By Paul Ejime |
The Governor of Nigeria’s Central State of Plateau, H.E. Simon BakoLalong has commended the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), for the proactive engagement of political stakeholders on the use of dialogue and mediation as tools for preventing and mitigating election-related disputes and conflicts ahead of the county’s crucial 2019 general elections.
Declaring open the first of a series of workshops organised for Nigerian stakeholders in Jos on Tuesday 18th September, the governor, represented by the Commissioner for Lands and Survey, Festus Fuanter, described the ECOWAS initiative as a timely intervention.
He therefore, urged the participants to utilise the knowledge and skills from the workshops to tackle any disputes that might emerge in the course of the electoral processes.
In his opening remarks, Mr Ebenezer Asiedu, a representative of the ECOWAS Commission’s management, explained that the workshops organized by the Commission’s Directorate of Political Affairs (DPA), in collaboration with Nigeria’s Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR), would be held from September to December in four of the country’s six geopolitical zones – North-Central, South-South, North-West and South-East.
The main objective, he said, is to strengthen the capacity of political actors, peace agents and infrastructures for peace platforms in efforts at prevention and mitigation of potential pre- and post-election-related disputes/violence, so as to ensure peaceful electoral outcomes.
The participants, selected by the IPCR, the West Africa Network for Peace building (WANEP), Nigeria, and the Plateau Peace Building Agency, among several others, include representatives of traditional, faith-based, and civil society organizations, governmental platforms involved in dialogue and mediation processes, as well as representatives of women, youth and physically challenged organizations.
The specific goals of the engagements include creating the opportunity for participants to appreciate the ECOWAS normative principles and frameworks for transparent and peaceful elections, towards “sustaining and enhancing ECOWAS’ strategic engagement with the political process in Nigeria; and also as an indication of our commitment and preference towards using dialogue and mediation in resolving electoral disputes and conflicts,” the official affirmed.
Other goals of the workshops include, providing a platform for participants to brainstorm and identify contending issues around the forthcoming elections and the possible role that they can play in mitigating potential electoral violence before, during and after the elections.
With Prof. Oshita O. Oshita, former Director General of the IPCR as the Facilitator, the three-day Jos workshop will cover topics such as Understanding Electoral Disputes: the West African context, Tools for conflict analysis, Principles of dialogue, Typologies of Responses to conflict, Effective and Efficient Mediation Process, the ECOWAS Mediation Processes, with group works and feedback.
Also present at the opening ceremony were the Plateau State’s Commissioner for Information and Communication, YakubuDatti, his counterpart for Science and Technology, Dan Manjang, the Director General of Plateau State Peace Building Agency, Prof Joseph Lengmang, other senior State government and IPCR officials, representatives of the State Independent Electoral Commission, and donor agencies.
Recognizing that electoral disputes have become a major source of conflicts in West Africa, and with the potential for violence triggered or heightened by political patronage, communal and sectarian tensions, and incendiary rhetoric in the political discourse, the ECOWAS Commission supports its member States through preventive diplomacy and the activation of its various instruments/mechanisms for mediation, conflict management and resolution to ensure conflict/violence-free polls in the region.
In this regard, the Commission has organized similar workshopsin other Member States, including before recent elections in Liberia (2017), Sierra Leone and Mali (2018), and also ahead of the crucial legislative polls in Guinea Bissau.