Confab on electoral processes in West Africa opens in Accra

A two-day regional conference, aimed at discussing the progress and retrogression on electoral processes in West Africa opened in Accra yesterday.

The programme, organised by the Southern Voices Network for Peace building brought together participants from Togo, Guinea, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Senegal.

It was in collaboration with civil society organisations (CSO), including the West Africa Network for Peace building (WANEP) with support from the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD), Initiative for Public Policy Analysis (IPPA) and the African Centre for Economic Transformation (ACET).

In his remarks, Executive Director of WANEP, Dr Chukwuemeka Eze noted that political stability and accountability particularly through elections were becoming elusive.

For this reason, he said discussions over alternative futures for Africa had featured at various fora, particularly the need to take all necessary steps to ensure that electoral periods did not undermine or derail developmental gains and priorities.

He bemoaned that very often in many African countries, leaders were not chosen through fair and competitive elections, but rather “we are merely checking boxes”.

This, he said signified a dangerous loop that threatened the essence of any elections, transparency, inclusiveness and accountability.

He expressed worry about the exclusion of the vast majority of the citizenry in political processes which further generated grievances and recourse to violence.

The fiercely competitive nature of party politics, Mr Eze said, had been a factor threatening stability in the sub-region largely because there was a widespread perception of elections as “winner takes all”.

“In spite of all this, we can all rightly take pride in some important strides that have been made. Across the region, a number of political dialogues have been initiated and undertaken with many leading to signify policy reforms in electoral processes in countries such as Benin, Burkina Faso and Ghana,” he added.

According to Mr Eze, the responsibility of ensuring that elections in Africa were free, fair and credible could not be shouldered by the Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS), African Union (AU) and its member states alone, hence the need for all CSOs and willing political parties to make concerted effort to ensure a resounding success.

On his part, Dr Emmanuel Akwetey, Executive Director of the Institute of Democratic Governance (IDEG) indicated that there was the need for African leaders to take democracy serious.

He explained that since freedom was strengthened by development, it was necessary for development to reach every area on the continent, adding that despite the fact the majority of voters in Africa were impoverished, elected leaders did not focus on implementing measures to improve the lives of the vulnerable in their countries.

“African leaders must not only focus on elections, there must be the zeal to improve the lives of the poor people in the country, especially those living in deprived areas.

These same impoverished individuals make the majority of votes, yet their needs are not met satisfactorily. Democracy cannot be enjoyed without development,” he added.

BY RAISSA SAMBOU                              

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