Bobi Wine adjusting his red beret
Bobi Wine adjusting his pink beret

In our collection of letters from African journalists, media and communication coach Joseph Warungu appears to be like at why colors and symbols are so necessary within the pursuit of energy in Africa because the continent gears up for an election season.

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Keep in mind pink pink wine? No, not the stuff in a bottle that means that you can unbottle your emotions.

I am speaking about Purple Purple 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, Purple Purple Wine should have a number of resonance for Ugandan pop star-turned politician Bobi Wine.

The MP, whose actual title is Robert Kyagulanyi and who isn’t noticed with out his signature pink beret, desires to run for president within the forthcoming elections.

However Bobi Wine is now seeing pink after the electoral fee banned his Nationwide Unity Platform get together from formally utilizing the color within the elections, saying one other get together had claimed it.

"The easier the symbol, the better it is for parties to reach out to their electorate"", Source: Dr Isaac Owusu-Mensah, Source description: University of Ghana, Image: NPP elephant symbol an and NDC umbrella symbol in Ghana
“The better the image, the higher it’s for events to succeed in out to their citizens””, Supply: Dr Isaac Owusu-Mensah, Supply description: College of Ghana, Picture: NPP elephant image an and NDC umbrella image in Ghana

The facility of color and symbols in electoral campaigning can’t be underestimated in African nations.

“The better the image, the higher it’s for events to succeed in out to their citizens. A few of them suppose that it’s good to have an emblem 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 get together 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’ll bulldoze no matter downside you may have in your approach. If you end up in bother, simply go underneath the elephant and you’re good.”

‘Purple is for all times’

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

For instance pink is related to the left-leaning Labour Social gathering within the UK however with the conservative Republican Social gathering within the US – and British Conservatives share blue with the US Democrats, who’re liberals.

“Right here in Africa, individuals know that these colors are filled with that 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 nations the place there was a freedom wrestle and other people died, comparable to Kenya.

“Purple symbolises the blood that was misplaced; black normally symbolises the individuals 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.

“Purple is a vital color for political events right here. The NPP have the pink, blue and white. Once you go to NDC, additionally they have pink, white and inexperienced. Senior members of the events will say that blood is pink; it implies that that there’s life within the color and the get together subsequently 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 primary benign ones that might not give both facet undue benefit.

Africa’s election diary

The fee selected two fruits which can be generally accessible – 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 might 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 constitution
Kenyans had enjoyable with the fruit symbols chosen for “Sure” and “No” sides of the 2005 referendum

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 get together.

At this time the Orange Democratic Motion (ODM), led by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, is the principle opposition get together 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 a complete host of issues from candidates’ logos, together with some animals and weapons.

You could possibly 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 can be gained not by the poll however by means of “juju” or witchcraft, in any other case often known as 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 exhausting on the surface and pink 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 exchange the candidates’ precise id.

"When growing up in a village in central Kenya, I always thought our long serving MP's name was'Tawa' meaning lamp. That's because the lamp was his symbol in every election"", Source: Joseph Warungu, Source description: Media and communication trainer , Image: Joseph Warungu
“When rising up in a village in central Kenya, I at all times thought our lengthy serving MP’s title was ‘Tawa’ that means lamp. That is as a result of the lamp was his image in each election””, Supply: Joseph Warungu, Supply description: Media and communication coach , Picture: Joseph Warungu

“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 an emblem of both the elephant or the umbrella. They by no means talked about the title of the get together or candidate.”

When rising up in a village in central Kenya, I at all times thought our long-serving MP’s title was “Tawa” that 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 means of the village, your entire space could be stuffed with chants of “Tawa! Tawa!”

However I have to admit, his lamp was slightly faint: it didn’t illuminate our schooling and well being challenges. It didn’t convey electrical energy to the world or enhance the roads that had been impassable within the wet season.

Dr Mwangola agrees that whereas we’re excellent at getting the that means of colors and symbols in Africa, we fail by not following by means of.

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

“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 not care. We do not even maintain 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 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 pink as his color to characterize anger to counter the yellow of the governing NRM get together, led by President Yoweri Museveni who’s looking 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 pink of ardour and dedication,” she says.

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

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

Extra Letters from Africa:

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