‘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 sequence of letters from African reporters, media and conversation teacher Joseph Warungu seems 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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Take into account purple purple wine? No, now not the stuff in a bottle that permits you to unbottle your emotions.

I am speaking about Purple Purple Wine… one of the vital greatest quilt hits through the British reggae staff UB40. It reached the #1 spot in the United Kingdom and the USA in 1983.

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

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

However Bobi Wine is now seeing purple after the electoral fee banned his Nationwide Cohesion Platform celebration from formally the usage of the color within the elections, pronouncing every other celebration had claimed it.

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NPP elephant symbol an and NDC umbrella symbol in Ghana

AFP

The simpler the logo, the simpler it’s for events to succeed in out to their voters”

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

“The simpler the logo, the simpler it’s for events to succeed in out to their voters. A few of them suppose that it’s just right to have a logo that folks go together with hope and existence 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 example.

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

“The governing NPP however has the elephant, which is huge. They may be able to bulldoze no matter downside you’ve in your manner. When you’re in bother, simply cross beneath the elephant and you might be just right.”

‘Purple is for existence’

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

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

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

Those meanings also are learn within the nationwide flags of many African nations the place there was once a freedom fight and other people died, akin to Kenya.

“Purple symbolises the blood that was once misplaced; black in most cases symbolises the folks of the rustic and inexperienced is tied to the surroundings or land that they fought for,” she says.

It is a view shared through Dr Owusu-Mensah.

“Purple is a vital color for political events right here. The NPP have the purple, blue and white. Whilst you cross to NDC, in addition they have purple, white and inexperienced. Senior participants of the events will say that blood is purple; it implies that that there’s existence within the color and the celebration subsequently has existence.”

Symbols achieve importance even the place none is meant.

In assigning symbols to the 2 opposing aspects within the 2005 constitutional referendum in Kenya, the electoral fee went out of its technique to to find fundamental benign ones that may now not give both sides undue merit.

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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 culmination which might be recurrently to be had – an orange and banana. However Kenyans nonetheless learn that means into them.

The marketing campaign noticed all means of political wrestling, with hilarious claims about what a banana may 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” aspects of the 2005 referendum

In any case the oranges gained and the government-backed referendum was once rejected. The bananas misplaced.

The political grouping that was once victorious in that ballot followed orange because the identify in their new political celebration.

Nowadays the Orange Democratic Motion (ODM), led through former Top Minister Raila Odinga, is the primary opposition celebration in Kenya.

‘Witchcraft’ symbols banned

However now not 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’ trademarks, together with some animals and guns.

It’s essential to have a gun on your brand however now not a cheetah, elephant or leopard.

In its knowledge, Zec possibly knew that there are lots of elections in Africa which might be gained now not through the poll however via “juju” or witchcraft, differently referred to as rigging.

So cobras and owls – related to sorcery in Zimbabwe – had been at the banned listing.

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 purple and tender 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 robust, they continuously substitute the applicants’ exact 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 identify was once ‘Tawa’ that means lamp.
That is since the lamp was once his image in each and every election”

Joseph Warungu
Media and conversation teacher
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“I simply got here from a constituency in northern Ghana the place we interviewed respondents about who they are going to be balloting for within the coming elections. About 95% of them simply used a logo of both the elephant or the umbrella. They by no means discussed the identify of the celebration or candidate.”

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

That is since the lamp was once his image in each and every election. When his entourage swept in the course of the village, all the house could be full of chants of “Tawa! Tawa!”

However I should admit, his lamp was once reasonably faint: it didn’t light up our schooling and well being demanding situations. It didn’t carry electrical energy to the world or make stronger the roads that had been impassable within the wet season.

Dr Mwangola concurs that whilst we’re excellent at getting the that means of colors and logos in Africa, we fail through now not following via.

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

“We as citizens, don’t return and cling the candidate responsible to the symbols. If anyone had the logo of a lamp or he was once 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 ability of symbolism. A yr in the past, it designated the purple beret as reliable army clothes that might land participants of the general public who put on them in prison. Even though Bobi Wine turns out decided to forget about this ruling too.

Dr Mwangola believes Bobi Wine will have selected purple as his color to constitute anger to counter the yellow of the governing NRM celebration, led through President Yoweri Museveni who is looking for a 6th time period in place of job.

“Yellow is sunshine and pleasure. The opposite guys are pronouncing: ‘No, we are offended!’… it is been countered through the purple of interest and dedication,” she says.

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

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

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Extra Letters from Africa:

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