•Trains 80 election monitors on violence mitigation
The West Africa Network for Peace Building (WANEP) in partnership with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU) have developed about 42 checklist to monitor potential election violence hotspots Nigeria.
They have also trained trained 80 election monitors, as part of a broader Election Monitoring, Management and Mitigation project designed to mitigate election violence in the February 2019 general election of Nigeria.
The Early Warning Officer, Peace & Security Department , AU Commission, Ms. Mfrekeobong Ukpanah, while speaking at the end of the training in Abuja at the weekend, noted that there are series of threats and signs for violence towards 2019 general election in Nigeria.
To mitigate this, Ukpanah said they have tried to map and identity concretely potential hotspots, either due to issue of an election related violence in the past or due to the current security dynamics in the country.
She said they have developed about 42 checklist to monitor on regular basis for election violence mitigation.
She said: “There are series of threats and their are series of signs and that’s why we started this project in collaboration with ECOWAS and our civil society partner WANEP sometimes last month. We tried to map and identity concretely potential hotspots, either due to issue of an election related violence in past elections or due to the current security dynamics in the country.
“Also, we have a checklist like a set of indicators which we developed with different Nigerian stakeholders cutting across four major thematic from issues of physical violence, physical assault to issues that have to do with ethics and compliance to the Electoral Act or Rule of Law which could threaten elections to issues of hate related speeches.”
“So, there are series of things that we need to work towards and preventing electoral violence. I can specifically say this is it, but we have actually had a long checklist; 42 of them that we are monitoring on a regular basis. That is why we are providing this training for these monitors to be able to help us systematically and in a regular basis monitor those report and provide us with valid report that we need to analyse to provide our decision mechanism possible and strategic options for response,” she stressed.
Also speaking, the Executive Director, WANEP, Mr. Chukwuemeka Eze, explained that the training will focus on situation monitoring, analysis and Mitigation throughout the electioneering process.
He informed that the field monitors will provide analytical reports on areas of risks of violence and make recommendations to key electoral actors that responds to election threats to include Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Nigerian Police, Christian Association Of Nigeria (CAN), Juma’atu Nasril Islam (JNI).
Eze however, expressed worry that the current security challenges and political uncertainties raises potential threats to the peaceful conduct of elections across states.
He said: “The violent extremist operations of boko Haram, the recurring incidents and spread if herder-farmer conflicts in the North Central and North West that has led to the death of over 1,200 persons.
“Reports of banditry, separatists agitation and proliferation of small arms and light weapons have been on he increase. The growing tensions within the ruling party.”
Eze noted with concern that the growing security issues has the potential to mar the democratic gains of the country
“One of the things that we have come to realize that is election is simply a trigger that now ignites deep seated conflicts that exists even before the elections. So, to that extent, it may not be election related anticipation crisis, but because there are existing crisis in those places,” he said.
To this end, he urged the state and community monitors to produce analytical reports that will support the Authority and member s in developing appropriate responses to electoral disputes.
In the same vein, the Information Systems Officer, Continental Early Warning System, Peace and Security Department, AU, Mr. Taye Abdulkadir, while noting that election is a contentious issue, urged Government to create mechanisms in order to settle the different issues needed to be addressed before, during and after the elections.
“I think if such things are properly addressed, we are going to have a proper and peaceful election coming. I believe election is a kind of contentious issue in every country”, he said.
In his own, the Programme Officer, Directorate of Early Warning of ECOWAS Commission, Mr. Ismaila Gueye, said that ECOWAS is very concerned about election happening in the region.
Gueye noted that the sub-regional body aims to promote peace and security in the region “that’s why WANEP is our partner and we know how WANEP is involved in building peace in the region.
“That’s why ECOWAS in collaboration with AU is attending this meeting to assist WANEP in peace activities.”
He also said the said the monitors have been provided a new improved software called server 123 to guarantee a better information gathering process.
“The new tool in monitoring election is an easier tool so when they go to the field they can collect information and send it in the easier way and people will be there during the analysing. So, it will be a contribution for peaceful and transparent election,” he said.
The overall goal of the training is to equip selected civil society organisations with skills of monitoring and reporting into an online National Early Warning System (NEWS) that enhances analysis to mitigate violent threats before, during and after the general elections.