In our collection of letters from African journalists, media and communication coach Joseph Warungu seems at why colors and symbols are so necessary within the pursuit of energy in Africa because the continent gears up for an election season.
Keep in mind purple purple wine? No, not the stuff in a bottle that lets you unbottle your emotions.
I am speaking about Crimson Crimson 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, Crimson Crimson Wine will need to have a whole lot of resonance for Ugandan pop star-turned politician Bobi Wine.
The MP, whose actual title is Robert Kyagulanyi and who is never noticed with out his signature purple beret, desires to run for president within the forthcoming elections.
However Bobi Wine is now seeing purple after the electoral fee banned his Nationwide Unity Platform social gathering from formally utilizing the color within the elections, saying one other social gathering had claimed it.
The better the image, the higher it’s for events to achieve out to their citizens”
The facility of color and symbols in electoral campaigning can’t be underestimated in African international locations.
“The better the image, the higher it’s for events to achieve out to their citizens. A few of them assume that it’s good to have a logo that folks affiliate with hope and life 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 foremost events vying for energy in Ghana’s December election for instance.
“The opposition NDC social gathering has an umbrella, and the interpretation is which you could be underneath the shade of the umbrella, particularly in tough occasions,” says Dr Owusu-Mensah.
“The governing NPP then again has the elephant, which is huge. They will bulldoze no matter downside you have got in your means. If you end up in bother, simply go underneath the elephant and you might be good.”
‘Crimson 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 purple is related to the left-leaning Labour Celebration within the UK however with the conservative Republican Celebration within the US – and British Conservatives share blue with the US Democrats, who’re liberals.
“Right here in Africa, folks know that these colors are filled with which means… we’re very refined 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 international locations the place there was a freedom battle and other people died, similar to Kenya.
“Crimson symbolises the blood that was misplaced; black normally symbolises the folks of the nation and inexperienced is tied to the surroundings or land that they fought for,” she says.
This can be a view shared by Dr Owusu-Mensah.
“Crimson is a vital color for political events right here. The NPP have the purple, blue and white. Once you go to NDC, additionally they have purple, white and inexperienced. Senior members of the events will say that blood is purple; it implies that that there’s life within the color and the social gathering subsequently has life.”
Symbols achieve 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 method to discover fundamental benign ones that might not give both facet undue benefit.
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 – 8 Feb 2021
The fee selected two fruits which might be generally accessible – an orange and banana. However 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.
In the long run the oranges gained and the government-backed referendum was rejected. The bananas misplaced.
The political grouping that was victorious in that ballot adopted orange because the title of their new political social gathering.
Right now the Orange Democratic Motion (ODM), led by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, is the primary opposition social gathering in Kenya.
‘Witchcraft’ symbols banned
However 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 an entire host of issues from candidates’ logos, together with some animals and weapons.
You possibly can have a gun in your brand however not a cheetah, elephant or leopard.
In its knowledge, Zec maybe knew that there are a lot of elections in Africa which might be gained not by the poll however by way of “juju” or witchcraft, in any other case often called rigging.
So cobras and owls – related to sorcery in Zimbabwe – had been on the banned listing.
The watermelon is a juicy and scrumptious fruit. However in Kenya it has sinister political connotations: a politician with out concrete ideas – inexperienced and arduous on the surface and purple and mushy on the within.
She or he 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 rising up in a village in central Kenya, I at all times thought our lengthy serving MP’s title was ‘Tawa’ which means lamp.
That is as a result of the lamp was his image in each election”
“I simply got here from a constituency in northern Ghana the place we interviewed respondents about who they are going to be voting for within the coming elections. About 95% of them simply used a logo of both the elephant or the umbrella. They by no means talked about the title of the social gathering or candidate.”
When rising up in a village in central Kenya, I at all times thought our long-serving MP’s title was “Tawa” which means lamp in my native language.
That is as a result of the lamp was his image in each election. When his entourage swept by way of the village, all the space could be full of chants of “Tawa! Tawa!”
However I need to admit, his lamp was relatively faint: it didn’t illuminate our schooling and well being challenges. It didn’t deliver 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.
“We as voters, don’t return and maintain the candidate accountable to the symbols. If somebody had the image of a lamp or he was the axe, tractor or the lion, I now not care. We do not even maintain political events to the symbols.”
The Ugandan authorities totally understands the facility of symbolism. A yr in the past, it designated the purple beret as official army clothes that would land members of the general public who put on them in jail. Although Bobi Wine appears decided to disregard this ruling too.
Dr Mwangola believes Bobi Wine might have chosen purple as his color to signify anger to counter the yellow of the governing NRM social gathering, led by President Yoweri Museveni who’s searching for a sixth time period in workplace.
“Yellow is sunshine and pleasure. The opposite guys are saying: ‘No, we’re offended!’… it has been countered by the purple of ardour and dedication,” she says.
“Yellow is about prosperity, however the purple is saying: ‘Prosperity for who?'”
If Ugandan voters do certainly see purple come January, Bobi Wine could also be sipping purple wine from State Home but.
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