Vote Increases In Volta Region Lack Credibility

My last post mentioned that an advantage of statistical psephology is that it highlights anomalies as pointers to possible abuse.

I am concerned by some quite extraordinary figures of increased voting for the NDC in certain parts of Volta Region, which are difficult to believe can be genuine. This is particularly so as they occur in districts where there was no or negligible third party vote.

It is very hard to believe that in Hohoe South, for example, the NDC managed to increase its vote by a full 50% after the first round three weeks ago. Increases of 20 to 25% in Anlo and Avenor also seem extraordinary and out of line with what is happening in general.

These large apparent increases in voter interest have resulted in apparent voter turnouts in excess of 90%. There is a natural friction on election registers, due to death, people moving, being ill or away at election time, forgetting or not wanting to vote, etc. Voting levels in the areas mentioned are apparently well above the average for Ghana and at levels I am not sure I believe to be practical – another flash of a warning signal.

Further Projection

With 135 constituency swings now calculated, a run of very large swings to Mills has increased his projected majority ti 33,000.

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Ghana Elections Halfway Projection: Narrowest of Wins For John Atta Mills and the NDC

Having now calculated the exact swings between the parties in 115 of the 230 constituencies, and applying the average swing across those constituencies which have not declared, we now project a win for John Atta Mills and the NDC by 14,000 votes, or by 50.08 to 49.92%.

It remains a fact that our projections have been remarkably consistent; and that the methodology proved extremely accurate in predicting the results of the first round. But again it must be stated that this is so close that it could yet go either way.

I am making a projection based on sound psephological principles and a methodology used worldwide to project election results. The calculation is then purely mathematical. This is an exercise in prediction largely for fun, but it also has a use in that, if the methodology throws up any anomalies, they could represent fraud. In fact in general the consistency of results within regions in terms of swing trend tends to support the idea that these are fair and genuine elections.

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Ghana Election Projection: Too Close To Call (again)

Based on 37 constituencies for which I have full results, the current average swing between the second and first rounds is 2.9% from the NDC to the NPP. That would result in a overall majority for John Atta Mills of 28,000 votes. That is definitely well within the margin of error at this comparaively early stage.

Turnout is higher everywhere, except in Mion where a strangely low turnout resulted in a big swing to the NPP. That may bear investigation. On the other side, turnout in Anlo, where the NDC further extended its lead, reached suspiciously high levels and may also bear investigation.

But so far the patterns of voter behaviour appear consistent and explicable and the indications are that the election is broadly fair, despite both parties positioning themselves to cry foul if they lose.

The problem is that, if the result is as close as it looks at this early stage it will be, then small disputes become critically important. I pray that Ghanaians maintain their hard-won tradition of peace and democracy.


My calculator is suffering the strain and I have bits of paper covered in figures strewn all over the kitchen table, but with 53 constituency swings now worked out I am projecting a win for Atta Mills by just 8,000 votes. Again, that is so close as to be statistically meaningless.

00.39 I have now calculated the swings from 82 different full constituency results, calculated the swing in each, calculated an average swing, and projected this on to the first round results nationally.

The projection now shows a majoriy for Atta Mills of 20,000. Again still too small to be decisive, but there has been a real consistency to the projection results which reduces the margin of error. I am confident that, whoever wins, they will not obtain more than 50.2% and probably less than 50.1%.

01.31 With swings fully calculated for exactly 100 constituencies, the projection is for a majority for Atta Mills of just 5,000 votes. Again the projections are remarkably stable, but again the result is so close it could easily still go either way.

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Ghana Election Result: Narrow Win for Akuffo-Addo Projected; Second Round Probable

Our analysis of the first 76 constituencies officially declared by the Ghana election commission shows an average swing to the opposition NDC of 6.36% compared to the 2004 election. If that average swing is projected across the remaining constituencies, the Presidential election result would be:

Nana Akuffo Addo NPP 49.27%

John Atta Mills NDC 47.82%

The other parties would have 2.88% between them. No candidate having obtained an overall majority, the two leading candidates would enter a second round.

Remember this is a projection based on swing. In terms of actual votes cast, Nana Akuffo Addo currently has 50.04%. But the remaining constituencies on balance have historically very slightly favoured the NDC taken together.

To show how our projection has moved as more results have come in:

After 55 constituencies declared projection was:

Mills 48.99%

Akuffo Addo 48.3%

After 66 constitutencies declared

Mills 48.38%

Akuffo Addo 48.71%

After 76 constituencies declared

Mills 47.82%

Akuffo Addo 49.27%

The narrowness of range of movement in the projection gives us confidence in its forecasting ability, and mathematically the range of movement should now diminish barring results well out of line with what has gone before.

A word of caution. This election is different to those of 2000 and 2004, in which there were fairly uniform swings to the NPP across the country. This election has wild regional variation in the rate of swing, with the NDC doing spectacularly well in some of the coastal areas of Central and Western regions. But to win outright Mills needs an overll swing of 10.3% – a very hard task. Paradoxically it is made harder because the NDC has historically done so well in Volta Region there is no room for it to pick up many more votes there, while the NPP is suffering a swing of some 6% against it in its strongholds – well below what Mills needs to win. Meanwhile the NPP has held its own well in the North.

But the NDC is exceeding the 10% target in some parts of Greater Accra, and the large number of constituencies there yet to declare could benefit Mills. This is an extremely exciting election.

It is also being conducted in a fair and orderly manner with a lot of voter enthusiasm. Yet it is being widely ignored in the Western media, which only wants to carry bad news about Africa.

Joy FM is the vest source for Ghana election watchers. Unfortunately they have not yet given many percentages for the current elections, so we are working these and the swings out on my overworked calculator.

STOP PRESS projection after 92 constituencies with average swing of 5.9% to NDC:

Nana Akuffo Addo 49.50

John Atta Mills 47.59

I am now prepared to go with that as a firm prediction.

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Ghanaian Justice

Two British teenagers, Yasemin Vatansever and Yatunde Diya, have been found guilty in Ghana of drug smuggling and face sentencing with a possible maximum of three years in prison. There is no reason to believe justice has not been done in this case, and I hope that we will not be swamped with hypocritical sympathy. If my position surprises you, it is a good time to refer you again to my long article on the subject here:

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Drug Smugglers and Guantanamo Prisoners – Compare and Contrast Treatment

I am aware that this article will not meet agreement from many of the regular readers and commenters on this blog. I am a strong believer in individual responsibility. That affected my life personally in a profound way because it means I believe that being a member of an organisation does not absolve you from responsibility for the actions of the organisation. The ‘I was only doing my job’ defence does not make it OK to bomb Iraqi families or fund the Uzbek security services. That is why I am no longer a British Ambassador.

But equally forces and pressures of social inequality do not make it OK to become a criminal. The right will tend to excuse individuals in the first case and condemn those in the second: the left vice versa. I hope my views are not categorisable as right or left.

A media storm has been created by the arrest in Ghana of two 16 year old British girls, Yasemin Vatansever and Yatunde Diya, taking 14lb of cocaine through Accra en route to Heathrow,

Let us get one thing straight. Ghana has a better Human Rights record than the United Kingdom. Nobody in Ghana is detained without charge for a month. Nobody is under house arrest. The average Ghanaian can stand in the street outside the Ghanaian parliament and voice his political opinions without requesting permission. Ghana is not given to invading other countries. It is a genuine democracy, gearing up for very real presidential elections next year, as the President steps down after his second four year term of elected office. I know the elections are free and fair; I was in the Electoral Commission personally leading the international observation missions at President Kuffour’s original election.

The President is a member of the English Bar, as are several other Ministers. The justice system works well. There are, as with any legal system, occasional mistakes. But the Ghanaian system is as good as any in the World at correcting them. In February 2007, two British citizens, David Logan and Frank Laverick, were acquitted by the Ghana Court of Appeal after being convicted three years previously of involvement in a massive drug smuggling plot, involving 588 kilos of cocaine. Logan and Laverick were associates of those in the drug ring, but knew nothing of it. The Ghanaian legal system eventually sorted that out. The British, American and German nationals who were behind the plot remain in jail in Ghana, while more than half a tonne of cocaine was kept off the streets of Britain. We should be grateful to Ghana on both counts.

I have no doubt that Yasemin Vatansever and Yatunde Diya will receive fair justice in Ghana. They may be innocent or guilty, though it doesn’t look good so far. If they are guilty, justice will mean a perhaps lengthy spell in a Ghanaian Borstal. I am sick of the easy presumption by large sections of the media, whenever a British person is arrested abroad on drugs charges, that they are being unfairly dealt with by a tinpot state, and have been set up by evil foreigners.

It is the appetite of our sick society for cocaine that has visited this evil upon Ghana. Ghana does not produce any cocaine at all, and consumes almost none. . Until less than ten years ago, cocaine smuggling through Ghana was almost unheard of. Nigeria, on the other hand, had become a major route since the mid 1980’s, with over a third of all cocaine entering the UK through Nigeria. It came to Nigeria by ship from South America. It then went on to the UK by air. The occasional spectacular might involve suitcases or bales of goods stuffed with cocaine being flown into the UK, but the bread and butter traffic used ‘Mules’.

Desperately poor Nigerians, usually female, would stuff cocaine filled condoms into their anus and vagina, or swallow them down into their stomach. A leak or split would kill the ‘mule,’ and at one stage, while I was working in the British High Commission in Nigeria, we were catching an average of two mules off every single passenger flight into the UK from Nigeria. Eventually, work by HM Customs and Excise Special Investigations Division, at both the London and Lagos ends, became so good that too high a proportion of the cocaine was being intercepted. So the Colombian gangs and their Nigerian middlemen began to look along the border to a new and open route ‘ Ghana, with its excellent air links from Accra to London.

In 2000 I was British Deputy High Commissioner in Accra. Ghana was perhaps Africa’s best kept secret ‘ an oasis of calm where you can live a lifestyle that has sadly been lost in the entire rest of Africa. You could leave your car unlocked in downtown Accra, and it would not be stolen. At night, you could walk freely in the streets between the capital’s exciting bars, restaurants and nightclubs, and be in no danger at all of robbery, let alone assault. Having lived in Lagos ‘ as taut and violent as Johannesburg – it was like a huge boost of oxygen.

All of that remains true, but less so, and it is under threat. The Nigerian drug gangs moved in about the turn of the millennium. It is interesting and possibly will prove relevant that one of these girls is of Nigerian origin. In 2000 the High Commission had to deal with the first case of armed robbery on recent record. The arrival of the drug trade started to have the inevitable consequence of bringing an increase in official and law enforcement corruption. The Ghanaian government has been fighting, manfully, against the consequences ever since.

We should be plain about this ‘ it is not just the Nigerian and Colombian gangs, but the sickness in our own society, with its own criminals and its insatiable appetite for cocaine, that has brought this cancer of crime upon Ghana. Ghana is the victim of this trade.

I was therefore less than chuffed to hear a spokesman for HM Customs and Excise say that they regarded Yasemin Vatansever and and Yatunde Diya as victims in this case. Customs and Excise have also said ‘It is very unlikely they knew that the drugs were in the bags. We think they were recruited in London, but they would serve their sentence in an African jail, which would be very hard.’

So we are, plainly, aiming for yet another campaign where Britons smuggling drugs abroad are declared innocent on no basis other than their Britishness, and in this case their youth. Being female also helps this mawkish approach to drug smugglers.

Sixteen is well past the age of criminal responsibility. Would we take the view that girls caught in London carrying 14lb of cocaine were too young to face charges? No, we wouldn’t. The authorities found 14lb of cocaine. Yesterday Yasemin told Channel 4 news by telephone from prison:

‘There were basically two boys over here who gave us two bags, and told us to bring it (that) it was an empty bag. We never thought anything bad was inside … and they told us to go to the UK and drop it off to some boy … at the airport. The two boys gave us bags in Ghana to bring to London, to give to the boy in London. It was basically like a set up. They didn’t tell us nothing, we didn’t think nothing, ‘cos basically we are innocent. We don’t know nothing about this drugs and stuff, we don’t know nothing.”

Bearing in mind Yasemin’s eloquence, go to your kitchen with two empty bags. Fill each one with 7lb or 3kg of goods from your kitchen cupboard. Then carry them out again and see if you can tell the difference. Bear in mind also that they were flying out from Accra on British Airways. I have done that often ‘ by chance I am doing it again next week. They will have been asked, at check in whether they packed their bags themselves and whether they were given anything to carry.

We have been through all this before. In 1990 Patricia Cahill, age 17, and Karen Smith, age 18, were convicted of smuggling drugs in Thailand. They had 40 kg ‘ nearly 90lbs ‘ of heroin in their luggage, which they too claimed that they didn’t know they had. I can’t ask you to do the kitchen test again because you probably don’t have that much stuff in your kitchen cupboard. Instead, find a 12 year old, pick them up and carry them down the street. Then say you didn’t know you were doing it. They were thankfully sentenced to prison rather than execution.

The full resources of the British government and media then swung into action. Eventually, after intervention led by Prime Minister John Major in person, and involving substantial resources from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Thailand let them go, even though they were guilty as hell.

By that stage I was working as head of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Maritime Section, and much preoccupied with winning international cooperation in the fight against drugs. Our pressure on Thailand to release Smith and Cahill was quoted back at me by other countries when I was trying to press them to do more to intercept narcotics. The message we were sending was ‘Crack down on drug smugglers, unless they’re young, female and British.’

That demoralised those of us working in the field, made us an international laughing stock in drug enforcement circles and sent a message that it is good idea to use young, female, British couriers, because if caught they’ll get let off. I hope that we don’t repeat that mistake, but the signs are that we will.

Yes, couriers like Vatansever and Diya, knowing or not, are the small fry. Yes, we have to go after the actual drugs lords with even more vigour. But we should be grateful to the Ghanaians for their vigilance and excellent cooperation, and not assume or imply that they are victimising the innocent. The Ghanaian justice system is quite capable of working that one out. Yes, the girls deserve treatment as minors, not as adults. They will get that. They do not deserve to be too harshly treated, and they will not be. Ghanaians are kind people. But spare me the sneering and sentimentalist British rhetoric.

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Ghana – Democracy and Economy

In Ghana, President Kuffour has demanded, in line with his party’s constitution, the resignations of eight ministers who have declared themselves as candidates for the Presidential nomination of their party, the NPP.

John Kuffour is a good man, and he himself is standing down as President after two terms in accordance with the law, something so very few leaders in Africa do. He is right to enforce the provisions of his own party constitution, too. There is also the point that he has been annoyed for at least a year that a minority of the candidates were so engaged in preparing their Presidential campaign, that they were neglecting their ministerial duties. It is also typical of Kuffour that he did not make an exception for hiw own brother, formerly Minister of Defence. Finally, as Kuffour has battled hard (and not 100% succesfully, but more succesfully than anyone else in Africa) against corruption among his ministers, it removes the temptation of ministers to use their ministries to fund their campaigns.

But still, it is unlucky for Ghana that they should prematurely lose the services of good ministers like Nana Akuffo Addo, Jake Obetsebi Lamptey and Kwame Addo Kuffour. We wait to see whether the new team bring new impetus to Kuffour’s remaining time in office. One thing Ghana does not lack is talent

It is very difficult for me, because I count most of the presidential aspirants as personal friends, several of whom have really outstanding qualities – in mentioning the three above it would be churlish not to mention another former minister, Yaw Osafo Marfo, who has a brain the size of a planet.

Ghana is a genuine democracy and there are good people in the opposition NDC, too, particularly John Mahama. The whole Presidential process should be fascinating.

Ghana is a ready corrective to the gormless naivety of the Make Poverty History campaign. Ghana has done everything right. It is a democracy with a first class human rights record. All governments everywhere are corrupt, but Ghana’s is less so than, say , the UK (no billion pound BAE slush funds in Ghana). Because it ticks all the right governance buttons, Ghana has benefitted enormously from debt relief, and from aid flows. The money has all gone to exactly the right places – education, and bottom-up rural development.

Yet after a decade of being held up as a “Model” by the IMF, DFID and NEPAD, Ghana remains stubbornly poor. Accra is booming in terms of roads and literally miles of burgeoning middle class estates, but for ordinary Ghanaians, rising rents, transport and food costs squeeze out any improvement in their standard of living. Even when you do everything right, trickledown just isn’t happening. Why?

I fear part of the answer is, it never does. You can also point to climate change and electricity shortages because of falling water levels in the Volta Dam. I believe that part of the problem is that it was wrong for aid agencies to turn their backs on project work, and we should be building roads, bridges and power stations – fully funded by us – in addition to the increased budget support. But what Ghana shows is that the prescriptions of the development experts, which change with fashion every decade, will not in themselves bring Africa out of poverty.

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Hawa Yakubu

I was greatly saddened to learn of the death of my good friend, Hawa Yakubu. She was one of the most extraordinary people I have ever met. When I last saw her, even in the terrible pain of her last illness she was still great fun, surrounded by the usual throng of friends and family, insisting on struggling out to eat with us.

Hawa was the most powerful political figure in Northern Ghana, but her influence went much wider. She was on the closest personal terms with every West African President or politician of importance. I recall sitting late with her after a dinner, discussing a particularly tricky point in the Sierra Leone/Liberia conflict resolution. She thought nothing of whipping out her mobile phone and calling up President Obasanjo of Nigeria to bring him in to the discussion. It was almost 2am. It says volumes that he was delighted to be awoken by his old friend.

Her own political base spread across the Savannah belt well beyond Ghana’s borders, yet it was not tribal or inherited. She was a tireless advocate for peace and development, and that rare thing in West Africa, a Northern Christian of very liberal views. She was both a very proud Ghanaian, and contemptuous of the effects of arbitrary colonial borders. ECOWAS – the Economic Community of West African States – and latterly the African Union were passions with her. She was very much a pan-African nationalist, though she would have laughed at the label. She resigned her Ghanaian ministerial position in order to be able to stay in the ECOWAS parliament.

Tireless peacemaker, advocate of regional integration and the breakdown of trade barriers, she was also the most forceful and articulate exponent of women’s development issues, with a strong technical grasp on everything from micro-finance to telecommunications. These interests were more important to her than political party. Her decision that she could do more good by withdrawing backing from the Rawlings regime was a crucial factor in Ghana’s close-run transition to genuine democracy. Yet she will be truly mourned by all political sides.

She was also completely non-corrupt. Anything she had, she shared freely with her large extended family. She kept open house, and her lifestyle was very modest by any standards. She simply never gave a moment’s thought to making money out of her work.

We rather had that in common. I am now trying to borrow some money to buy a ticket to Ghana, once I can get details of her funeral. Hawa would have laughed at that.

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Your government is corrupt! Ghana 2000

The bulk of this material is hidden behind a subscription wall, at least at the quoted site, but I thought it might be fun to post some material from my period as Deputy High Commissioner in Ghana (1998 to 2002).

This will I hope lay to rest the accusations that my passion for democracy, human rights and honesty in Uzbekistan was a temporary career move of some kind.


Ghanaian Chronicle 9/1/2000


By Joyce Mensah Nsefo

Nobody expected Wednesday’s conference on accountability to produce any fireworks, but then nobody reckoned with the Scotsman His Excellency Mr.Craig John Murray, deputy British High Commissioner, the open minded,respected, free-speaking diplomat. And when he decided to make an intervention it came in the form of a bombshell, lifting his audience off their feet with surprise, followed by moments of embarrassing silence.

Craig, who had been invited to say a few words at the workshop on “Information for Accountability” declared that corruption in Ghana is a problem and specifically pointed accusing fingers at the government in the area of awards of contracts.

The Dispatch 9/5/2000


Government to Deport Diplomat?

There are credible indications within high places that the government is thinking about the possibility of asking the British government to recall the deputy British High Commissioner, Mr. Craig Murray, for what a highly-placed official described as “irresponsible, undiplomatic and unsubstantiated allegations of governmental corruption.”

In a story first carried by JOY FM and later by The Ghanaian Chronicle, Mr.Murray is reported to have said corruption is a problem internationally but it was rather on the high side in Ghana. He alleged that even foreigners who win contracts are required to pay a percentage of the contract value, to be given to certain highly-placed people in government. He also said Ghana has had a record of waivers from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for non-compliance with benchmarks for releasing funds.


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