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date: 25 April 2019

watermelon politics

A Dictionary of African Politics

Nicholas Cheeseman

watermelon politics 

A term used a number of African countries, including Sierra Leone and Zambia, to refer to people whose most obvious or strongly professed political allegiance is not their true one. This may be out of a desire to hide their true preferences from their friends or from an authoritarian government. In Zambia, for example, the United Party for National Development (UPND) opposition party launched a ‘Watermelon Campaign’ in the 2016 elections, encouraging supporters to pretend that they plan to vote for the ruling party by wearing its colour (green)—thus avoiding the risk of political violence—while in reality being UPDN (red) on the inside. The term can also be used more generally. For example, the term ‘watermelon crowds’ has been used to describe rally audiences who are paid to turn up to make a candidate look more popular but do not actually support him.