Be tactical in selecting conflict mediators-Ibn Chambas

A former Special Representative of the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General and Head of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel, Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas, has advised regional blocs to be more tactical in the selection of conflict mediators.

Instead of former or sitting presidents, he said, professional mediators with expertise in specific issue areas should be selected for such assignments in order to enhance the peace potentials of dialogue, and mediation in conflict management.

“There is an underlying assumption that suggests that the appointment of Heads of State or former heads of states automatically equip the leader with the skills and competencies required for effective mediation, overlooking the fact that mediation is a challenging endeavour that requires training and professionalism.

“This sometimes raises questions about neutrality and the commitment of parties to peace accords that are signed,” he said at the opening of a two-day semi-virtual regional policy workshop on peace and security hosted by Sierra Leone in Freetown, yesterday.

Organised by the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC) in Ghana, in partnership with the government of Denmark, the workshop was on the theme; “Challenges, Opportunities and Best Practices in building Infrastructure for Peace”  and aimed at facilitating idea sharing on the best approaches to building resilient infrastructures for peace to prevent conflict in West Africa.

It was attended by participants drawn from Ghana, The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS), and Civil Society Organisations.

Dr Chambas, highlighting the issues associated with using presidents as mediators, cited the intertwined situation between Guinea and Guinea Bissau, where a former President of Guinea once led a mediation team to Guinea Bissau, leading to complications because of personal relations and other factors.

 He also cautioned against the practice where leaders on election monitoring and observer missions in the region were increasingly being called upon to mediate in election-related disputes when they sometimes lacked the requisite expertise to mediate electoral disputes.

Improving mediation processes, he said, required a better synergy of roles between local, national, and sub-regional actors; better coordination among sub-regional, regional and international actors; training for mediators and adequate and sustainable funding for peace architecture and mediation at all levels.

“The consolidation of peace is enhanced when nested in viable infrastructures for peace and facilitated through dialogue and mediation,” he said.

Dr Chambas also condemned the resurgence of military interventions in West Africa and called for more proactive engagement, facilitated through dialogue and mediation to prevent democratic reversals across the region.

The Danish Ambassador to Ghana and Sierra Leone, Tom Norring, said supporting conflict prevention and mediation was a key priority of his country because, without it, other efforts would be of little value.

He said Demark has over the years executed several projects in collaboration with KAIPTC including support for the development of early monitoring mechanisms and assured that more support would be given to secure peace in the region.

Commandant of KAIPTC, Major General Francis Ofori, said the centre would continue to support efforts towards building sustainable peace on the continent through pragmatic research, and capacity-building programmes.

The event was attended by the Head of Mediation and Coordination of Regional Political Affairs, ECOWAS Commission, Dr Onyinye Onwuka, Governance Adviser to the Government of Sierra Leone, Dr Emmanuel Gaima.

BY JONATHAN DONKOR

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