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Published: Wednesday, 12/19/2012

Ghana’s choice

In contrast to many African nations that continue to be ruled by undemocratically selected leaders, Ghana has chosen a civilian president in an apparently free and fair recent election.

Incumbent John Mahama, the nominee of the National Democratic Congress, narrowly defeated Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party. The losing candidate is claiming fraud, but that charge is not supported by Ghana’s electoral commission or the representatives of international organizations who observed the elections. Mr. Mahama, who succeeded a president who died in office last July, will serve a four-year term.

Ghana, which was called the Gold Coast under British rule until 1957, had a rocky early history. Its most famous president was Kwame Nkrumah, an early advocate of a united Africa who aroused the suspicion of other Africans by his personal ambitions.

Ghana is a wealthy country for its size. But Mr. Nkrumah ran through its wealth quickly, seeking to establish its and his preeminence on the world stage until he was finally overthrown.

Ghana discovered offshore oil and gas in 2007, which went into production in 2010. What to do with its newfound wealth was one of the major issues of the presidential campaign.

Mr. Akufo-Addo, the son of a previous president, favored using that mineral wealth to offer free education to all Ghanaians up to the senior high school level. Mr. Mahama didn’t agree, but he has given no reason to think he will waste the country’s money.

Having reached office through an honest election, President Mahama appears unlikely to join Africa’s other oil-rich despots in perpetuating the gap between personally rich rulers and a poor overall population. Ghana has been down that road, didn’t like it, and continues steadily to build democratic institutions.

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