Boston University Hosts Former President Mahama of Ghana

The African Studies Center, an affiliated center of the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University, hosted the former President of Ghana, John Dramani Mahama, on March 31, 2017 at the Pardee School for a conversation and question and answer session with faculty, students and alumni.

Mahama served as President of Ghana from 2012 to January 2017, and previously served as Vice President of Ghana from 2009 to 2012. He was defeated in the first round of the 2016 election, and spoke about the importance of a peaceful transfer of power in Ghana following his loss.

“It’s important that we continue to deepen democratic consolidation so that it doesn’t make the news if a president loses an election and hands over power,” Mahama said. “Before the election people asked me what I would do if I lost, would I hand over power. I said of course, what else would I do? You have to help a smooth transition to the next administration. Our countries are bigger than any of us. Politicians will come and go. Presidents will come and go. Our countries will outlast us. The next generation, our children and grandchildren, will take over and continue.”

Mahama was introduced by Pardee School Dean Adil Najam and African Studies Center Director and Associate Professor of International Relations and Political Science Timothy Longman. Longman emphasized the significance of the peaceful transfer of power following the 2016 Ghanaian presidential election.

“At the conclusion of the election President Mahama came out unfortunately not on top, and very much to his credit he accepted the results and oversaw a peaceful transfer of power,” Longman said. “It’s relatively rare, and it marks in fact a democracy that’s becoming stable.”

Mahama said that learning from both the successes and failures of Ghanaian democracy was crucial to the country’s development into a stable, mature democracy.

“Everybody’s experience is important, negative or positive,” Mahama said. “It constitutes the learning curve you have gone through to reach wherever you are. All the coup d’états we went through are part of the experience that brought us to the mature democracy that Ghana practices today.”

Mahama discussed some of the ways Ghana has made progress promoting social protections, which in turn has bolstered democratic stability in the country.

“We have many social protection programs that show that people do not feel so vulnerable and left out that they’re willing to take up arms against the state,” Mahama said. “If people are so desperate, hungry and left out and they believe the state does not care about their lives then it’s easy to recruit them to take the kind of action against the state that you see happening in some places.”

Following his talk, Mahama took questions from Pardee School students, faculty and alumni. Dean Najam and Longman presented Mahama with a commemorative coin featuring the Pardee School motto, “Advancing Human Progress,” and Boston University seal.

Mahama was accompanied on the visit by renowned Nigerian journalist and politician Chief Dele Momodu; spokesperson to the President, Joyce Bawa Mogtari; Ambassador Phanice Mogaka and the Coordinator of Ghana At Work, Ohimai Amaize among other aides to the former President.


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