of state of Nigeria, leads the team.

"The Ghanaian elections are taken very seriously by ECOWAS, because Ghana has made the most progress in deepening electoral democracy," Sawyer said. "For West Africa, Ghana's successful elections are trailblazers, so there is keen interest in Ghana's success. Others want to benefit from the lessons of best practices in Ghana."

Sawyer, former co-director of the Workshop on Political Theory and Policy Analysis, was interim president of Liberia from 1990-94. He led an ECOWAS pre-election mission that visited Ghana in October. That six-member team, including members of the Council of the Wise, made up of senior statesmen, met with government, political and civil-society leaders to ensure that Ghana was making adequate preparations for the elections.

Sawyer returned to Ghana this week and will deploy today to the northern region of the country, where he will work with a group of 100 ECOWAS election observers.

"There has been some inter-ethnic violence in northern Ghana for several months now," Sawyer said. "The violence was about succession to a chieftaincy stool, and there are fears that this conflict could mar elections in the north."

Ghana was the first former colonial country in sub-Saharan Africa to win independence, in 1957. It has been a leader in achieving peaceful democracy, with two major parties alternately gaining control through elections since 1992. The discovery of oil last year off Ghana's coast has raised the political stakes, with Sunday's winners in a position to control an expected $3 billion in annual oil revenues.

Eight candidates are seeking to succeed President John Kufuor, who will step down Jan. 7 after serving two four-year terms. Analysts expect a close race between leading presidential candidates Nana Afuko-Addo of the New Patriotic Party and John Atta Mills of the National Democratic Congress, with neither likely to win the 50 percent necessary to avoid a runoff, according to Reuters news service.

About 1,000 candidates are running for 230 seats in the National Assembly.

The Economic Community of West African States was founded in 1975 and is made up of 15 countries. Its mission is to promote economic integration in all fields of economic activity, particularly industry, transport, telecommunications, energy, agriculture, natural resources, commerce, monetary and financial questions, and social and cultural matters.