Book on election management in West Africa launched

A book titled, “Election Dispute Management Practice Guide for West Africa” was on Tuesday launched in Accra by the West African Network for Peace Building (WANEP).

The launch forms part of WANEP’s efforts to prevent the eruption of violence and unrest during elections in the sub-region, and to ensure political stability.

The 148-page book discusses election dispute, causes of such disputes and the prevention as well as the solutions to such disputes.

Dr Christiana Thorpe, Chairperson of Electoral Commission in Sierra Leone, said ensuring peaceful elections did not begin during the actual election period.

“We all know that an election is a process, not an event, and it can be divided into pre and post phases. All of these phases must be properly planned and managed, if the outcome is to be successful and credible.”

She said it was important for a completely independent and well resourced management body, “Whose independence is guaranteed to carry out its functions efficiently and effectively”.

Dr Thorpe said the National Legal Framework had to provide basis for the conduct of an electoral process in accordance with international standards.

“Great attention should be given to the youth, and any grievance which they have should be addressed before elections, to prevent them from being used as perpetrators of crime,” she added.

Dr Thorpe stressed that “The impartiality and neutrality of the security forces during elections must be ensured, with emphasis on protecting lives and property”.

She said while freedom of expression must be guaranteed, the media must be held accountable for biased reporting and provided with adequate training in reportage on elections.

Dr Thorpe said it was necessary to begin with programmes to prevent electoral violence well before the actual elections begun.

“It is a fact that poor or late planning in election operations, such as timely procurement of election material, establishment of polling stations and recruitment and training of polling staff, could adversely affect some core electoral tasks like voter registration, education and candidate nomination.”

Dr Thorpe said it took joint collaboration between all stakeholders such as the military, police, media, civil society organisations, aimed at ensuring peace during and after elections, to ensure that the national process was not interrupted as a result of political elections.

“The way forward is to continue to embrace good practices and international standards, to prevent a regression to the bad old days of violent elections,” she added.

Dr Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, Executive Govenor of Niger State, Nigeria, said no matter how difficult it might be, there was the need to respect the constitution at all cost.

“If you easily disrespect the constitution because of frustration at electoral happenings, that is how chaos is bred,” he added.

Mr Emanuel Bombande, Executive Director of WANEP, said so far as problems were bound to come up from time to time as a result of Presidential elections, what was most important was the ability of countries to deal with these problems as they came up.

He said one thing that was needed for this to be done effectively was the establishment of strong institutions to that effect.

“The stronger the institutions, the easier it is to deal with the problems,” he said.

Mr Bombande said the book would serve as a guide for elections in the sub-region, adding that it was expected to have a great impact on ensuring political peace and harmony.

Professor Isaac Albert, WANEP Board Member and Author of the book, said with current political developments in some countries in Africa, WANEP realised that it was impossible to have sustainable development.

He said WANEP reflected on what contributions it could make towards ensuring peaceful elections on the continent, adding that the book was an outcome of these deliberations.

The Chairman of National Peace Council, Most Reverend Professor Emmanuel Asante, who launched the book, said although Ghana had been spared political upheaval since the country returned to multi-party democracy in 1992, “Events such as the violence in Atiwa and Cherepone should tell us that we should not be complacent”.

He said the situation in Ghana seemed to be characterised with high political tensions, adding that if enough trust and confidence was not built in the electoral system, “The political experiences of Kenya, La Cote d’Ívoire and the Democratic Republic of Congo, could become our experience too”.

The National Peace Council Chairman said it was gratifying to note that in Ghana, as was the case with some other countries, the present political parties code was an improvement on that of 2008.

He said it was important not to take the prevailing peace in the country for granted, but to work hard at ensuring that the supportive structures of the country’s political system were strong enough to withstand any upheavals.

Source: GNA

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