–On mechanisms for conflict-free elections in 2019
Ahead of Nigeria’s crucial general elections in 2019, the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), in collaboration with the Abuja-based Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR), has lined up workshops for political actors, peace agents and infrastructure for peace platforms across four of Nigeria’s six geopolitical zones, on the use of dialogue and mediation as tools for preventing and mitigating election-related disputes and conflicts.
The main objective of the September-November 2018 engagements in the North-Central, South-South, North-West and South-East zones of the country is to strengthen the capacity of key political stakeholders in efforts at prevention and mitigation of potential pre- and post-election-related disputes/violence, so as to ensure peaceful electoral outcomes.
According to the ECOWAS Directorate of Political Affairs (DPA), the organizers of the workshop, the first workshop began on Tuesday, 18 September, in Jos, capital of Plateau State (North-Central zone), to be followed by the second in Benin City, Edo State (South-South zone), later in the month.
Participants will include representatives of traditional and faith-based organizations, civil society organizations (CSOs), representatives of governmental platforms involved in dialogue and mediation processes as well as Women and Youth organizations.
Specific goals of the engagements will include creating the opportunity for participants to appreciate the ECOWAS normative principles and frameworks for transparent and peaceful elections as well as the organization’s commitment to using dialogue and mediation in resolving electoral disputes and conflicts.
Others are providing a forum for participants to brainstorm and identify contending issues around the forthcoming elections and the possible role they could play in mitigating potential electoral violence before, during and after the elections; and to sustain and enhance ECOWAS’ strategic engagement with the political process in Nigeria.
The Dialogue and Mediation Handbook, developed by the ECOWAS Commission, will be used to facilitate the workshops, with participants expected to acquire practical techniques and skills for dialogue and mediation as important tools for the management of electoral conflicts through role-plays and simulation exercises, the organizers said.
For the identification of relevant participants, the DPA has been liaising with the IPCR, which was established in 2000 as a research and training center with the mandate to build and strengthen Nigeria’s institutional and human capacity for the promotion of peace and conflict prevention, management and resolution.
The ECOWAS Commission organized similar workshops before the recent elections in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Mali as well as ahead of the crucial legislative polls in Guinea Bissau.
Electoral disputations have become a major source of conflicts in West Africa, with the potential for violence that could be triggered or heightened by political patronage, communal and sectarian tensions, and incendiary rhetoric in the political discourse.
Reports and data from the ECOWAS Early Warning Directorate and open sources, which increasingly indicate potentials for electoral violence, rank Nigeria very high on political risk assessment.
The ECOWAS peace and security architecture, which draws from the 1999 Protocol Relating to the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peace-Keeping and Security, the 2001 Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance, and the 2008 ECOWAS Conflict Prevention Framework (ECPF), mandates the regional organization to intervene through preventive diplomacy, conflict management, and the deployment of military missions as a last resort.
These instruments have guided ECOWAS’ interventions in its successful resolution of conflicts, including those that took place in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea Bissau and, lately, in The Gambia, following the disputed December 2016 presidential election in that country.