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Electoral chiefs agree action plan to improve electoral process in ECOWAS region

Electoral chiefs agree action plan to improve electoral process in ECOWAS region

West Africa’s election management bodies have agreed an Action Plan to improve electoral processes to facilitate the conduct of free, fair, transparent and credible elections and deepen democracy in the region.  (Photo:  Dr. Christiana Thorpe of Sierra Leone, elected President Coordinating Committee)

In a two-page Communiqué at the end of their 3rd Annual General Meeting in Abuja on Wednesday 24th October 2012, the Network of Electoral Commissions in West Africa (ECONEC) explained that the Action Plan seeks among other things, to improve the legal and institutional environments for conducting elections in the region.

It is also aimed at improving the contributions of Electoral Management Bodies (EMBs) to the resolution of problems associated with electoral processes, the role of EMBs in post-election period and the improvement of the management of such bodies.

During the meeting, the electoral chiefs reviewed recent elections in the region and exchanged views and experiences on the roadmap for improvement of future elections.

The meeting also elected a new Coordinating Committee to pilot ECONEC’s affairs for the next two years. The new Committee has Dr. Christiana Thorpe of Sierra Leone as President (in photo), General Siaka Sangane (Mali) as 1st Vice-President, Dr. Manuel Gomez Miranda (Cape Verde) as 2nd Vice-President, Madam Lea Hounkpe (Benin) as Treasurer, and Mr. Camaa Louseny (Guinea) as Deputy Treasurer.

The new team replaces the pioneer Coordinating Committee headed by Mr. Moussa Michel Tapsoba of Burkina Faso, and the first Vice-President Ben Sekou Sylla of Guinea, both of whom died last year. The meeting observed a minute’s silence for the two late ECONEC officials as well as the late Chairman of Guinea-Bissau’s Electoral Commission Mr. Desejado Lima Da Costa.

In his key note address to the meeting, the Vice-President of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr. Toga Gayewea McIntosh, underscored the centrality of the independence, professionalism, fairness and integrity of EMBs to the collective efforts to nurture democratic culture in West Africa.

He noted that “as the principal arbiters in electoral processes, EMBs can decide the fate of a nation between war and peace,” adding that “electoral disputes, often provoked by the refusal of losing candidates to accept the verdict of the ballot box or poor management of electoral processes, constitutes one of the key triggers to the cycle of instability that the region has witnessed over the last two decades.”

He therefore, urged ECONEC to equip its new leadership with the appropriate strategic work plan designed to address both the capacity needs of EMBs and structural challenges that negatively affect electoral processes.

In his welcome address, the Chairman of Nigeria’s Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, said that “adapting the tested practices of sister EMBs and avoiding their mistakes not only saves us from trying to re-invent the wheel as it were, but it also saves us valuable resources.”

The Acting head of the ECOWAS electoral unit, Mr. Francis Oke, who provided a background of the meeting on behalf of the ECOWAS Director of Political Affairs, Dr. Abdel-Fatau Musah, explained that between the end of 2010 and November 2011, elections were held in Guinea, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Niger, Benin, Nigeria, Cape Verde, Liberia, the Gambia, and Senegal in March 2012. ECOWAS deployed election observers to all the countries expect the Gambia.

Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Sierra Leone and Ghana are scheduled to conduct elections between 2012 and 2013.

The ECONEC, established in 2008 brings together the Chair and vice-Chair persons of Election Commissions of ECOWAS Member States as well as high-ranking experts in electoral matters and officials of international institutions that support democracy.

The current meeting was sponsored by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), which was represented by its Political Governance Programme Manager, Mr. Mathias Hounkpe.

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