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West Africa Civil Society Policy Dialogue Series (WAC-PoDiS)

Dialogue Outcomes
Introduction
On February 26, 2015, the West Africa Civil Society Institute launched its maiden policy dialogue
series for 2015 with the aim of bringing together civil society actors, relevant government officials
and agencies, development partners and the academia to discuss strategies to uphold and
strengthen democratic values in the region especially ahead of the five (5) forthcoming elections
in Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Togo, Guinea and Cte dIvoire. The West Africa Civil Society Policy
Dialogue Series (WAC-PoDiS) platform also served as an opportunity for all stakeholders to
deliberate on the strategies to ensure transparent, free, fair and violence-free elections in these
countries, as well as reach general consensus on best practices for the promotion of democratic
governance in West Africa.
Elections play an important role in the existence and functioning of states as it presents an
opportunity for the critical mass of citizens to participate directly in governance by exercising
their civic responsibility to vote for the political party and candidate(s) of their choice within the
available constitutional and legal framework. Over the years, the continent, and indeed the West
African region in particular, have faced a series of fragile situations most of which occurred as
outcomes of ill-managed events prior, during and after election periods as witnessed in Cte
dIvoire in 2010, Senegal and Ghana in 2012, Guinea 2013 and currently in Nigeria.
The role of civil society in determining the outcome of elections is evidently non-negotiable
though they have the critical mass of the citizenery, especially the youth, to always confront as
agents/perpetuators and victims of vote-rigging, voter bribery and intimidation, corruption and
violence. While civil society continues to serve as the bridge between the people at the grassroots
and governments, it has a crucial intermediary role to play in election administration,
management and total governance. Besides, it has contributed significantly to playing even more
technical roles such as election monitoring and observation at both local and international levels;
awareness creation and the promotion of civic education, and free, fair and transparent elections.
Some CSOs have absolute expertise in preventing and/or limiting the impact of electoral violence,
preventing conflicts and deepening and strengthening democratic values in West Africa.
Participants deliberated upon the following specific issues during the four-hour long meeting.
Emerging Issues
At the forum, participants;
Acknowledged that elections in the region are more synonymous with conflict than a
democratic process through which a group of people elect their leaders. In recent decades, over
fifty percent of West African countries have faced and continue to face serious electoral related
challenges before, during and after elections. Factors including vote buying, voter intimidation,
violence and sometimes outright conflicts have undermined the credibility of the electoral process
in many countries.
Noted that whilst these challenges may play out in different forms, ethnic and religious tensions
have usually been the channel through which election violence and related conflict are
perpetuated. This represents a true interpretation of the political landscape across the region.
Many political parties and candidates are deliberately divided on ethnic and religious lines.
1

Agreed that although several internal challenges faced by West African countries may be directly
linked to the above, some electoral management bodies (EMBs) and supposed independent
national commissions are sometimes the forerunners of non-transparency due to their clear
political affiliations, undue favoritism and lack of technical competence required for the job. The
increasing lack of integrity, independence and professionalism on the part of EMBs, especially
electoral commissions, have paved way for massive rigging of elections in favour of one political
party over the other. This has hampered the credibility of most elections and has propelled
opposition parties to contest election results contentiously.
However cautioned that not all electoral violence and conflicts should be related to the election
process and its outcomes as some may be mere coincidences. The root causes may be embedded
in prior events which may use elections as convenient outlets to vent.
Identified bribery and corruption by both incumbent governments and opposition parties as
another challenge of the electoral process in the region. Illiteracy and significant proportions of
uneducated populations have turned the political process into a form of market-floor politics
where votes are won based on the gifts and favours given and not on the messages contained in
party manifestos and communicated to electorates during election campaigns.
Raised the lack of independence and objectivity of some sections of the media as a major
challenge to the electoral process and reiterated its contradictions to the values of freedom,
fairness and transparency in media reportage. Some media houses and associated personnel are
directly linked to and sometimes financed by political parties thus compelling them to focus
attention on promoting one political party over the other. This makes the political terrain an
unequal playing ground for the different parties, hence inhibiting the promotion of transparency,
equality and accountability which is integral to democratic development.
Also highlighted the lack of professionalism and capacity of security forces in some countries,
especially those due for elections this year, as another challenge to ensuring order prior to, during
and at post-election periods. In some cases, the security forces whose primary responsibility is to
protect citizens against all forms of violent attacks are the sole perpetrators of violence against
innocent citizens, often depriving the entire country of peace and order during election periods.
Stressed the significant role of informal networks as against the weak formal institutions in
promoting credible, transparent, free and fair elections in West Africa. Many formal institutions
including political parties often promote undemocratic values such as clientelism 1 , godfatherism 2
etc. rather than the pursuit of their interests while upholding standard democratic values.
Underscored that the nature of politics across the region has a long history of abuse of power at
all levels. Politicians feel comfortable working outside the confinements of the law to pursue their
parochial motives without the interest or needs of the electorates at heart. The high cost of
running a campaign and bribing different quarters of powerholders/power-brokers has
compelled candidates to adopt a do or die approach to take over the reins of power as a means of
recovering the monies invested.

Cl i entelism involves the giving of goods a nd s ervices by a political figure i n exchange for political support from recipients
(Stokes, S.C. 2009. Pol itical Clientelism i n C. Boix a nd S.C. Stokes (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Politics, Oxford
Uni versity Press, Oxford, pp. 604-627.
2 Godfatherism is the sponsorship of a subordinate by an influential person/superior who helps them attain their political goals
for equal stakes but usually with the superior determining what the s ubordinate gets in the process (Aderonke, M. a nd
Awos ika, F.O. 2013. Godfatherism and Political Conflicts in Ni geria: The Fourth Republic i n Perspective. International Journal of
Management and Social Sciences Research, 2(7), pp.70-75.

Despite the above, pointed out that the recent introduction of some election management and
administration processes in some West African countries are highly commendable and should be
encouraged. For example, the introduction of biometric registration in Ghanas 2012 elections in
order to ensure a more transparent and effective process reduced supposed gross irregularities to
a large extent. Likewise, the introduction of the use of permanent voters cards (PVC) and
biometric card readers to the postponed February 28, 2015 general elections in Nigeria would
eliminate the recurrent double-voting, underage voting and slow identification process on
election day.
In addition, the establishment of a multi-stakeholder institution such as the National Peace
Councilthat has contributed immensely to the management of various crises including
electorally related onesand the creation of the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC)which
brought together all political parties in Ghana to debate and reach consensus of how to strengthen
transparency during electionswere several positive examples given. The establishment of civil
society situation3 rooms as witnessed in Ghana and Sierra Leone (2012), Nigeria 2011 and 2015
(forthcoming) elections was acknowledged as a good monitoring initiative that should be
replicated in any country holding elections in the region. Lastly, active participation of diverse
civil society groups in local observation processes such as CODEO in Ghana, National Election
Watch in Sierra Leone, Liberias Election Observers Network, Cte dIvoires Coalition de la
Socit Civile pour le Monitoring Electoral and the Consortium pour lObservation Domestique
des Elections in Guinea were all applauded.
However, called attention to the fact that the continuous negligence of national governments
and electoral commissionsespecially those with longer-term mandates such as Ghana4 from the
end of one election to anotherremain a complete setback to organizing better, freer and more
transparent elections every election year. Largely, the majority of independent electoral
commissions across the region are usually unprepared to organise credible elections ahead of time
until the actual election year which leaves no chance to new initiatives or different approaches to
doing things better. Many countries are hugely dependent on the availability of donor funding
before setting up. The delay in fund release automatically affects election calendars and the
activities/intervention of the commissions.
Reechoed the continued infinitesimal participation, representation and contribution of women
which makes up over fifty percent of electorates in many countriesand the teeming youth in
electoral processes. Women remain locked out of the political terrain due to diverse unfavorable
factors that have characterized politicking in our context. These include; high cost of obtaining
candidate forms, party tickets, running successful campaigns; violent media attacks on character,
abusive language; insecurity, male domination of the terrain, general lack of capacity among
others. Though a few countries like Ghana, Nigeria, and Senegal have featured youth in some
important political positions, millions of other youth remain clueless without any targeted
opportunity to contribute to national development in any way. Rather, the hopelessness of
unemployment has driven many into serving as political thugs to wealthy politicians who demand
their services to protect their personal interests especially during election periods.
Finally pointed out that civil society groups should play more central and active roles in election
processes especially in conscientising citizens to actively engage, participate and influence all
levels of electoral processes. In addition, every civil society organisation should consciously plan
to contribute significantly to election processes as a matter of civic responsibility rather than
3

Si tuation rooms a re places i n a military or political headquarters where the latest i nformation on a military or political
s i tuation is channeled (dictionary.reference.com). Ci vil society organisations have drawn inspiration from these to s et aside
s pa ces where updates on election processes a re gathered and analysed.
4 The Cha irman of the El ectoral Commission in Ghana ca n stay i n office till the age of 70 when he has to compulsory retire
(http://www.ec.gov.gh/act-establishing-the-ec/ and https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-worldfa ctbook/fields/2094.html)

abandoning it to organisations whose thematic mandate is centred on or directly related to


elections.
Recommendations
The following recommendations were directed to national governments, civil society and other
relevant stakeholders:
Governments should:
1. Ensure that all components of electoral management bodies (EMBs) including independent
electoral commissions are given the necessary space to exhibit a high level of independence,
objectivity, transparency and high standards of professionalism in delivering on their
primary mandates;
2. Create democratic spaces requisite for active civil society involvement in all levels of
electoral governance; and
3. Ensure that national security agencies and personnel provide adequate protection for all
sections of the society including all political parties (incumbent and opposition), candidates
and all citizens during election periods.
Civil Society should:
1. Implore media agencies, especially journalists, to be more objective in their reporting and
provide equal access to media platforms for all political parties and candidates in order to
promote political equality and objectivity;
2. Disapprove negative media propaganda through naming and shaming of any media agency
found guilty of inciting violence through careless broadcasting or fueling of hate speeches
among candidates or ideologically differing political parties;
3. Work more closely with the media regulatory body to ensure that the established code of
conduct to guide behavior and professional ethos are diligently respected and culprits are
rightly dealt with;
4. Extend the scope of their operations and influence from the capital cities to communities
where the critical mass of the people, who are largely uneducated, can benefit from
knowledge on civic and voting education;
5. Actively engage both opposition and incumbent governments on similar development
agenda in order to create equal opportunity/fair hearing on their plans for the nation
through their manifestos.
6. Engage the complete cycle of the electoral processfrom the end of one election to the
beginning of anotherand document and replicate successful strategies and practices learnt
from neighboring countries within and outside the region;
7. Change the after-math of elections narratives by focusing on holding politicians accountable
to their promises as contained in their campaign manifestos;
8. Use the 4 years leading to the next election to develop a cadre of well-trained and technically
equipped local election observers that will oversee proper observation and monitoring of
electoral processes prior to, during and after elections;
4

9. Set agenda and take the lead in mediating during electoral related violence and conflicts
before they degenerate into unmanageable crises; and ensure that capacities of eminent
people at especially the local level such as traditional rulers, religious leaders, market
women etc. are built in order to actively engage them during conflict management,
prevention and peacebuilding processes at the grassroot levels; and
10. Work closely with security agencies through information sharing, capacity building,
intelligence exchanges etc., for the promotion of human rights and peace and order before,
during and after elections.
Other Stakeholders such as
1. The private sector should consider providing financial support to elections and electoral
processes in order to reduce sole financial dependence on international donor funds;
2. Politicians should stop promoting vote-selling and buying; including exchanges of gifts and
favours between candidates and electorates with the aim of winning votes at all cost, which
has characterized our political landscape;
3. Political parties should have their manifestos translated into the different local languages to
deepen understanding especially among the rural electorates and to promote issue-based
voting;
4. EMBs and electoral commissions should strengthen their resource management techniques
due to the high cost of running elections and the current inability to mobilise sufficient
finances. This will also help to reduce countries over reliance on donor funding; and
5. National legislative bodies should actively participate in electoral process by creating
awareness on existing electoral laws and should promote strict implementation when
necessary.
Joint recommendations
1. Proper analysis of election violence and conflict should be done taking context into
consideration, with clear actor mapping, before concluding on the best form of intervention;
2. Election violence and conflict response mechanisms should not be limited to monitoring
and mediation approaches alone but should include and promote proper law enforcement;
3. All stakeholders should engage in active and thorough education of citizens, especially the
youth, in electoral processes in order to deepen their understanding at a younger age and
encourage increased/active participation in the process; and
4. Stakeholders should adopt and promote an all-inclusive approach to tackling democratic
challenges across the region including forging strategic partnerships, building alliances and
coalitions, and networking with likeminded organisations.
At the end of the dialogue, participants appreciated WACSI for creating such a neutral platform
for stakeholders to engage on the issues of elections in West Africa at this critical time. Having
acknowledged all panelists for their specific presentations and general contributions, participants
called for more engaging dialogues on pertinent topical and crosscutting thematic issues affecting
civil society development effectiveness in West Africa.

Annex 1: List of participants


S/N
1
2
3
4

Name
Maria-Goretti Ane
Kwesi Jonah
Dela Ayivor
Alimou Diallo

Organisation/Institution
International Drug Policy Consortium
Institute for Democratic Governance
Y ES Ghana
West Africa Network for Peacebuilding
Foundation for Security and Development
in Africa
Independent Development Consultant
IMANI Ghana
IBIS Ghana

Email Address
mariagorettiane@yahoo.com
kwesijonah@gmail.com
dela@yesghana.org
adiallo@wanep.org

bimpeh@gmail.com
ahamelin@usaid.gov

12 Eunice Roberts
13 Michael Ayeh
14 Afia Appiah

Send-Ghana
USAID West Africa
West Africa Behavorial Health and
Recovery Management
West Africa Womens Elections
Observation
Ghanaian Times
Hedge Ghana

15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26

S. Kale Dery
Ernest Ortsin
Armah Ernest
Eunice Menka
Kwasi Asare
Rikke Sig Hansen
Abigail Larbi
Y aya Koulibaly
Joseph Archison
Kpotufe Isidore
Korsi Senyo
Eli Narh

Daily Graphic
Unisphere Ghana
IMANI Ghana
Women, Media and Change
Ghana Independent Broadcasters Assoc.
Media Foundation for West Africa
Media Foundation for West Africa
Embassy of Guinea to Togo and Ghana
Ghanaian Times
IMANI Ghana
African Centre for Peacebuilding
African Centre for Peacebuilding

severious.dery@graphic.com.gh
ortsin2020@yahoo.com
ernestarmah@gmail.com
womec@hotmail.com
kwasi.asare@gibah.org
rikke@mfwa.org
abigail@mfwa.org
y2Koulibaly@yahoo.fr
eduarchison@yahoo.com
isidorekpotufe@yahoo.com
senyo@afcopb.org
eli@afcopb.org

27
28
29
30
31
32
33

Aicha Asaba Etrew


Amin Larry
Franklin Cudjoe
Augustine Okrah
Benefo Buabeng
Nana Afadzinu
Omolara Balogun
Katherine
Adarkwa
Kwabena Kroduah
Jimm Fomunjong
Charles Vandyck

Gender Centre
Y outh Movement for African Unity
IMANI Ghana
Electoral Commission, Ghana
Radio Univers
West Africa Civil Society Institute
West Africa Civil Society Institute

a.etrew@gendercentreghana.org
aminlarry@gmail.com
Franklin.cudjoe@gmail.com
augistokrah@yahoo.com
benefobuaben@gmail.com
nafadzinu@wacsi.org
obalogun@wacsi.org

West Africa Civil Society Institute


West Africa Civil Society Institute
West Africa Civil Society Institute
West Africa Civil Society Institute

kadarkwa@wacsi.org
kkroduah@wacsi.org
jcfomunjong@wacsi.org
cvandyck@wacsi.org

5
6
7
8

Theodora W. Anti
Ruby Quantson
Maud Martei
Tijani Hamza
George Osei9 Bimpeh
10 Amy Hamelin
11 Mohamed Adam

34
35
36
37

theodora@fosda.net
ruby.quantson@gmail.com
mmartei@imanighana.org
tijani@ibiswestafrica.org

mohammed.adam@wabharm.com
amanua2005@yahoo.com
michaelayeh60@gmail.com
aapiah@hedgeghana.com

38 Franck Sombo
39 Kwame Boateng
Samassy
40 Ansoumane
41 Lydie Kessie
42 Collins Agyare
43 Trixie Akpedonu

West Africa Civil Society Institute


West Africa Civil Society Institute

fsombo@wacsi.org
bboateng@wacsi.org

West Africa Civil Society Institute


West Africa Civil Society Institute
West Africa Civil Society Institute
West Africa Civil Society Institute

sasamassy@wacsi.org
lkessie@wacsi.org
cagyare@wacsi.org
takpedonu@wacsi.org