Vol. XII, Issue 4 (Fall 2005): Democracy in Nigeria, Ghana and Rwanda



Gloria Emeagwali
Chief Editor

Walton Brown-Foster
Copy Editor

Haines Brown


Olayemi Akinwumi

Zenebworke Bissrat

Paulus Gerdes

Mosebjane Malatsi
(South Africa)

Alfred Zack-Williams
(Sierra Leone)


Tennyson Darko
Asst. Dir. ITS, CCSU

Peter K. LeMaire
Professor, CCSU

Website Maintenance

Nana Poku


For more information concerning Africa Update
Prof. Gloria Emeagwali
CCSU History Dept.
1615 Stanley Street
New Britain, CT 06050
Tel: 860-832-2815

Table of contents



 In volume X1, Issue 4, Fall 2004, Africa Update highlighted the 2003 Nigerian elections. We pointed to the allegations of fraud hurled at the election officers, and the court action undertaken by one of the presidential candidates. In his own analysis, Chief Akinyele, a veteran from the 1959 election pointed to the more positive aspects of the exercise. In this issue we revisit the theme of elections and democracy from various angles.

Will the 2007 Nigerian elections be rigged by voting machines? Will the hanging ‘chads’ of the infamous Florida election of the U.S. resurface in Lagos and Abuja? Within the last three decades, countries such as Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and the U.S. have been accused of electoral malpractice and voting machine fraud. Would Nigeria join this list in 2007? Dr. Victor Okafor of Eastern Michigan University examines voting mechanisms such as the ballot box and the voting machine, in his analysis of the forthcoming Nigerian elections of 2007. He makes reference also to the successful presidential elections of 2004 in Ghana, in the course of discussion. Nigeria should emulate Ghana, suggests Dr. Okafor.

The visit to the University of Connecticut of His Excellencies President Kufuor of Ghana and President Kagame of Rwanda was an opportunity to reflect on various aspects of democracy. Hosted by Dr Amii Omara- Otunnu, the UNESCO Chair and Director of the Human Rights Center at the University of Connecticut, the distinguished presidents took time from their busy schedules at the U.N. to provide stimulating discussions on aspects of democratic change. Ms. Elizabeth Rusconi was there and took notes on behalf of Africa Update.
We thank Dr. Okafor and Ms Elizabeth Rusconi for their illuminating articles.

Dr. Gloria Emeagwali,
Chief Editor.

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Nigeria’s Electoral Challenge: What is to blame, the Ballot-box
or the Political Culture?

Dr. Victor Oguejiofor Okafor
Professor of African American Studies
Eastern Michigan University

As Nigerians and students of Nigerian politics look forward to another election year in 2007, Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has announced its decision to use voting machines in place of ballot boxes for the presidential, governorship and legislative elections that it is scheduled to conduct that year. The voting machine decision has received mixed reactions from Nigerian political parties. The ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is reported to be in favor of the system and is supported in that stance by the main opposition party, the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP). But other opposition parties, such as the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), the Alliance for Democracy (AD), and the National Democratic Party (NDP) have cried foul, charging that the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) intends to use the new voting device to return itself to power. They also argue that Nigeria is not ready for the technicalities of electronic voting and that the system is vulnerable to manipulation. On the other hand, proponents of electronic voting contend that the system could minimize electoral malpractices and that it could guarantee that the people’s Election Day choices will be protected. Supporters also say that the brand of electronic voting machine in question has been used successfully in India, and so, it should work in Nigeria, given that both countries belong to the “Third World.”

Although Nigeria’s Supreme Court has upheld the validity of the 2003 re-election of President Olusegun Obasanjo for a second four-year term that ends in 2007, continuing comments from Opposition spokespersons indicate that sections of Nigerian public opinion still harbor misgivings about the conduct and results of the 2003 general elections. Opposition spokespersons have continued to refer derisively to the elections of 2003 as “selections.” By this, they mean that the declared winners of those elections did not represent the wishes of the majority of the electorate. The local government elections of 2004, which were won predominantly by the ruling PDP, met with similar charges of fraud and unfairness. In fact, both the Nigerian Labor Congress (NLC) and the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) rejected the outcome of those local government elections.

While the Supreme Court validated the outcome of the presidential election of 2003, a few of the other elections won by the ruling party have been invalidated by electoral petitions tribunals. Prime examples include two state governorship elections, namely those of Adamawa and Anambra states, both of which were won by PDP candidates. In both cases, the incumbent governors whose electoral “victories” were invalidated by the electoral petitions process, subsequently filed appeals with the Federal Appeals Court. The Adamawa appeal was upheld and so the victorious PDP governor remains in office; but Anambra’s appeal is still pending. Of the two, the Anambra situation has been the most controversial and has come to symbolize the illness that plagues the Nigerian electoral process. In short, it’s alleged that in the Anambra case, a god-father with alleged Abuja connections simply “selected” the incumbent governor, the wishes of the people who cast their ballots in that election not withstanding. The god-father has not only been quoted by newspapers as affirming opposition claims that he was the political juggernaut that installed the incumbent PDP governor in office (despite that fact that the job was supposed to be filled by the electorate through the ballot box), he has also been reported as boasting that he would sponsor a candidate in the upcoming election of 2007. Even President Obasanjo--the chief executive of the nation and thus the nation’s chief law-enforcement officer-- has himself spoken out about what he believed to be the fraud associated with the 2003 governorship election in Anambra state. He put this way in his famous 2004 letter to Chief Audu Ogeh (the erstwhile chairman of PDP): “… I got the real shock of my life when Chris Uba looked Ngige straight in the face and said, "You know you did not win the election" and Ngige answered "Yes, I know I did not win." Chris Uba went further to say to Ngige, "You don't know in detail how it was done." I was horrified and told both of them to leave my residence.”

Selected or not, the incumbent governor of Anambra state was declared the winner of the 2003 election by INEC. By Nigeria’s electoral law, electoral fraud, such as the one by which a god-father allegedly “selected” a governor that was supposed to be elected by the people, constitutes a crime. In announcing that the current Anambra state governor was not duly elected, having won fewer votes than his APGA challenger, the state electoral petitions tribunal left several questions unanswered. When did the supposedly independent electoral commission become aware that the incumbent governor was not the lawful winner of the 2003 governorship election? Was the commission aware of this fact at the time it was declaring and certifying the governor as the winner of the governorship election? Another lingering question is this: why is it that the so-called god-father (who openly boasted that he master-minded the “selection” of the incumbent governor of Anambra state), goes about a free person without any charges being brought against him? As a “god-father,” is he above the law, given his alleged Abuja connections?

One would like to assume that the independent electoral commission really wants to conduct a reasonably free and fair election, come 2007. One would also like to assume that in deciding to adopt the voting machine, instead of the ballot box, the commission is motivated by a desire to forestall rigging in the upcoming election. The problem is that the federal government has not taken what I consider a necessary foundational step in preparing for 2007. That foundational step is to conduct an investigative public hearing on the serious allegations surrounding the elections of 2003 and 2004 in order to identify factors that marred the credibility of those elections in the eyes of the Nigerian public. Such a public, fact-finding hearing should be conducted by a commission made up of equal representatives of all the existing political parties in Nigeria, representatives of key non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and representatives of religious groups in the country. It should be headed by a retired Supreme Court judge.

In order to solve a problem, a first step is to find out the cause or causes of the problem. Having identified the cause or causes of the problem, one can then move to the second step of articulating options for solving the problem. If, as part of this discovery process that I have advocated, Nigeria determines that somehow the ballot box, as an electoral tool, was the primary reason for the shortcomings and fraudulent practices associated with the past elections of 2003 and 2004, then alternative solutions could be explored, including the option of the voting machine—as long as there is convincing evidence that the country, given its adult literacy rate 66.8%, is ready to make use of such a tool effectively and efficiently. What about the perennial problem of electric outages in Nigeria? Can INEC guarantee that power outages alone will not make non-sense of electronic voting in Nigeria? Perhaps, the machines for Nigeria will be custom designed to make them use batteries instead of electricity since Nigeria cannot guarantee uninterrupted electricity supply for any occasion, big or small. Where this to happen, can INEC guarantee that on the day of elections, those contracted to supply needed batteries will perform as expected, given the endemic corruption that goes hand in hand with contracts in Nigeria? What about the Nigerian police? Given the deep-seated corruption that makes that institution an embarrassment to Nigerians at home and abroad, can INEC rely on it to effectively protect polling stations and voters and to protect equally all electoral office contestants without according special treatment to anyone of them?

Since, in my view, the federal government has not taken the first fact-finding step that I articulated in the preceding, it is reasonable to ask whether the federal electoral commission’s decision to go with the voting machine in the 2007 election springs from a studied knowledge of the ills that plagued past elections.

While one acknowledges that there is no perfect political culture anywhere (witness the controversies that surrounded the albeit successful US presidential elections of 2000 and 2004, not to talk of the pre-1960s era of widespread black disenfranchisement in the southern United States of America), one is also constrained to ask whether the ills associated with the aforementioned past elections in Nigeria were due more to significant defects in the political culture than to the instruments employed in the voting process. Here, I employ Claude Ake’s (1967) definition of political culture as “the system of empirical beliefs, expressive symbols and values which defines the situation in which political action takes place” (p. 2). If the political culture, such as Nigeria’s, is characterized by a behavioral pattern among the political elite that tends to disrespect the electoral law with impunity (and even allows political fraud stars to boastfully parade themselves as celebrities), can that pattern of behavior be checkmated by the substitution of one voting instrument for another? When a so-called god-father boasts openly that he was the one that foisted a governor in office, rather than the electorate (in other words, he is saying to the world that he flouted the electoral law of the land), and he goes about a free and boastful man, the political culture has been ridiculed and debased. Inaction, when action is needed on the part of those charged with law-enforcement in the land, is bound to further erode trust in government on the part of the bewildered watching public. Such inaction in the face of a situation that calls for swift action to show that the law is no respecter of persons in Nigeria is bound to make the citizenry cynical about the efficacy of the electoral process. Election malfeasance, as a variant of public corruption, is symptomatic of the country’s defective political culture. Obasanjo’s ongoing war on corruption cannot succeed without a simultaneous assault on electoral fraud stars that seem to litter the body politic. Speaking, recently, while on an official visit to Spain, Obasanjo was reportedly assured that Nigeria’s 2007 elections would not be impeded by violence. The report quoted him as saying that "We have no fear whatsoever that 2007 and beyond would be peaceful.” While I applaud the president’s optimism, I would like to point out that a concrete step by which he can convince his primary constituency, namely Nigerians, that 2007 would witness a free and fair general election is by opening a new front, right away, in his historic war on corruption—one that will focus upon the alleged electoral crimes of 2003 and 2004.

Nigeria’ political history since independence in 1960 has been characterized by bitter electoral disputes that eventually led to the collapse of its several republics (including the first indigenous Republic led by Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa and the second Republic led by President Shehu Shagari). In addition, General Ibrahim Babangida blemished Nigeria’s political history for all time by nullifying a reportedly successful June 1993 presidential election that was won by the late Mudaseru Abiola. It’s more than a bewildering irony of history that this same general who shamed Nigeria and the entire black race by his despotic action of nullifying the will of the people in 1993 is now scheming to return himself to power (come 2007) through the same balloting process that he so disrespected in 1993. The mere fact that Nigeria’s political culture can accommodate such an effrontery, such a slap on its national face speaks volumes about its decadence.

In December 2004, Ghana held a widely hailed presidential election that returned the incumbent president to office. Internally and externally, that election was heralded as among the freest and fairest elections ever conducted in Africa’s post-independence history. Did Ghana have to resort to electronic voting machines in order to conduct that successful election? Prior to Ghana’s successful election, South Africa also conducted post-apartheid parliamentary general elections that were widely hailed as successes. Did South Africa have to substitute the ballot box for the electronic machine? What about Kenya, where in December 2000, President Mwai Kibaki’s National Rainbow Coalition won a landslide election, and achieved a parliamentary majority. In that election, the National Rainbow Coalition dislodged KANU from 40 years of uninterrupted rule. That election was hailed nationally and internationally as reasonably free and fair. To achieve that electoral feat, did Kenya have to import voting machines?

Finally, I have an additional suggestion for Nigeria’s INEC, in addition to the public fact-finding hearing that I recommended in the foregoing. As it prepares for 2007, INEC should take a trip to Ghana, South Africa and Kenya in order to compare notes on the electoral institutions in these 'sister' African nations. Find out if they had to resort to electronic contraptions in order to conduct reasonably free and fair elections.


Ahmed, Auwal. (2004, March 25). "Tribunal Nullifies Adamawa governor’s election," The Guardian online. (http://www.ngrguardiannews.com/).

Ake, Claude. (1967). A Theory of Political Integration, Homewood: Dordsay Press.

Anyagafu, Chioma. (2005, September 3). "Electronic Voting Debate Rages On," Vanguard online. (http://www.vanguardngr.com).

Aziken, Emmanuel. (2005, September 13). Obasanjo Allays Fears Over 2007 Polls. Vanguard online. (http://www.allafrica.com).

Country profile: Kenya. BBC News. (http://www.News.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/country_profiles/1024563.stm#leaders).

Ghana’s gentle giant re-elected. (2004, December 10). BBC NEWS.

How Anambra Governorship Poll was rigged. (2005, July 8). (http://www.allafrica.com).

NLC Rejects LG Polls Results: Says Democracy Under Threat. (2004, March 31). (http://www.allafrica.com).

Okafor, Celestine. (2005, August 27). Why Anambra Crisis Will Persist-Ngige. Vanguard online (http://www.vanguardngr.com).

Pindiga, Habeab. (2005, September 9). 2007: Electronic Voting Pitches PDP, ANPP Against Other Parties. Daily Trust online (http://www.allafrica.com).

President Obasanjo’s Reply to Chief Ogbeh’s letter, (2004, December 12) found at (http://www.dawodu.com/obas26.htm).

Ugah, Ndubuisi. (2005, September 15). 2007: AD Picks hole in Inec’s e-voting plan. This Day online, found at (http://www.allafrica.com).

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Presidential Insights on Democratic Transformation in Ghana
Elizabeth Rusconi,Bacon Academy

Dr. Amii Omara- Otunnu, history professor at University of Connecticut and UNESCO Chair in Human Rights organized and facilitated a presidential lecture series this month. On September 13, 2005, President Kufuor of Ghana spoke on “Democratic Transformation in Ghana” and on Sept 19, 2005, President Kagame of Rwanda gave a lecture on “The Challenges of Human Rights in Rwanda after the 1994 Genocide.” Each lecture was awe-inspiring. The achievements of these men are tremendous.

In the first of the two lectures, President Kufuor spoke to a packed house. Dr. Amii Omara Ottunu introduced the speaker by explaining that Ghana has been a place of “firsts.” He eloquently detailed that Ghana was the first in the European monetary system because European coins were made from gold that was mined from Ghana. Ghana was the first sub-Saharan nation to reclaim its independence from colonial occupation in 1957. Ghana was also the first to have a military coup that spurred so many on the continent. So, therefore, Ottunu argued that it was fitting that President Kufuor be the first in the two lectures to speak. Quoting Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first President, “the Independence of Ghana cannot be complete without the total liberation of the continent.” The audience erupted in applause.

President Kufuor began his lecture by explaining that he fully subscribes to the definition of democracy as “Of the people, by the people and for the people.” He explained that during colonial occupation by the British, the Gold Coast as it was called at the time had four territorial areas. There were the coastal regions which the British gained under a bond in 1844 and later annexed as a protectorate, the Ashanti Kingdom which was gained through direct conquest by 1900, the northern area which was annexed in 1946 and finally the Volta region annexed in 1956. Since the British had done very little to blend these areas, in 1957 it was up to Kwame Nkrumah and his governance to somehow forge a nation. Nationhood was a process that began after independence.

President Kufuor outlined the challenges in Ghana. In 1957, the population was 4 million and the GNP was approximately 200 million British pounds. Its major exports included gold, diamonds, and tropical timber. There was the fašade of a Westminster style constitution in that there was no serious practice in governance and fiscal management of this type. In addition the pull of the cold War combined to confuse and destabilize the country. By 1966, there was one political party and a failed economy. Between 1966 and 1999, Ghana had five military dictators with two short stints of civil regimes both lasting for less than three years. By 1990, the population grew to 20 million people. With the fall of the Eastern Bloc countries and the former Soviet Union, the deprivation in Ghana woke people up to the need for change. President Kufuor stated, “The culture of fear was shattered in 1990 and by 1992 a constitutional referendum reintroduced democracies, multiple parties and freedom of speech.” Since 1992 there have been 4 more or less free elections. In 2000, President Kufuor was elected and then re-elected to his second and last term in 2004.

“Democracy is deeply entrenched into the psychology of the country,” stated President Kufuor. He further explained that “Democracy without a sound economy can self-destruct especially in the Third World.” Therefore it is no surprise that President Kufuor put this at the top of his political agenda. He offered evidence of his accomplishments. Poverty has been reduced by half. Inflation was reduced from 40% in 2000 to 14% in 2005. The Cedi (monetary unit of Ghana) has improved from 100% to 3% USD. According to Standard and Post, Fitch and other reputable outside sources Ghana’s macro-economy was graded a B+. Most importantly, the G8 agreed to forgive Ghana 100% of its debt.

Ghana is not alone in its democratic transformation. In fact, ECOWAS members, NEPAD, the African Union and COMESA all encourage democracy and sound economic practices. President Kufuor concluded his lecture with the point that the growing interdependence must be attributed to the democratic transformation.

The President took several questions from the audience following the lecture. The first question was from the present writer who asked: “What do you feel is the biggest obstacle to an empowered African Union?” President Kufuor added that the question should be amended to a “realized African Union.” He felt that the biggest obstacle to a realized AU was the sheer size of Africa and its diversity and that the lack of development posed the biggest challenge. “Africa is a huge place with 54 countries,” he said. There still needs to be job creation and a continued fight against poverty and illiteracy for the empowerment of the people. The second question was why ECOWAS had not yet achieved a common currency. He responded with, “Until the recent advent of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) a mere phone call would have to channel to Paris and then to Cote d’Ivoire. So a common currency is still in the future. The French linked countries to France and the British linked the banks to the Bank of England and it was not until recently that we have cut the umbilical cord.” In other words, the countries of West Africa have not had the technology until recently to make phone calls to each other let alone set up a banking system that links West African nations together.

His response to the question of how Africa should deal with what is commonly called the ‘brain drain’ offered an interesting yet practical solution. President Kufuor suggested that African intellectuals, doctors and other professionals who decided to leave the continent should consider commuting back and forth. Bring the expertise learned from abroad back to their home nations. The lure to leave Africa is strong for many well-trained professionals. President Kufuor used the example of the Ghanaian doctor who earns about $500 a month in Ghana but could earn $10,000 in Saudi Arabia in a facility with advanced technology and more resources. When individuals have children, they want to make a better life for them; he felt it was understandable. Commuting back and forth he argued was the best of both worlds.

He answered other questions, which included such topics as the situation in Darfur, and how Ghanaians abroad could vote in elections in Ghana. Dr. Omara Ottunu concluded the event by wishing President Kufuor the strength and courage in his mission that he set for himself.

In the second of the two lectures, the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame was originally to be introduced by Lt. General Romeo Dallaire, author of Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda. However instead, Peter Nichols, Provost of Academic Affairs at the University of Connecticut introduced the lecture with a brief comment from Dr. Amii Omara- Otunnu.

Dr. Omara- Otunnu quoted the German, Protestant theologian Martin Niem÷ller. The poem read:

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak out for me

President Paul Kagame confronted the genocide, went into the battlefield overthrew the government that had allowed the genocide and played a leading role in the reconstruction of Rwanda. Dr. Omara Otunnu exclaimed that President Paul Kagame is, “a man of destiny, courage, a champion of human rights.” The audience reverently stood up and clapped to welcome the President.

First, President Paul Kagame took the time to carefully thank everyone for coming, and recognized the school and its achievements. “The fact that the school has the only UNESCO chair in North America speaks volumes,’ he stated. He began his speech with a reminder that the challenges of human rights in Rwanda after the 1994 genocide were enormous and complex. He pointed out that three days before, he had an interview with a CNN journalist – a very good journalist who asked whether with all the progress in Rwanda there were still human rights violations.

The challenges of the aftermath of the genocide were tremendous. There were 1 million people slaughtered, people were displaced and exiled. 500,000 widowed women, 300,000 orphaned children who were deeply traumatized. 100,000 Hutu were imprisoned. The total fabric of society was torn apart. Law and order broke down. Over three million Rwandan refugees and 700,000 people were displaced internally. Hutus were waiting across the borders to come back and finish the job while outside forces were reticent to come back and reluctant to help.”

Among the many challenges outlined by President Kagame, the first he discussed in detail was healing the raw wounds: “How do we heal the raw wounds? How do we take seriously an international community that watched idly? How do we achieve justice without creating more bitterness? And how do we view a society that respects human rights?” The first order of business was to restore law and order and establish a transitional government that included all parties. In March 1999, a national Unity and Reconciliation Committee was established. With a culture of inclusiveness there were elections. They had to integrate 20,000 soldiers to work as one army to defend and protect the nation. Then, there were the trials. This task was daunting and yielded few convictions. Held in community based courts called Gachachas, alleged perpetrators must ask for forgiveness and serve sentences in their community. Over 60,000 suspects have been tried.

With regard to orphans, Rwanda has made much progress in the aftermath of the genocide. 300,000 children were separated from their families or lost most of their family. Today there are only 5,000 children living outside of their extended families. In other words, children have been reunited with their extended families if their immediate family was killed. Rwanda is working to increase development. President Kagame stated, “A poor people are a people without fundamental human rights.” Rwanda is struggling to fight hunger and disease.

President Kagame made his stance extremely clear on political corruption: there is ZERO TOLERANCE of corruption. According to Kagame, it is not conducive to long-term planning and investment. In fact, Kagame puts his money where his mouth is by establishing an Office of Ombudsman to fight corruption, where any citizen can report offenses. Another achievement is freedom of the Press in Rwanda. They have liberalized the airwaves and there are several private radio stations. The number of newspapers is on the rise in the last three years. He concluded his lecture with the following thoughts, “For Human Rights to prosper it is not enough to name and punish violators. Human Rights needs to be institutionalized and the day to day work is not glamorous. We need solidarity and partnerships with friends like you. I want to invite the students and faculty of the University of Connecticut to Rwanda.” The crowd gave a standing ovation.

The President took several questions from the audience following the lecture. The first question was, “How would you balance free press with hate speech –would you suppress it?” He replied, “On one hand there is a need for freedom of expression and the need to guard against the dangers experienced in Rwanda. The crisis was heightened by the people who used the press to engage in genocide. Institutions can get to the bottom of what is responsible and what is irresponsible.” He also responded to my question: “What do you feel are the greatest obstacles to peace in the Great Lakes region?” President Kagame said the tensions in the region were only about 55 years old. They were fairly new whereas Rwanda was 800 years old. He felt that the solution was in the ability to openly discuss issues and ask questions. The first failure in Rwanda was the leadership’s reluctance to look at their people as a resource. Instead they used them against each other. He fielded several other questions that included topics like the role of religious organization in the healing process, the unification of the country in Parliament, and the accuracy of the movie Hotel Rwanda.

The most revealing answer was to the question “How do you bring peace to the population?  How do people cope psychologically?”  President Paul Kagame gave a moving account of his conversation with a survivor who lives in the same neighborhood as his victimizer.  “One of the survivors told me his story – how he lived in the neighborhood of the people who disposed him [into a mass grave.]  I asked the man, ‘How do you feel?’  He replied, ‘I manage to live on and I try to forgive because you asked to do that……. Above all we have to move on.”  The last question was mine.  “What lessons could the rest of Africa learn from the leadership in Rwanda?”  President Kagame humbly replied that the people of Africa can learn that they must stand up for themselves.

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