‘Crimson, crimson wine’: The which means of African election symbols
In our sequence of letters from African journalists, media and communication coach Joseph Warungu seems to be at why colors and symbols are so vital within the pursuit of energy in Africa because the continent gears up for an election season.
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 variety of resonance for Ugandan pop star-turned politician Bobi Wine.
The MP, whose actual identify is Robert Kyagulanyi and who isn’t noticed with out his signature crimson beret, needs to run for president within the forthcoming elections.
However Bobi Wine is now seeing crimson after the electoral fee banned his Nationwide Unity Platform celebration from formally utilizing the color within the elections, saying one other celebration had claimed it.
The better the image, the higher it’s for events to achieve out to their voters”
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 voters. A few of them suppose 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 Division of Political Science on the College of Ghana.
He makes use of the 2 fundamental events vying for energy in Ghana’s December election for instance.
“The opposition NDC celebration 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 huge. They will bulldoze no matter drawback you’ve in your manner. When you’re in bother, simply go beneath 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 crimson is related to the left-leaning Labour Get together within the UK however with the conservative Republican Get together 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 folks died, reminiscent of Kenya.
“Crimson symbolises the blood that was misplaced; black often symbolises the folks of the nation and inexperienced is tied to the setting or land that they fought for,” she says.
This can be a view shared by Dr Owusu-Mensah.
“Crimson is an important color for political events right here. The NPP have the crimson, blue and white. Once you go to NDC, additionally they have crimson, white and inexperienced. Senior members of the events will say that blood is crimson; it signifies that that there’s life within the color and the celebration due to this fact 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 approach to discover fundamental benign ones that will 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 out there – 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 may 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 identify of their new political celebration.
Right now the Orange Democratic Motion (ODM), led by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, is the primary opposition celebration 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 can have a gun in your brand however not a cheetah, elephant or leopard.
In its knowledge, Zec maybe knew that there are various elections in Africa which might be gained not by the poll however via “juju” or witchcraft, in any other case referred to as rigging.
So cobras and owls – related to sorcery in Zimbabwe – have been on the banned checklist.
The watermelon is a juicy and scrumptious fruit. However in Kenya it has sinister political connotations: a politician with out concrete ideas – inexperienced and exhausting on the skin and crimson 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 typically change the candidates’ precise identification.
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 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 identify of the celebration 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 is as a result of the lamp was his image in each election. When his entourage swept via the village, the whole space can be stuffed with chants of “Tawa! Tawa!”
However I have to admit, his lamp was moderately faint: it didn’t illuminate our training and well being challenges. It didn’t deliver electrical energy to the world or enhance the roads that have been impassable within the wet season.
Dr Mwangola agrees that whereas we’re excellent at getting the which means of colors and symbols in Africa, we fail by not following via.
“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 absolutely understands the ability of symbolism. A 12 months in the past, it designated the crimson beret as official army clothes that might 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 crimson as his color to characterize anger to counter the yellow of the governing NRM celebration, 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 indignant!’… it has been countered by the crimson of ardour and dedication,” she says.
“Yellow is about prosperity, however the crimson is saying: ‘Prosperity for who?'”
If Ugandan voters do certainly see crimson come January, Bobi Wine could also be sipping crimson wine from State Home but.
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