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The which means of African election symbols

The which means of African election symbols

Bobi Wine adjusting his pink beret

In our sequence of letters from African journalists, media and communication coach Joseph Warungu appears at why colors and symbols are so essential within the pursuit of energy in Africa because the continent gears up for an election season.

Short presentational grey line
Short presentational gray line

Remember pink pink wine? No, not the stuff in a bottle that permits you to unbottle your emotions.

I’m speaking about Red Red Wine… one of many greatest cowl hits by the British reggae group UB40. It reached the primary spot within the UK and the US in 1983.

Thirty-seven years later, Red Red Wine should have loads of resonance for Ugandan pop star-turned politician Bobi Wine.

The MP, whose actual identify is Robert Kyagulanyi and who is never noticed with out his signature pink beret, desires to run for president within the forthcoming elections.

But Bobi Wine is now seeing pink after the electoral fee banned his National Unity Platform occasion from formally utilizing the color within the elections, saying one other occasion had claimed it.

"The easier the symbol, the better it is for parties to reach out to their electorate"", Source: Dr Isaac Owusu-Mensah, Source description: University of Ghana, Image: NPP elephant symbol an and NDC umbrella symbol in Ghana
“The simpler the image, the higher it’s for events to achieve out to their citizens””, Source: Dr Isaac Owusu-Mensah, Source description: University of Ghana, Image: NPP elephant image an and NDC umbrella image in Ghana

The energy of color and symbols in electoral campaigning can’t be underestimated in African nations.

“The simpler the image, the higher it’s for events to achieve out to their citizens. Some of them assume that it’s good to have a logo that individuals affiliate with hope and life on the finish of the day,” says Dr Isaac Owusu-Mensah, a senior lecturer within the Department of Political Science on the University of Ghana.

He makes use of the 2 major events vying for energy in Ghana’s December election for instance.

“The opposition NDC occasion has an umbrella, and the interpretation is which you could be beneath the shade of the umbrella, particularly in tough occasions,” says Dr Owusu-Mensah.

“The governing NPP however has the elephant, which is massive. They can bulldoze no matter drawback you’ve got in your manner. When you’re in bother, simply go beneath the elephant and you’re good.”

‘Red is for all times’

Dr Mshai Mwangola, a efficiency scholar in Kenya, says within the West colors appear to have much less symbolic which means.

For instance pink is related to the left-leaning Labour Party within the UK however with the conservative Republican Party within the US – and British Conservatives share blue with the US Democrats, who’re liberals.

“Here in Africa, individuals know that these colors are stuffed with which means… we’re very subtle in studying political discourse, in a multi-layered, multi-faceted method,” says Dr Mwangola.

These meanings are additionally learn within the nationwide flags of many African nations the place there was a freedom battle and other people died, reminiscent of Kenya.

“Red symbolises the blood that was misplaced; black normally symbolises the individuals of the nation and inexperienced is tied to the setting or land that they fought for,” she says.

This is a view shared by Dr Owusu-Mensah.

“Red is an important color for political events right here. The NPP have the pink, blue and white. When you go to NDC, additionally they have pink, white and inexperienced. Senior members of the events will say that blood is pink; it implies that that there’s life within the color and the occasion subsequently has life.”

Symbols acquire significance even the place none is meant.

In assigning symbols to the 2 opposing sides within the 2005 constitutional referendum in Kenya, the electoral fee went out of its strategy to discover primary benign ones that will not give both facet undue benefit.

Africa’s election diary

The fee selected two fruits which can be generally out there – an orange and banana. But Kenyans nonetheless learn which means into them.

The marketing campaign noticed all method of political wrestling, with hilarious claims about what a banana might do to an orange and vice versa.

L: A "yes" voter with a banana R: A "no" voter with oranges during campaigning ahead of Kenya's 2005 referendum on a new constitution
Kenyans had enjoyable with the fruit symbols chosen for “Yes” and “No” sides of the 2005 referendum

In the tip the oranges received and the government-backed referendum was rejected. The bananas misplaced.

The political grouping that was victorious in that ballot adopted orange because the identify of their new political occasion.

Today the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), led by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, is the principle opposition occasion in Kenya.

‘Witchcraft’ symbols banned

But not all symbols are welcome in an election as we noticed within the 2018 ballot in Zimbabwe.

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The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) banned a whole host of things from candidates’ logos, including some animals and weapons.

You might have a gun in your brand however not a cheetah, elephant or leopard.

In its knowledge, Zec maybe knew that there are lots of elections in Africa which can be received not by the poll however by way of “juju” or witchcraft, in any other case often known as rigging.

So cobras and owls – related to sorcery in Zimbabwe – had been on the banned checklist.

The watermelon is a juicy and scrumptious fruit. But in Kenya it has sinister political connotations: a politician with out concrete rules – inexperienced and laborious on the skin and pink and mushy on the within.

He or she is to not be trusted. So, you will not discover a marketing campaign poster with the watermelon image.

Dr Owusu-Mensah argues that symbols are so highly effective, they usually change the candidates’ precise id.

"When growing up in a village in central Kenya, I always thought our long serving MP's name was 'Tawa' meaning lamp. That's because the lamp was his symbol in every election"", Source: Joseph Warungu, Source description: Media and communication trainer , Image: Joseph Warungu
“When rising up in a village in central Kenya, I at all times thought our lengthy serving MP’s identify was ‘Tawa’ which means lamp. That’s as a result of the lamp was his image in each election””, Source: Joseph Warungu, Source description: Media and communication coach , Image: Joseph Warungu

“I just came from a constituency in northern Ghana where we interviewed respondents about who they will be voting for in the coming elections. About 95% of them just used a symbol of either the elephant or the umbrella. They never mentioned the name of the party or candidate.”

When rising up in a village in central Kenya, I at all times thought our long-serving MP’s identify was “Tawa” which means lamp in my native language.

That’s as a result of the lamp was his image in each election. When his entourage swept by way of the village, your entire space can be stuffed with chants of “Tawa! Tawa!”

But I have to admit, his lamp was slightly faint: it didn’t illuminate our training and well being challenges. It didn’t convey electrical energy to the world or enhance the roads that had been impassable within the wet season.

Dr Mwangola agrees that whereas we’re superb at getting the which means of colors and symbols in Africa, we fail by not following by way of.

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni dressed in yellow - 2016
Uganda’s President Museveni wearing “joyous” yellow when he was final on the marketing campaign path

“We as voters, do not go back and hold the candidate accountable to the symbols. If someone had the symbol of a lamp or he was the axe, tractor or the lion, I no longer care. We don’t even hold political parties to the symbols.”

The Ugandan authorities totally understands the facility of symbolism. A yr in the past, it designated the pink beret as official army clothes that would land members of the general public who put on them in jail. Though Bobi Wine appears decided to disregard this ruling too.

Dr Mwangola believes Bobi Wine could have chosen pink as his color to characterize anger to counter the yellow of the governing NRM occasion, led by President Yoweri Museveni who’s in search of a sixth time period in workplace.

“Yellow is sunshine and joy. The other guys are saying: ‘No, we’re angry!’… it’s been countered by the red of passion and commitment,” she says.

“Yellow is about prosperity, however the pink is saying: ‘Prosperity for who?””

If Ugandan voters do certainly see pink come January, Bobi Wine could also be sipping pink wine from State House but.

More Letters from Africa:

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