‘Red, red wine': The meaning of African election symbols

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Bobi Wine adjusting his red beretsymbol copyrightAFP
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In our collection of letters from African newshounds, media and communique teacher Joseph Warungu appears to be like at why colors and logos are so vital within the pursuit of energy in Africa because the continent gears up for an election season.

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Have in mind pink pink wine? No, no longer the stuff in a bottle that lets you unbottle your emotions.

I am speaking about Pink Pink Wine… one of the vital largest quilt hits via the British reggae team UB40. It reached the number 1 spot in the United Kingdom and the USA in 1983.

Thirty-seven years later, Pink Pink Wine should have a large number of resonance for Ugandan pop star-turned baby-kisser Bobi Wine.

The MP, whose actual title is Robert Kyagulanyi and who is never noticed with out his signature pink beret, needs to run for president within the drawing close elections.

However Bobi Wine is now seeing pink after the electoral fee banned his Nationwide Team spirit Platform birthday party from formally the use of the color within the elections, announcing every other birthday party had claimed it.

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NPP elephant symbol an and NDC umbrella symbol in Ghana


The simpler the logo, the easier it’s for events to achieve out to their citizens”

Dr Isaac Owusu-Mensah
College of Ghana
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The ability of color and logos in electoral campaigning can’t be underestimated in African international locations.

“The simpler the logo, the easier it’s for events to achieve out to their citizens. A few of them suppose that it’s excellent to have an emblem that individuals go along with hope and lifestyles on the finish of the day,” says Dr Isaac Owusu-Mensah, a senior lecturer within the Division of Political Science on the College of Ghana.

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

“The opposition NDC birthday party has an umbrella, and the translation is that you’ll be able to be beneath the colour of the umbrella, particularly in tricky occasions,” says Dr Owusu-Mensah.

“The governing NPP alternatively has the elephant, which is huge. They are able to bulldoze no matter drawback you will have for your approach. If you find yourself in hassle, simply pass beneath the elephant and you’re excellent.”

‘Pink is for lifestyles’

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

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For instance pink is related to the left-leaning Labour Celebration in the United Kingdom however with the conservative Republican Celebration in the USA – and British Conservatives percentage blue with the USA Democrats, who’re liberals.

“Right here in Africa, other folks know that the ones colors are stuffed with that means… we’re very subtle in studying political discourse, in a multi-layered, multi-faceted method,” says Dr Mwangola.

Those meanings also are learn within the nationwide flags of many African international locations the place there used to be a freedom battle and other folks died, reminiscent of Kenya.

“Pink symbolises the blood that used to be misplaced; black generally symbolises the folk of the rustic and inexperienced is tied to the surroundings or land that they fought for,” she says.

This can be a view shared via Dr Owusu-Mensah.

“Pink is a vital color for political events right here. The NPP have the pink, blue and white. While you pass to NDC, additionally they have pink, white and inexperienced. Senior individuals of the events will say that blood is pink; it signifies that that there’s lifestyles within the color and the birthday party subsequently has lifestyles.”

Symbols achieve importance even the place none is meant.

In assigning symbols to the 2 opposing facets within the 2005 constitutional referendum in Kenya, the electoral fee went out of its strategy to to find fundamental benign ones that may no longer give all sides undue benefit.

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Africa’s election diary

  • Guinea: 18 Oct
  • Seychelles: 22-24 Oct
  • Tanzania: 28 Oct
  • Ivory Coast: 31 Oct
  • Ghana: 7 Dec
  • Central African Republic: 27 Dec
  • Niger: 27 Dec
  • Uganda: 10 Jan – eight Feb 2021
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The fee selected two end result which are recurrently to be had – an orange and banana. However Kenyans nonetheless learn that means into them.

The marketing campaign noticed all method of political wrestling, with hilarious claims about what a banana may just 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 constitutionsymbol copyrightAFP
symbol captionKenyans had a good time with the fruit symbols selected for “Sure” and “No” facets of the 2005 referendum

After all the oranges received and the government-backed referendum used to be rejected. The bananas misplaced.

The political grouping that used to be victorious in that ballot followed orange because the title in their new political birthday party.

Lately the Orange Democratic Motion (ODM), led via former Top Minister Raila Odinga, is the primary opposition birthday party in Kenya.

‘Witchcraft’ symbols banned

However no longer all symbols are welcome in an election as we noticed within the 2018 ballot in Zimbabwe.

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The Zimbabwe Electoral Fee (Zec) banned a complete host of items from applicants’ emblems, together with some animals and guns.

It’s essential to have a gun for your brand however no longer a cheetah, elephant or leopard.

In its knowledge, Zec possibly knew that there are lots of elections in Africa which are received no longer via the poll however via “juju” or witchcraft, differently referred to as rigging.

So cobras and owls – related to sorcery in Zimbabwe – have been at the banned record.

The watermelon is a juicy and scrumptious fruit. However in Kenya it has sinister political connotations: a political candidate with out concrete rules – inexperienced and tough at the outdoor and pink and smooth at the within.

She or he isn’t to be relied on. So, you will not discover a marketing campaign poster with the watermelon image.

Dr Owusu-Mensah argues that symbols are so tough, they continuously exchange the applicants’ precise identification.

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Joseph Warungu

J Warungu

When rising up in a village in central Kenya, I at all times idea our lengthy serving MP’s title used to be ‘Tawa’ that means lamp.
That is since the lamp used to be his image in each and every election”

Joseph Warungu
Media and communique teacher
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“I simply got here from a constituency in northern Ghana the place we interviewed respondents about who they’re going to be balloting for within the coming elections. About 95% of them simply used an emblem of both the elephant or the umbrella. They by no means discussed the title of the birthday party or candidate.”

When rising up in a village in central Kenya, I at all times idea our long-serving MP’s title used to be “Tawa” that means lamp in my native language.

That is since the lamp used to be his image in each and every election. When his entourage swept during the village, all the space could be stuffed with chants of “Tawa! Tawa!”

However I should admit, his lamp used to be relatively faint: it didn’t remove darkness from our training and well being demanding situations. It didn’t convey electrical energy to the realm or make stronger the roads that have been impassable within the wet season.

Dr Mwangola is of the same opinion that whilst we’re superb at getting the that means of colors and logos in Africa, we fail via no longer following via.

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni dressed in yellow - 2016symbol copyrightAFP
symbol captionUganda’s President Museveni wearing “joyous” yellow when he used to be remaining at the marketing campaign path

“We as citizens, don’t return and cling the candidate responsible to the symbols. If any person had the logo of a lamp or he used to be the awl, tractor or the lion, I now not care. We do not even cling political events to the symbols.”

The Ugandan authorities absolutely understands the facility of symbolism. A 12 months in the past, it designated the pink beret as respectable army clothes that might land individuals of the general public who put on them in prison. Despite the fact that Bobi Wine turns out made up our minds to forget about this ruling too.

Dr Mwangola believes Bobi Wine can have selected pink as his color to constitute anger to counter the yellow of the governing NRM birthday party, led via President Yoweri Museveni who is looking for a 6th time period in place of business.

“Yellow is sunshine and pleasure. The opposite guys are announcing: ‘No, we are indignant!’… it is been countered via the pink of interest and dedication,” she says.

“Yellow is set prosperity, however the pink is announcing: ‘Prosperity for who?'”

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

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Extra Letters from Africa:

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