Anger in Ghana over video showing president handing out cash


An amateur video that shows Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama handing out money has been the big topic of conversation in the country since it was first posted online last week. The president spent several days vehemently denying the allegations that he had handed out cash, before finally admitting that he had indeed done so. Mahama was quick to offer up an explanation, but our Observer says it hasn't satisfied many Ghanaians.

The person who filmed the scene was looking down from above the busy market in the Abossey Okai neighbourhood in Accra. He was filming the passage of President Mahama, who was standing up and waving at the crowds as his 4x4 made a slow progression through the packed streets. At one point in the video, the presidential vehicle stops and Mahama hands what looked like a note to someone in the crowd. A cheer rises from the onlookers. A few seconds later, he hands something to someone else and the crowd goes wild again.

At 1’10, the Ghanaian president hands money to someone in the crowd. At 1’50, he does it again. The video was published on Facebook and then edited by "MyJoyOnlineTV".

Twenty-four hours of confusion… and many versions of the story

After the video was shared on social media, several members of the opposition, as well as numerous media organisations, called on the president to explain himself. Had he really been caught on camera distributing money ahead of the presidential and legislative elections on December 7?

Twenty-four hours after the video was first shared, Mahama’s chief of staff commented on it. He said that the president was probably handing out “leaflets”, not money, and added that “presidents don’t carry money around”. Many of the president’s supporters alleged that the video had been doctored. One former Ghanaian diplomat gave an interview saying that the people who shared the video had “sick minds”. Other supporters didn’t deny that the president had handed out money, but they defended his action. And one commentator compared the kind gesture to attending church.

“I gave the money to a girl who had lost her merchandise”

Under pressure, Mahama finally spoke about the incident in an interview with the newspaper the Daily Post. He admitted that he had given out money but he said it was for a good cause.

In this interview, the president explained that he saw a little girl who was selling boiled eggs and who was crying because the crowd had knocked over her plate. He said he ordered the convoy to stop and  handed a 50 cedis note [equivalent to 11 euros] to the woman whom he thought was her mother. But the little girl kept crying and indicated that the woman whom the president had given the money to wasn’t her mother, so he handed her a 50 cedis note directly.

This explanation was corroborated by several different media reports. Reporters at, for example, met with vendors who said that the president had given each of them 50 cedis after some of their merchandise was damaged by the excited crowd.

The president said that he stopped his convoy to compensate a little girl who lost her wares in the frenzy sparked by his passage. Screengrab from the video below.

“The president’s version makes me uncomfortable. It’s as if he is downplaying what he did”

So did the president manage to explain away the scandal? Our Observer, Kenn Car, is a digital entrepreneur based in Accra. He went to Abossey Okai after the incident and he says the president’s explanation is problematic.

On the one hand, the president’s image may have actually benefitted from this scandal because his explanation makes him look like a do-gooder. But it also raises some questions. I don’t think that a president is supposed to carry money during a rally. He also shouldn’t be giving money to a child working in a market. Why didn’t he get out of the car to console the child and tell her that she should be going to school? It is as if he was indirectly encouraging the practice of child labour.

Not to mention that this scandal was very poorly managed by the president’s communications team. Everyone was contradicting each other!

I’ve already seen both the ruling party and the opposition give out money or small presents to buy votes. But in Ghana, to do this publicly is frowned upon. The president’s version of the story makes me uncomfortable because it is as if he is downplaying what he did and making it look like a compassionate gesture. But honestly, I don’t think this is going to have any effect on the elections in December.

Ghana is not the only country that has been scandalised by a video of a leader handing out money. In the Republic of Guinea, President Alpha Condé was also filmed handing out bills. His office explained his actions by saying that handing out money was “part of the cultural heritage of the country”.