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Ghanaians vote Friday in a general election that pits the incumbent leader against the son of a former president in one of Africa's most stable democracies.

The west African nation is hailed as a beacon of peace and democracy in a region beleaguered with coups, conflicts and civil wars.
Incumbent leader John Dramani Mahama, a former vice president who took over after his predecessor died this year, is one of eight contenders vying for the top position.
The pool of candidates includes opposition frontrunner Nana Akufo-Addo, the son of a former president.
Polls predict a tight race between the two main contenders. It mirrors the last election four years ago in which Akufo-Addo lost to John Atta Mills with a razor-thin margin after a runoff. Atta Mills died of an unspecified illness in July .
If no presidential candidate wins a majority of the vote in the first round, a runoff is scheduled later this month.
Election fever was high, with lines snaking around polling stations.
"People started lining up at 5 p.m. and spent the night at the polling stations," said Delalorm Sesi Semabia, 25, an oil company employee who lives in the capital of Accra.
"People are enthusiastic," he said. "This particular election is significant because candidates had debates on air and people heard their thoughts on issues. It made a huge difference, it created more passion."
Semabia said a lot of young voters were born in the post-coup times, and want the democracy trajectory to continue.
"We have a passion for our country because we only have one Ghana, " he said. "We don't think of elections as an end-all game. We think of it as an opportunity to progress."
As passions ran high, the president warned that undermining peace will not be tolerated and urged candidates to ensure supporters avoid incitement.
"Ghana has organized five previous successful elections, and there should not be any reason why this year's election should not be successful," the president said in a statement.
Political parties are demanding that the results be released within 72 hours after polls close Friday, an expectation the electoral commission shot down.
"We will not be limited by any timeline to announce the presidential results, but will work within reasonable time," said Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, chairman of the electoral commission.
Ghana is one of Africa's fastest growing economies, with the world's big gold mining companies operating in the nation.
It is the world's second-largest cocoa producer after neighboring Ivory Coast and the continent's biggest gold miner after South Africa, according to the United Nations.
The international community hails Ghana as a success story in the region, with U.S. President Barack Obama visiting the nation in 2009 in his first presidential trip to Sub-Saharan Africa.
At the time, Obama bypassed his father's native Kenya and opted for Ghana, describing it as a beacon of peace and democracy in the continent.
"There's sometimes a tendency to focus on the challenges that exist in Africa," Obama said this year. " But I think it's important for us to also focus on the good news that's coming out of Africa, and I think Ghana continues to be a good-news story."
But critics say that despite the rich resources, raking in billions of dollars annually, the wealth is not trickling down to the rural poor who live on the land where the gold is mined from.
"Mining goes with a lot of myths, like it creates jobs, it brings development, it makes people's lives better," said Daniel Owusu-Koranteng, a Ghanaian activist and founder of the Wassa Association of Communities Affected by Mining. "That is the first deception: that you are sitting on gold and somebody is going to mine it. You cannot imagine for once the person can take the gold away and leave you in a bad state."
Ghana was among the first African countries to gain independence from the British in 1957. It endured a series of coups before Lt. Jerry Rawlings took power in 1981. A decade later, it transitioned to a stable democracy with multiparty elections.
Unlike its neighbors including Ivory Coast, Ghana has held successful elections and power transfers since 1992 without descending into bloody chaos.
In addition to the presidential election, hundreds of candidates are vying for 275 parliamentary seats.
This election marks the first time the nation of 25 million will be using a new biometric voter identification system.

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria on Sunday described Ghana’s general election as peaceful, transparent, free and fair, and should, therefore, be emulated by other African countries.

He said, “By this successful and peaceful election, Ghana has again added another beautiful block to the already political edifice it has built over the years.” The former President, who led an African Union and Economic Community for West African States delegation to observe the polls, called on President John Dramani Mahama at his official residence in Accra.

He commended both the party in government and the opposition parties for their peaceful and successful participation in the election.

Also at the meeting was Vice President Paa Kwesi Amissah-Arthur, Alhaji Baba Kamara, Ghana’s High commissioner to Nigeria among others. General Obasanjo said Ghana’s democracy had reached a level where there would not be any need to resort to any court cases regarding this year’s election.

He gave the assurance that the final results of the polls that would be presented by the Electoral Commission would be credible and acceptable to all in the contest.

President Mahama commended the Observer teams for participating in Ghana’s election as that would go a long way to give the exercise high level of credibility. He said his government would continue to be law abiding as they await the declaration of the final results in the next few hours or days by the Electoral Commission.



Chairman for the Electoral Commission, Dr kwadwo Afari on Sunday evening declared Ghana.s sitting president John Dramani Mahama as the winner of the 2012 presidential elections.

President John Mahama who ran on the ticket of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) polled 5,574,761 representing 50.70% to win the polls held on Friday and Saturday.

The presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Akufo-Addo had 5,248,898 of the valid votes cast, representing 47.74%.

Out of the total 14,158,890 registered voters, 11,246,982 people exercised their franchise which 10,995,262 of them were deemed valid. The total rejected votes stood at 251,720. The turnout in the 275 constituencies is 79.43%

The flag-bearer of the Progressive People.s Party (PPP), Dr Papa Kwesi Nduom placed third in the elections with 64,362 votes representing 0.59.

On October 5, four University of Port Harcourt students, Chiadika Biringa, Ugonna Obuzor, Lloyd Toku, and Tekena Elkanah left campus for the village of Aluu. According to Biringa's mother Chinwe, Obuzor was owed some money and he asked his three classmates to accompany him to the village to collect on the debt.
Within minutes of their arrival, a rumor spread that the students were not there to collect but to steal. An enraged mob stripped them naked while beating them with sticks and rocks then wrapped car tires around their necks -- a form of torture known as "necklacing." As the four men sat on the muddy ground dazed and pleading for their lives, someone doused them with gasoline, lit a match and set them on fire.

The killing of the "Aluu four" was filmed and posted on the web for the world to see and now serves as a stark reminder of what can happen when the rule of law fails and communities turn to vigilante groups to carry out summary executions of criminal suspects, said Eric Guttschuss, Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch.
"Vigilante justice and mob justice generally takes place when there is a culture of impunity for crimes and in Nigeria, the Nigerian authorities have failed to crack down on this culture of impunity," Guttschuss told CNN.
Mob justice is not unique to Nigeria and it would be unfair to characterize it as such.
One infamous lynching in particular shocked the world and helped to spark the civil rights movement in the United States. In August 1955, 14-year-old Emmett Till was beaten, his eyes gouged and shot in the head. His body was then thrown in the Tallahatchie River with a 70-pound cotton gin tied around his neck with barbed wire. His crime? Allegedly whistling at a white woman.
Till's mother insisted on a public funeral service with an open casket showing the horribly mutilated and bloated body of her child so that the world would see the brutality of the lynching. Chiadika Biringa's mother felt the same way when CNN approached her to talk about her son's killing.
"I want the world to know how our security failed us. I want the world to know that my son and his three friends are innocent of what they said they did," Biringa said.
According to news reports, the village of Aluu was on edge after several incidences of armed robbery -- and in a country where critics say corrupt police are sometimes considered more dangerous than criminals, mob justice is how many disputes ranging from pick-pocketing to kidnapping are often resolved.
But Chinewe Biringa says her son and his friends were just innocent kids. "He was a very kind hearted boy and we (were) so close," she said. "If my son sees you 100 times he will greet you 110 times."
Biringa says the boys also had promising futures in music. They had already recorded a song together called "Ain't No Love in the City" -- a title she now says seems eerily like a premonition of what came to pass.
"It's almost as if they knew they were going to die," Biringa said.

Biringa and her husband, Steven, an oil executive at Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), says that he watched the video because he wouldn't have believed it if he hadn't seen his son's killing with his own eyes.
"I want them to know from beginning to end the barbaric nature with which they chose hunt them down," he said. "Even your worse enemy should not be treated in such form in the 21st century that people are still behaving and killing human beings as if they were rats."
The Nigerian police have arrested 13 people and, shockingly, one police officer who was on the scene and may have encouraged and even participated in the killing. While that officer is awaiting trial, the Nigerian police force has denied broader charges of rampant corruption and abuse.
Spokesman Frank Mba says while Nigeria's police is not perfect, the police "are committed to improving our competency through training and retraining and to improve our service, deliver to protect law and order and to stabilize democracy in Africa's largest country."
Guttschuss says it is not enough. He told CNN: "Generally if you are the victim of a crime and you go to the police, you are asked to fund the criminal investigation. If you don't have the money to fund it and meet the incessant bribe to the police the case is often dropped. On the other hand, the criminal suspect, if he or she has the financial means, can simply pay off the police."
This is why these extrajudicial executions are still all too common across Nigeria. It is impossible to find official statistics, but a quick search of the words in YouTube pulls up dozens of clips showing what happens to someone accused of crime when a mob sets themselves up as judge and jury.
This incident however, has seemingly galvanized the public. There are petitions and websites springing up to raise awareness of the issue and to pressure government and police officials. But many also say there are already laws against assault and murder which, when it comes down to it, is what mob justice is all about. For things to change, they say, the culture has to change.
Chinwe Biringa believes her son is now a martyr, and hopes that his lynching will lead to change -- much in the way that Emmett Till's killing did.
"If justice is done, then I will be happy," she said. "Because I know my son died a hero. He paid the price for Nigerian students in generations to come."

CAIRO (AFP) - Egypt's Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, overreached by giving himself broad powers and trying to ram through a new constitution without sufficient consultation, analysts say.

His abrupt annulment on the weekend of a November decree putting himself above judicial review -- after weeks of sometimes bloody protests at his perceived "power grab" -- was reluctant recognition of that.

But even then, it came only after the army stepped in to demand negotiations to solve the country's dire crisis.

And Morsi's referendum on the draft constitution is still scheduled for next Saturday, leaving open the prospect of further upheaval and division.

Wayne White, a former senior US State Department intelligence official now a policy expert with Washington's Middle East Policy Council, said the involvement of the powerful military was key to Morsi's concession.

Perception that opposition had grown to Morsi's rule likely pushed the generals to "inform him that they cannot continue to keep the peace and that he should make serious concessions to the opposition," he said.

A demand by the army on Saturday for Morsi and the opposition to open dialogue to avert a "disastrous" worsening of the crisis -- which the military said it "will not allow" -- was a warning to both sides, observers said.

It was addressed "as much to the Muslim Brotherhood as to the liberals (the opposition)," Hassan Nafaa, an Egyptian political watcher and columnist, told AFP.

Analysts agreed that Morsi, elected with a slim mandate in June, would probably see the referendum adopt the constitution drafted mostly by his Islamist allies, in no small part thanks to his Muslim Brotherhood.

But they warned the effects of that would be damaging.

"The Muslim Brotherhood believes that it has majority support so it can win the constitutional referendum," said Eric Trager, an analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

If that occurred, it would "set up the country for prolonged instability," he warned.

Morsi, still inexperienced in power, saw himself and the Brotherhood as the sole best defenders of Egypt's fledgling democracy post-Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's strongman for 30 years who was toppled early last year, according to analysts.

"Morsi's miscalculation... was to think that everyone understood the results of the Egyptian elections the way the Brothers did," Steven Cook wrote in the Foreign Affairs magazine published by the American Council on Foreign Relations.

"In other words, that they gave him and his party a mandate to rule with little regard to those who might disagree."

But Yasser El-Shimy, an Egypt-based analyst for the International Crisis Group, judged that the Brotherhood's trench mentality stemmed from "all the attacks against it" -- both in the media and physically -- against its members and offices.

Morsi saw an initial outreach to the opposition spurned, so felt he was right in trying to bulldoze ahead, Shimy said.

Circumstances forced the last-minute concessions, but "whether they will be enough for hardline opposition figures remains to be seen."

The anti-Morsi mood in Cairo's streets in recent days has swung close to the revolutionary zeal seen during Mubarak's ouster in early 2011.

Bringing both camps back to a democratic forum, with its inevitable compromises and horse-trading, requires overcoming ideological stands and a mutual mistrust that has been hardened by the weeks of confrontation.

Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Doha Centre said in a paper on the Brookings Institute website that the crisis "isn't really about Morsi and his surprise decree" but rather about a more fundamental difference: should Egypt become more Islamist or maintain secular, more neutral underpinnings?"

"The (draft) constitution has a few Islamically flavoured articles, but for the most part it is a mediocre -- and somewhat boring -- document, based as it was on the similarly mediocre 1971 constitution," Hamid said.

"'Islamists' and 'non-Islamists' may hate each other, but, on substance, the gap isn't currently as large as it might be ... In the longer run, however, the consensus that so many seem to be searching and hoping for may not actually exist."

By Marc Burleigh

The mother of Nigeria's finance minister was kidnapped Sunday, sparking a "massive manhunt" for her captors, officials said.

Kamene Okonjo, an academic in Nigeria and the mother of Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, was abducted from her home in Ogwashi-Uku, Delta State, a Finance Ministry statement said.
"At this point, it is difficult to say whether those behind this action are the same people who have made threats against the ... minister in the recent past or other elements with hostile motives," the statement said.
Police spokesman Frank Mba told CNN that "the (Inspector General of Police) has ordered a massive manhunt for the perpetrators of the crime."
"He directed the police operatives to ensure that no stone is left unturned in efforts at solving the crime, rescuing the victim and reuniting her safely with her family," Mba said.
Okonjo-Iweala lost her bid in April to become the next president of the World Bank -- the first ever challenge to the U.S. nominee in the institution's history.



In a breakthrough, four teenage schoolgirls in Nigeria have invented a 'pee-powered' generator that converts one litre of urine into six hours of electricity.

Fourteen-year-olds Duro-Aina Adebola, Akindele Abiola, Faleke Oluwatoyin, and 15-year-old Bello Eniola presented their invention at the Maker Faire Africa entrepreneurs event, in Lagos, using a resource that is free, unlimited and easily obtainable.
According to the Maker Faire blog, urine is put into an electrolytic cell, which cracks the urea into nitrogen, water, and hydrogen.
The hydrogen goes into a water filter for purification, which then gets pushed into the gas cylinder, international news agency reported.
The gas cylinder pushes hydrogen into a cylinder of liquid borax, which is used to remove the moisture from the hydrogen gas.
This purified hydrogen gas is pushed into the generator, and one litre of urine provides six hours of electricity.
Maker Faire blog described the generator as "possibly one of the more unexpected products" at the event.
While the system does have one-way valves for safety, more robust measures may be needed before it can be sold widely.
The report noted: "Let's be honest that this is something of an explosive device".
Nigeria's economy is on the rise, however, more than half of the country's 162 million citizens have no access to electricity, and even those who do can't guarantee having power every day, the report said.



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