Mr Emmanuel Bombande, Executive Director of the West African Network for Peace Building (WANEP) on Thursday said there was the need to take steps on how to manage post electoral conflicts and disputes in West Africa.
He said “The need to respond to how elections in West Africa degenerate into violence not only disrupting the peaceful co-existence but also disharmonizing the society was very critical”.
Mr Bombande was speaking at the opening of a meeting of experts across West Africa to develop a comprehensive practical guide that would inform a coordinated and effective response to electoral disputes.
He said the guide would offer practitioners guidance on principles, strategies, approaches, and tactics to implement and organise coordinated effective actions towards preventing, mitigating and resolving election related conflicts and disputes in West Africa.
Mr Bombande said electoral disputes with violent expressions had become a common feature of democratic transition in West Africa, adding that it was imperative to put in place mechanisms for responding to electoral disputes that may arise during any stage of the electoral process.
Mr Chukwemeka Eze, Program Director, WANEP, said the recent experience of electoral disputes in West Africa had called for the establishment of an electoral dispute prevention mechanism to ensure credible and peaceful elections and to manage the post-elections outcomes period constructively.
He said the objectives of the meeting were to document and synthesize the experiences in key countries and places where actors had intervened and responded to electoral disputes in West Africa, identify experts in electoral dispute resolution who could play roles in training, testing and participating in validation exercises for the practice guide.
Mr Eze said it would also tap into the knowledge and capacity of experienced professionals from the sub region who had engaged in electoral conflicts prevention, mitigation and dispute resolution both in practical, theoretical and analytical ways and sketch out the framework, organisation and essential content of the practice guide.
Mr Patrick Henderson, Mission Director USAID West Africa, said over the years it had become evident that organizing free, fair and peaceful elections as well as accepting the outcomes peacefully had become a serious challenge to the democratization process and stability in West Africa.
He said economic prosperity, cooperation and integration could only be achieved in an environment that was peaceful, stable and secure.
Mr Henderson noted that although conflicts might arise due to various reasons especially after elections, the time had come for all to stand firm before, during and after elections in order to build and maintain a stable, peaceful and democratic West Africa.