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14.11.2005 Politics

LECIA to train African election observers

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Accra, Nov. 14, GNA - Twenty participants from Africa on Monday began a two-week international training programme on enhancement of capacity building for election observation.

Experts in the field of human rights; democratic development; peace building, electoral administration and conflict resolution would use the training programme, which is the second, to discuss the readiness and professionalism of African civilians in election observation. They would also seek to enhance their capacity to respond effectively to the complex challenges of election observation before, during and after as well as determining a credible yardstick for judging the outcome of elections.

The programme on the general theme: "Peace-Building and Good Governance for African Civilian Personnel," is being organised by the Legon Centre for International Affairs (LECIA), University of Ghana, in collaboration with the Italian Government.

In a speech read on behalf his behalf, by the Minister of Interior, Papa Owusu-Ankomah Vice President Alhaji Aliu Mahama said election observation legitimised the electoral process as the officials had the capacity to detect anomalies in the political environment before, during and immediately after elections.

It also enhanced the significance of the election, improved upon democratic development, deepened the electoral systems, gave credibility to the outcome of the elections and earned international recognition, he said.

Alhaji Aliu noted that in Africa, election observation built confidence among the various stakeholders and potential voters, reduced the danger of electoral related conflicts, manipulation and rigging. "This is because after a period of internal conflict and the history of past elections that were robbed of their democratic purpose as a result of manipulation or lack of real political choices, there is the need to dispel the fear among the electorate that participation in elections and their choice of party would jeopardise personal safety," he said.

The Vice President said he recognised the need to use election observers to reinforce the trust in the democratic process as well as democratic institutions, which had been largely eroded by previous negative experiences.

On the training of African Election Observers, Vice President Mahama lauded the organisers saying, "African electoral problems often required home grown solutions as opposed to suggestions from outside the continent".

He urged the organisers to include in their training programme the process of voting, role of civic education, timely provision of voter information, protection of minority rights and acknowledgement of gender equality in the whole electoral process.

The Italian Ambassador, Mr Giancarlo Izzo outlined a number of international training programmes for African civilian personnel to enhance the credibility of elections as well as equip election observers to meet the challenges of the electoral systems. He explained that meeting the challenges called for huge resources, human and material, which should not overshadow other democratic values and processes.

Professor Kofi Kumado, Director of LECIA, said the training seminar would discuss topics like the electoral process; role of the election observer team; relation between observers and local groups, political parties and electoral administrators.

The seminar would also focus on good governance and building democratic culture after elections.

Prof. Kumado said activities of the training programme would centre on human rights education, promotion and investigation, as well as on-site practical field training skills on the rules of conduct, general field skills, map reading, personal security skills, stress management and surviving as a hostage. 14 Nov. 05