Accra, March 30, GNA - The fifth West African Election Observation Training Course for civil society organizations and democratic stakeholders opened in Accra on Thursday.
About 23 participants from Ghana, Burkina Faso, Togo, Nigeria, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Liberia and Senegal are attending the 10-day workshop organized by Berlin based non-governmental organization Centre for International Peace Operations (ZIF) in collaboration with the ECOWAS, the Ghana Armed Forces and the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC).
The workshop focuses on "ECOWAS' Role for Peace, Security, Good Governance and Democratization," with special emphasis on ECOWAS involvement in election observation, Election Observer's personal security in the field and special emphasis on upcoming elections in Cote d'Ivoire.
Other topics include: "Elections as strategic element of peacekeeping and peace building"; "Cultural identity and intercultural competence in the context of elections"; "Main international actors in election observation - historical and political background and its significance" and "ECOWAS electoral policies".
The rest are: "Different types of electoral systems and its relevance for West Africa"; "Types of electoral management bodies and their roles with special emphasis on West Africa"; "Pre-election period activities - the preparation of the voters register"; "Role of the media in electoral reporting" and "Role of the Police and other security agencies in the electoral systems".
In an inaugural address, Mr Peter Linder, the German Ambassador to Ghana, recognized election observation as an important part of the last phase before conflict countries could return to normal, transparent and democratic life to the benefit of their people. He, however, expressed concern about the continuous escalating conflicts and violence, which threatened the political stability of most African countries.
He urged African leaders to recognize the essential need for peace on the Continent, stressing: "Without peace, the people of Africa have no hope of sharing in the fruits of globalizations."
Mr Linder commended ECOWAS for its sub-regional initiatives aimed at containing conflicts and the development of local capacities of the Military, Police and civilian peacekeeping personnel.
He pledge the continuous support of Germany and its partners in the European Union as well as member countries of the Group of Eight Industrialized Nations (G8) to assist sub-regional and regional bodies in the development of democratic pillars.
"Anyone, who wants to ensure lasting peace, must integrate his activities into regional structures because stability and security almost always affect the entire regions beyond national borders," he said.
Major Marc Ascui, KAIPTC Course Director, told the Ghana News Agency that participants to the fifth EOM workshop would also be equipped with rudiments of rule of law and human rights with special emphasis on the historical development of international law. Human rights violations, protection of minority rights, the African judicial institutions, operation of the ECOWAS Court of Justice and Communications during observer missions would be discussed. Dr Abdel-Fatau Musah, ECOWAS Conflict Prevention Adviser urged Electoral Administrators to build Electoral Materials Depots at designated points within the region for the sharing and usage of materials such as ballot boxes and other re-usable materials. He explained that most electoral systems within the Sub-Region had either a four-year or a five-year mandate and "the materials become useless in between the period which could be used by other countries for elections to reduce the cost of organizing elections". Dr Musah urged West African Election Management Bodies to consider other forms of collaboration to ensure that electoral processes and management became a shared responsibility.
He said elections were a major source of conflicts on the Continent, hence the need for ECOWAS and its collaborators to build structures and capabilities of sub-regional election observer teams which understood local perspectives and operations of African multi-party democracy.
"An electoral elite observer team to complement the efforts of independent minded electoral administrators are key components for free, fair and acceptable elections," the ECOWAS Conflict prevention Adviser stated and urged donor partners to assist the regional body to build a strong electoral human resource base. 30 March 06