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Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience
Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience
Table of Contents
Table of Contents PREFACE I. INTRODUCTION 1.1 1.2 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 3.1. 3.2. 3.3. 3.4 3.5 3.6. 3.7. 3.8. 3.9. 4.1 Rationale for the Study The Justification for WACSOF Regional Integration The Challenges of Regional Integration Conceptualising Democracy and Good Governance in West Africa Citizens’ Participation in Electoral Processes Vision, Mission and Objectives The Structure of WACSOF Civil Society, WACSOF and Elections Observations Principles of Elections Observation Qualities of a Democratic Election Approaches and Tools of Electoral Observation in West Africa Tasks Involved In Elections Observation Electoral Observation Missions Undertaken By WACSOF An Analysis of WACSOF’s Elections Observation Approach Recommendations 3 9 11 11 11 13 13 14 14 22 23 24 24 26 28 28 29 40 43 45 53 53 55
II. REGIONAL CONTEXT
III. WACSOF AND ELECTIONS OBSERVATIONS
VI. CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS Appendix: Individuals and Organisations Consulted
Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience
Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience
The West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) was created by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) to reinforce the capacities of civil society in the region. The Institute was established to bridge the institutional and operational gaps within civil society.
To strengthen civil society organisations as strategic partners for the promotion of democracy, good governance and national development in the sub region.
The objective of the Institute is to strengthen the institutional and technical capacities of CSOs in the formulation of policies, the implementation and promotion of democratic values and principles in West Africa. The role of WACSI is to serve as a resource centre for training, research, experience sharing and political dialogue for CSOs in West Africa. The Institute makes its plea through policy dialogue to discuss current issues affecting West African States. Reference documents are regularly published by the Institute and distributed to political leaders. www.wacsi.org
The West African Civil Society Forum (WACSOF) is an institutionalised platform of civil society organisations and networks from across the West African sub region with diverse backgrounds and experiences in human rights, peace and security, democracy and good governance, education, trade and commerce, health, and gender equality among others. This platform provides civil society in the sub region with an official corridor to dialogue and engage with both national governments and ECOWAS. The aims and objectives of WACSOF broadly include the pursuit and promotion of continuous dialogue and engagement between civil society organisations in the sub region, ECOWAS and national authorities on vital issues that affect the citizenry, and to support the process of political and socio-economic development and integration of the sub region. In doing so, WACSOF seeks to promote and improve human security, peace, and regional integration. www.wacsof.org
The Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) was created in December 2000 as part of the world network of 32 autonomous foundations founded and supported by George Soros. These non-profit-making foundations share in the commitment to work for an “open society”. Based on the principle that no one has monopoly of the truth, an open society recognises the different points of view and always remains open to improvements. In practice, open societies are characterised by the priority of law, democracy, respect of diversity and human rights, liberalisation of markets, information to the people and the dynamism of civil society. www.osiwa.org
Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience
List of Acronyms and Abbreviations
BIDDH CDD CIVICUS CSOs DANIDA DFID EPA EU INEC International IDEA MARWOPNET MATCL MBEJUS OAU OECD OSCE OSIWA RADDHO UNDP WACSI WACSOF WAEMU WANEP Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights Centre for Democracy and Development World Alliance for Citizens’ Participation Civil Society Organisations Danish Co-operation for International Development UK Department for International Development Economic Partnership Agreement European Union Independent National Electoral Commission International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance Mano River Women Peacebuilding Network Ministry of Territorial Administration and Local Communities Movement of the Emergence of Social Justice Organisation of African Unity Organisation for Economic Co-operation in Europe Organisation for Safety and the Co-operation in Europe Open Society Initiative of West Africa Recontre Africaine pour la defense des Droits de L’homme United Nations Development Programme United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific West Africa Civil Society Institute West African Civil Society Forum West African Economic and Monetary Union West African Network for Peacebuilding
Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience
WACSI would like to thank WACSOF for collaborating with us to carry out this important project. WACSI and WACSOF have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to strengthen civil society in West Africa, and this project is one of the outcomes of that partnership. Specific gratitude goes to all WACSOF’s staff, national platform members and Executive Committee members who participated in the documentation process. WACSI would also like to extend sincere appreciation to Siaka Coulibaly from Burkina Faso; a member of WACSOF Executive Committee, who led the documentation exercise. WACSI also acknowledges the contributions of Charles Kojo Vandyck, Programme Officer at WACSI, and George Osei-Bimpeh, a Research Intern at the Institute, for contributing towards the production of the final report. Finally, this project would not have been possible without the continued support of OSIWA.
Thelma Ekiyor Executive Director WACSI
Professor Adebayo Olukoshi Board Chair WACSI
Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience
Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience
This report was commissioned by WACSI to expound on civil society’s role in observing elections in West Africa. The study focuses on the WACSOF experience. The Forum has undertaken 16 elections observation missions in West Africa since its establishment in 2003. Technical and financial support for the organisation’s elections observation projects are provided by the Danish Co-operation for International Development (DANIDA) and the UK Department for International Development (DFID). Drawing on the number of elections observation missions undertaken, the Forum has accumulated knowledge and experience in political development processes in West African countries. Experiences of civil society on elections observations are not limited to WACSOF. However, the lack of documentation has deprived civil society the opportunity to learn from WACSOF and other organisations’ experiences. This situation has also made it difficult to gauge the impact of the influence CSOs bring to elections observation processes and the lessons that can be learned from these experiences.
ObjectIVeS Of the Study
The overall aim of the study was to document WACSOF’s elections observation experiences in West Africa. The specific objectives of the study were: • To examine the role of civil society in elections observation. • To highlight the relevance and implication of civil society interventions in electoral processes. • To present and evaluate elections observation tools developed by WACSOF. • To identify successes and challenges associated with elections observation. • To highlight lessons learned from the Forum’s interventions in electoral processes.
The study is expected to provide recommendations on how to strengthen; • The role of CSOs and sub-regional integration institutions in the promotion of democracy and good governance. • The legal and institutional frameworks of elections in West Africa. • The mechanisms to deal with the challenges and difficulties related to elections in the sub region.
The study was carried out through field visits to target countries where WACSOF had observed
10 Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience
elections. Structured interviews were conducted with key actors and institutions. The documentation process covered: actions undertaken, actors mobilised, interactions with stakeholders and partnerships forged.
phIlOSOphy aNd apprOach
The study adopted an analytical and participatory approach. Relevant information was sought from sources available in the countries where WACSOF undertook elections observer missions. Data was obtained from primary and secondary sources: • Primary data was applied to highlight the relevance of elections observation and the degree of its appreciation by different actors and partners. Non-structured interviews were conducted to solicit information from different groups in countries within the region. The choice of this tool was informed by its suitability to obtain adequate information. • Secondary data was obtained through an examination of research data on elections observation missions undertaken by CSOs in West Africa. Various publications including reports, books and articles were consulted. An important source of data for civil society elections observation missions was the media. In several cases the media also observed the elections and provided valuable information on context situation. This analysis was limited to countries where WACSOF undertook elections observation missions. The team also analysed findings in records, reports and journals at the secretariat. • The target population for the study comprised of civil society actors including WACSOF observers and other key actors across West Africa. • At the national level, WACSOF’s National Platform members and observers; elections observers from national CSOs, members of political parties, members of National Electoral Commissions and media practitioners were consulted. • At the regional level, staff members from the WACSOF secretariat, international observers and ECOWAS election observers were consulted. The Executive Committee of WACSOF also served as a useful source of information for the study1 .
In order to achieve a sample size that is representative of the target population, data was collected from different sites. The sites included all the countries where WACSOF deployed elections observation missions including Burkina Faso, Togo and Senegal.
Members of the committee were consulted during the mini forum held in Accra from the 12-14 December, 2007.
Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience 11
1.1 ratIONale fOr the Study
Documentation of experiences constitutes an invaluable source of information for future research on CSOs’ interventions. It helps actors within the sector learn about the factors that inform CSOs’ interventions and the strategies to be adopted, modified and avoided to enhance impact in society. An enhanced culture of documentation in the long-term reduces unnecessary duplication of initiatives, provide information on the appropriateness of particular techniques and maximise results. Documentation of CSO’s experiences gives credible evidence of the relevance of civil society. It provides governments, donors and partners of CSOs with tangible information on the contributions CSOs make to governance and development processes. In West Africa, civil society has been a pivotal component of improving democratic processes. Specifically, several CSOs have contributed to professionalising elections observation in the region. However, there is a dearth of information on how their involvement impacted these processes. It therefore became imperative for WACSI, given its mandate as a regional CSO resource centre to document these experiences.
1.2 the juStIfIcatION fOr WacSOf
WACSI’s decision to document the experiences of WACSOF was based on the Forum’s mandate, regional coverage and experience in elections observations. WACSOF was established to provide a platform for dialogue among CSOs in West Africa. It serves as an intermediary and channel for interaction between CSOs, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and member states. WACSOF’s programmes and projects are designed to represent the voice of ECOWAS citizens through its interactions with national governments and ECOWAS. This representation is important in areas where the involvement of non state actors is limited such as elections observations. There were several CSOs working at national and sub-regional levels on issues of elections and elections observation prior to the establishment of WACSOF. Some of these organisations include the West African Network for Peace Building (WANEP), the Network of Peasant Organisations and Producers in West Africa, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD Nigeria), Recontre Africaine pour la defense des Droits de L’homme (RADDDHO), the Mano River Women Peacebuilding Network (MARWOPNET) and Femme Afrique Solidarite (FAS).
12 Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience
However, the abovementioned organisations grappled with certain operational challenges, such as: • Inadequate collaboration and coordination within their networks. • Inability to cover all the countries in the sub region. • Incapacity to interface directly with regional integration institutions in the sub region such as the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) and ECOWAS. As a result WACSOF developed a strategy aimed at enhancing CSOs involvement in elections observations in West Africa. The success of several pre-election assessment missions carried the Forum has made it a source of information and knowledge on elections observation processes in West Africa. WACSOF has compiled a list of civil society election observers in a number of West African countries. This has contributed to recording the organisation’s elections observation experiences. It also helped to certify and consolidate the Forum’s approach to elections observation. This new approach presents prospects for tracking CSOs contributions to democratisation and good governance in the region. Nonetheless, the intervention of civil society in elections processes has been received with suspicion by traditional political actors. Though the principles of good governance should render civil society natural collaborators in political governance systems, traditional elections observers are usually not enthusiastic about CSOs’ interventions in elections. This is due to the characteristic tendency of CSOs to point out occurrences of electoral fraud, political intimidation, corruption, human rights violations and other malpractices. This report highlights WACSOF’s contributions towards standardising elections observations in the sub region. The report covers the description of the various missions undertaken by the Forum; a description of observation processes and challenges; lessons learned and recommendations formulated to guide future elections observation initiatives.
Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience 13
II. REGIONAL CONTEXT
A Political Map of West Africa
2.1 regIONal INtegratION
Upon the attainment of independence certain leaders of newly independent African countries such as Kwame Nkrumah, Sékou Touré and Modibo Keïta initiated processes aimed at achieving African regional integration. In 1963, the efforts of these nationalists culminated in the creation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). This union, weakened by ideological dissensions, conflicts and political instability, did not succeed in achieving the goals of African unification. However, the rationale for integration was not solely ideological, there were also economic considerations. Integration was seen as the basis upon which economic industrialisation of the new African states could be achieved. In addition, these young African States did not want to remain at the periphery of the global economy and had to strategise to be integrated in it. The existence of politico-economic blocs (such as the European Commission created in 1953), also strongly influenced Africa’s desire to attain regional integration. The need for regional integration was also conceptualised at the sub-regional level. On May 28, 1975, ECOWAS was created by the treaty of Lagos. The objective for the establishment of a West African regional economic bloc was to promote cooperation and integration in order to create an economic and monetary union for promoting economic growth and the development in the region .
Other objectives for the establishment of ECOWAS include: to create an economic union in West Africa, to eliminate customs tariffs and other non-tariff measures, to create a common external tariff (CET), to harmonise economic and financial policies, to create a single monetary zone. In 1993 a Revised ECOWAS Treaty was signed in July 1993: to accelerate economic integration, to increase political co-operation; adoption of principles of supra-nationality and creation of supranational institutions.
14 Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience
A number of frameworks and legal instruments have been developed to regulate all dimensions of member states. In 1979, the ECOWAS protocol which established the principle of the freedom of movement of people and goods, and the right of residence came into force .
2.2 the challeNgeS Of regIONal INtegratION
The overarching goal that underpins the pursuit of regional integration is to merge economies . However, across Africa, ideals of integration have been handicapped by intrastate wars, debilitating poverty, socio-cultural divides and weak governance practices, among others. All of these challenges have been present in West Africa. Since independence, many West African countries have experienced different forms of violent conflicts. Several conflicts in the sub region have ensued between countries over boundaries, discontentment with the distribution of wealth and political power within and between states.
Other challenges inhibiting West Africa’s integration process include: • Weak legal structures at the regional level resulting in lengthy decision-making processes and an absence of political will to implement decisions. • Institutional weaknesses, lack of financial and technical capacities that do not allow for the supervision and coordination of decisions. • Difficulties in implementing economic and financial harmonisation within ECOWAS. These challenges and the volatile conditions in post independence West Africa have led the region’s leaders to commit to improving democracy, governance, peace and security.
2.3 cONceptualISINg deMOcracy aNd gOOd gOVerNaNce IN WeSt afrIca
Democracy is based on the belief in freedom and equality between people in which power is either held by elected representatives or directly by the people themselves . The underlying principle of a democratic government or system is the participation of a substantial number of citizens in public decision-making
5 3 4 5
ECOWAS, http://www.comm.ecowas.int/sec/index.php?id=ap010579&lang=en (accessed 14 July, 2008) Maruping Mothae, Challenges for Regional Integration in Sub-Saharan Africa: Macroeconomic Convergence and Monetary Coordination, Available at http://www.fondad.org/uploaded/Africa%20in%20the%20World%20Economy/Fondad-AfricaWorld-Chapter11.pdf (accessed 16 July, 2008) See Cambridge Advance Learner’s dictionary, second edition
Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience 15
processes. This implies that democracy falls into two basic categories -direct and representative democracy . Abraham Lincoln’s famous phrase reinforces this principle. In 1863 Lincoln defined democracy as “…the power of the people, by the people and for the people”.
The conceptualisation of modern democracy dates back to the 16th century. Montesquieu in his book titled “the spirit of laws” presents the theory of separation of powers . He stated that for power to be exercised reasonably there should be an equivalent counterweight to provide limitations. This theory gave birth to institutions playing different and complementary roles to ensure a balance of power. The Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary are the three arms of government within the theory of separation of powers. Furthermore, a country is said to be democratic on the basis of the presence of the following pillars of democracy : • Sovereignty of the people; • Government based upon consent of the governed; • Majority rule; • Minority rights; • Guarantee of basic human rights; • Free and fair elections; • Equality before the law; • Due process of law; • Constitutional limits on government; • Social, economic, and political pluralism; • Values of tolerance, pragmatism, cooperation, and compromise. Associated with democracy is Good Governance. In recent times, the phrase has gained prominence in development literature. Increasingly, developing countries are being urged to undertake major reforms on Good Governance; and the extent to which such reforms are carried out has become a key condition upon which development aid and loans are given . Good governance has been framed to include the mechanisms, processes and the institutions through which citizens and various groups express their interests, exert their legal rights and, assume their obligations . Features of Good Governance have been identified . The combination of these features ensures that corruption is significantly reduced, and that the views, voices, concerns and aspirations of minorities are accommodated in the decision-making process. Good governance is also responsive to the present and future needs of society thereby ensuring that countries conform to the principle of sustainable development.
8 9 10 11 12 6 7
US Department of State, http://usinfo.state.gov/products/pubs/whatsdem/whatdm2.htm (accessed 12 July 2008) Direct democracy involves the participation of all citizens in making public decisions without the intermediary of elected representatives. Practically, the application of such a system is conducive for a smaller number of people such as in a community organisation or local unions where members can conveniently discuss issues and take decisions by consensus or through majority vote. In view of the difficulties in the application of direct democracy for the governance of a larger number of citizens, representative democracy is mainly applied for the governance of large numbers of citizens. 8 http://usinfo.state.gov/products/pubs/whatsdem/whatdm11.htm (accessed 13 August 2008) 9 US Department of State, http://usinfo.state.gov/products/pubs/whatsdem/whatdm2.htm (accessed 12 July 2008) 10 UNESCAP, http://www.unescap.org/pdd/prs/ProjectActivities/Ongoing/gg/governance.pdf (accessed 10 July 2008) 11 Ismael Aboubacar YENIKOYE, How to Analyse Governance? Identify indicators of good governance 12 UNESCAP, http://www.unescap.org/pdd/prs/ProjectActivities/Ongoing/gg/governance.pdf (accessed 10 July 2008)
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Participatory Transparent Responsive Follows the rule of law Inclusive Effective, efficient & equitable Consensus-oriented
Characteristics of Good Governance
Democracy and good governance as intermediary stages for sustainable socio-economic development is an idea conceptualised by international development institutions such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Imbedded in this concept is that equitable and transparent elections are sine quo non for the entrenchment of democracy. According to the UNDP, “elections’ are closely related to transparent and democratic governance. It is advisable to consider them as an element of the permanent institutional framework of a given country and not like a specific event. Beyond the financial and technical support targeted to ensure the validity and the credibility of elections, an institutional support in electoral systems and bodies of management are essential to inculcate the principles of good democratic governance .
Moreover, the UNDP proposes “to regard electoral institutions and procedures as elements of democratic governance and as a means of rather attenuating human poverty than support to a given event . This principle has guided the UNDP and other international organisations to promote the development of a democratic culture in West Africa.
UNDP, Office of Evaluation of Essential Concepts • Series 14 • p.2 Ibid, p.4
Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience 17
The presidential and legislative elections of 2002 in Mali represented the consolidation of electoral reforms undertaken in 1992 which introduced a multi-party system. The UNDP reinforced the credibility of the elections after the crisis which bordered on a lack of confidence in the elections of 1997 through the intermediary of the Ministry for the Territorial Administration and Local Communities (MATCL). The UNDP contributed to the credibility of the electoral procedure 1) by reinforcing the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC); and 2) by supporting decentralisation aimed at granting autonomy to and enhancing technical capacities of local councils. The UNDP provided a platform for dialogue between national and local actors. Also, confidence in the electoral register was restored while a revision of the code on dispute settlement mechanisms was undertaken. Thus, this process reinforced the existing electoral institutions and promoted the participation of citizens in decisionmaking processes. According to a public opinion carried out by the UNDP immediately after elections, 90 per cent stated that they have confidence in the electoral process.
Democratic Development in Mali
For instance the UNDP’s intervention to promote democracy and good governance in Mali is illustrated above:
deMOcracy IN practIce
Majority of West African countries have embarked on democratic reforms since the 1990s. New Constitutions have been promulgated which have enhanced the separation of powers, and the promotion of multi-party democracy. Elections have become a recognised means of accessing and transferring political power. The legal and institutional frameworks brought forth by these reforms are supposed to facilitate citizens’ participation in the political process and guarantee freedom of expression and the protection of human rights. Democratic elections are also supposed to enable citizens to freely make political choices. Although democratic institutions exist in West African countries, their political history presents distortions to democratic principles and values. An ECOWAS report on issues that threaten the political stability of the sub region states that “the frequent military coup d’états in certain countries has negatively affected the political environment in West Africa . These past coups and civil wars in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Cote D’Ivoire, and recurring tensions in Togo, Guinea and Niger created a fragile political environment which placed elections as a potentially volatile event in any country. The question of who controls political power is a major motivating factor fuelling conflicts in these countries.
Lansana Kouyate, the Economic Community of the States of West Africa, PowerPoint presentation, Abuja, 2000, p.83
18 Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience
Recent elections organised in the sub region have been preceded by protracted periods of wars and political crises in some countries. Additionally, elections have been organised without due regard to democratic principles and standard electoral rules thus making the link between elections and democracy tenuous in practice. According to the World Human Development Report 2002 “elections constitute the paradigm of sanctionable responsibility. … no form of responsibility could not be more direct. There does not exist a more levelling form of participation. … one would be wrong to compare democracy to the regular organisation of elections … which means democracy is also an operational institution ”. Thus, although elections contribute to democracy, additional conditions are required to give true democratic character to a particular political system .
Past elections in post-conflict countries like Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea Bissau were characterised by accusations of malpractices and violence. This persisting trend precipitated civil society’s intervention in electoral processes. The belief is that the involvement of CSOs in electoral processes will in the long term strengthen democratisation in West Africa. The justification of civil society’s involvement in the process of governance lies in the characterisation of civil society as the third sector in society alongside government and the private sector. This definition calls for a society where governance is shared among these three sectors and civil society actively participates in development; the execution, review and control of development policies and programmes, and where economic organisation is liberal .
This model of governance is still evolving in West Africa. Most countries are confronted with difficulties of creating appropriate structures that engender inclusive governance mechanisms. In response to these challenges, ECOWAS adopted the principle of democracy and good governance as a political and institutional framework for its member states. Thus, a Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance was signed in Dakar on December 21, 2001.
UNDP. Human Development Report, 2002, p. 54 See section 2.2.3(Democratisation and Good Governance) for the pillars of democracy Ismael Aboubacar YENIKOYE, How to Analyse Governance? Identify indicators of good governance. 19 ECOWAS, Protocol A/SP1/12/01 on Democracy and Good Governance Supplementary to the Protocol relating to the Mechanism For Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeping and Security. Available at http://www.sec.ecowas.int/sitecedeao/english/protocoles.htm (accessed 14 July, 2008)
Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience 19
SaMpleS Of electIONS IN WeSt afrIca ghana
In 1957 Ghana gained her independence from British colonial rule under the leadership of Dr Kwame Nkurmah. Since independence Ghana has witnessed six presidential elections and the country will go to the polls in December 2008. On 27 April 1960, Ghana witnessed her first presidential elections. These elections were held alongside a referendum on the creation of an executive presidency. The contest was between two candidates- Kwame Nkrumah, who was the first and incumbent Prime Minister, and J. B. Danquah of the United Party. Eventually, Kwame Nkrumah on the ticket of the Convention People’s Party emerged as the winner of the elections with 89.07 per cent of total votes cast while J.B Danquah obtained 10.03 per cent .
These elections culminated in the passing of a new constitution and the inauguration of Kwame Nkrumah as the first president on July 1 1960. 0n February 24 1966, Ghana witnessed her first military coup which ousted Kwame Nkrumah’s Convention People’s Party’s government. In 1979, the second presidential elections were held. These elections were held in two rounds since none of the candidates obtained over 50 per cent of total votes cast. The first was on June 18 and the second July 9, 1979. Ten candidates were involved in the first round while the second round was contested by Dr. Hilla Limann of the People’s National Party and Victor Owusu of Popular Front Party. Dr Limann won the elections with 62 per cent of total votes cast .
Again Ghana’s democratic process was disrupted by coups until 1992 when a new constitution was passed following a referendum in the same year. The 1992 presidential elections were won by J. J Rawlings of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) with 58.3 per cent of the total votes cast as against 30.4 per cent obtained by Adu Boahene of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) . Rawlings went on to win the 1996 elections but as per the constitution he could not run for a third term in the year 2000. In 2000 Ghana made history when the country for the first time witnessed peaceful democratic transfer of power from a civilian government to another elected government from an opposition party. The leader of the then opposition NPP, John Kuffuor, became the president through an election that went into a second round . He obtained 56.9 per cent of total votes cast in the second round . In 2004, John Kuffuor went on to win a second term by obtaining 52.45 per cent of the total votes cast. Again as per the constitution, John Kuffuor cannot stand for elections again in 2008.
22 23 24
Currently, the country is feverishly preparing for the 2008 December elections. Apart from the national
AFRICAN ELECTIONS DATABASE, http://africanelections.tripod.com/gh.html#1960_Presidential_Election (accessed 14 July 2008) Ibid Jeffries, Richard, and Claire Thomas. “The Ghanaian Elections of 1992”. African Affairs, Vol. 92, No. 368 (Jul., 1993), pp. 331-366 23 Ibid 24 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghanaian_presidential_election%2C_2004 (accessed 14 July, 2008)
20 Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience
elections for the position of head of state and president, there is going to be legislative elections to elect 230 members of parliament.
On 28 October 1956, a Plebiscite was organised in Togo. This was organised to ascertain whether Togo should become an autonomous region within the French Union; or to maintain her status of United Nations Trusteeship. Out of a total of 438,175 registered voters, 93.35 per cent voted to attain autonomous status within the French Union. However, the results of the referendum were rejected by the United Nations General Assembly since the option of independence was not considered in the question posed to the electorates . Following the Plebiscite was a legislative election held on 17 April 1958 which saw the Committee of Togolese Unity taking 29 out of 46 seats.
On 9 April 1961, a Constitutional Referendum on adopting a Presidential Republic which meant a directly-elected president was conducted. A high voter turnout of 90 per cent was recorded and 99.62 per cent of total votes cast accepted the proposal for a presidential republic . The same election brought into office Sylvanus Olympio of the Party of Togolese Unity (PUT) [formerly the Committee of Togolese Unity] unopposed. His party also won all the 52 National Assembly seats .
In May 1963, a constitutional referendum and presidential elections were held. Nicolas Grunitzky of the Togolese People’s Movement (MPT) was elected unopposed with 99.87% of the votes. In 1972, single party elections were conducted by virtue of the recognition of the Rally of the Togolese People (RPT) as the sole legal party in the country; and subsequent referendum culminated in the elections of General Eyadéma as the president . On the ballot paper the following question was asked; “Do you want General Eyadéma to continue the functions of president of the republic entrusted to him by the army and the people?” The general won 99.97 per cent of the total votes cast. He went on to win the 1986 presidential elections unopposed with 99.95 per cent of the votes. Again, he won the 1993 presidential election with 96.42 per cent. However, these elections were boycotted largely by the main opposition parties.
In 1998, the first multi-party presidential elections were held with Gilchrist Olympio taking the second spot with 33.2 per cent while the incumbent General Eyadéma retained the presidency with 52.1 per cent of total votes cast . However, the opposition parties boycotted the National Assembly elections that followed on 21 March 1999. Again, on 27 October 2002, a coalition of opposition parties known as the Coalition of Democratic Forces (CFD) boycotted the National Assembly Election.
30 25 26 27
AFRICAN ELECTIONS DATABASE, http://africanelections.tripod.com/gh.html#1960_Presidential_Election (accessed 14 July 2008) Ibid Ibid 28 Ibid 29 Ibid 30 Ibid
Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience 21
Another presidential election involving all the registered parties was held on 1 June 2003. Although one of the presidential candidates in the person of Léopold Gnininvi withdrew from the elections he obtained votes since his name was not expunged from the ballot. Gnassingbé Eyadéma once again retained his seat with 57.8 per cent of total vote cast. Upon the death of President Gnassingbé Eyadéma another presidential election was organised on 24 April 2005 which brought his son, Faure Gnassingbé, into office with 60.15 per cent of the votes cast. Nicolas Lawson withdrew from this election but his named remained on the ballot. He obtained 1.04 per cent. On October 14, 2007, National assembly elections were conducted. The Rally of the Togolese People (RPT) won 50 seats; Union of Forces for Change (UFC) 27 seats, with 4 seats going to the Action Committee for Renewal (CAR).
Guinea’s electoral history is not different from other West African countries. In 1957, the first official elections were conducted. This was the Territorial Assembly Elections. The Democratic Party of Guinea (DPA) won 54 while the remaining 4 seats went to the other parties year later a Constitutional Referendum was conducted on 28 September. Approval of the constitution meant associated status within the “French Community”. On the other hand, a rejection of the constitution meant that France would grant independence to the respective territory. Consequently, 95.22 per cent of the voters rejected the constitution . Following this election, Guinea attained a Republican status with Ahmed Sékou Touré, the leader of the dominant party [Democratic Party of Guinea (PDG)], automatically taking the seat
date of elections 15 January 1961 01 January 1968 27 December 1974 09 May 1982 01 January 1968 27 December 1974 27 January 1980
contesting party Democratic Party of Guinea (PDG) Democratic Party of Guinea (PDG) Democratic Party of Guinea (PDG) Democratic Party of Guinea (PDG) Democratic Party of Guinea (PDG) Democratic Party of Guinea (PDG) Democratic Party of Guinea (PDG)
Winner Ahmed Sekou Toure re-elected unopposed Ahmed Sekou Toure re-elected unopposed Ahmed Sekou Toure re-elected unopposed Ahmed Sekou Toure re-elected unopposed Democratic Party of Guinea (PDG) Democratic Party of Guinea (PDG) Democratic Party of Guinea (PDG)
% of Votes cast Not Available 99.7% of the vote 99.8% of the vote Not Available N/A N/A N/A
type of elections Presidential Election Presidential Election Presidential Election Presidential Election National Assembly Election National Assembly Election National Assembly Election
No. of Seats N/A N/A N/A N/A 75 Seats 150 Seats 210 seats
Source: Figures and dates were obtained from African Election Database .
AFRICAN ELECTIONS DATABASE, http://africanelections.tripod.com/gn.html (accessed 15 July, 2008) Ibid
22 Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience
of the presidency on 02 December 1958.Subsequent elections held between 1958 and 1993 were single party elections which were contested by the Democratic Party of Guinea (PDG) as the sole legal party. Below is a summary of the ensuing elections. Guinea’s first multiparty Presidential elections were held on December 19, 1993. The following parties contested the elections; Party of Unity and Progress (PUP), Rally of the Guinean People (RPG), Union for the New Republic (UNR), Party of Renewal and Progress (PRP), Union for the Progress of Guinea (UPG), Democratic Party of Guinea (PDG), Democratic Party of Guinea-African Democratic Rally (PDG-RDA) and Dyama Party (DYAMA). Lansana Conté of the PUP emerged victorious with 51.70 per cent in an election in which the voter turnout was 78.5 per cent . The PUP also won the June 11, 1995 National Assembly with 71 out 114 seats. On 14 December 1998, Lansana Conté of the PUP was re-elected in a Presidential Election with 56.1%. His closest rival, Mamadou Ba of the UPR, won 24.6 per cent of total votes cast. A Referendum was held on November 11 2001, to remove Presidential term limits thereby increasing the President’s mandate from five to seven year terms. The turnout of this election was 87.2 per cent. 98.36 per cent voted to remove the presidential limits. Following the referendum, National Assembly Elections were held on June 30, 2002. However, the main opposition party Rally of the Guinean People (RPG) boycotted the elections . The most recent elections held in Guinea were the 21 December 2003 Presidential Elections. The contest was between the incumbent PUP and UPN since most of the opposition parties boycotted the elections . Lansana Conté was re-elected with 95.25 per cent of total votes cast for another seven year term.
2.4 Citizens’ PartiCiPation in eleCtoral ProCesses
The main criterion for assessing the quality of a democratic system is the degree of citizens’ participation in public decision-making processes . Theoretically, their participation in the political process should ensure inclusiveness and responsiveness to the needs and interest of the citizenry. Citizens’ participation in elections contributes to broad based participation in decision-making processes . Thus, citizens’ involvement in elections becomes a useful democratic mechanism and civil society can serve as the conduit for promoting this inclusivity and responsiveness.
Increasing citizens’ participation also “enhances accountability of the elected representatives to their constituency while at the same time ensuring broader representation of key political forces in the representative bodies ” . This process ensures that the political system becomes more participatory and accords the rulers legitimacy to govern .
Ibid AFRICAN ELECTIONS DATABASE, http://africanelections.tripod.com/gn.html (accessed 15 July, 2008) http://www.elections.org.za/Conference2007/html/0131_Reports_1Conclusions.html (accessed 15 July, 2008) 36 ibid 37 Kargbo J, Hamdok A and Kadima D, Credible Electoral Process: The Core of African Emerging Democracy, http://www.uneca.org/sros/sa/ CredibleElectoralProcess.htm (accessed 16 July 2008) 38 Ibid
Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience 23
III. WACSOF AND ELECTIONS OBSERVATIONS
WACSOF was established as a platform for dialogue between CSOs, governments and the ECOWAS Commission. It also works for the promotion of peace, security and regional integration. WACSOF’s establishment emanated from a report which identified a major vacuum that existed between civil society and ECOWAS member states. Thus it became necessary to create an organisation to interface between states, the ECOWAS Commission and civil society. The idea to establish WACSOF was further reinforced by the recognition that West African civil society organisations have the capacity to make contributions to national and regional policies. The region’s CSOs contribute by proposing policy alternatives and complementing development partners and governments’ efforts. In May 2003, International Alert, and the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD Nigeria) in collaboration with the ECOWAS secretariat organised a two day consultative meeting with the aim of formulating the mechanism for interactions between ECOWAS and civil society. This meeting assembled over 45 participants drawn from CSOs, social movements, zonal units of ECOWAS, representatives of governments, donors and the academia to analyse, discuss and adopt strategies for promoting regional security. An official statement issued urged ECOWAS and CSOs to formalise their relationship to promote human security in the region. As a result, a 15 member adhoc committee was constituted to work in collaboration with ECOWAS and civil society groups to consolidate gains made at the meeting. The result of the committee’s work gave birth to the idea of WACSOF. The first forum was held in Accra and WACSOF was officially formed in January 2, 2004.
WACSOF’s Operational Framework
This framework highlights the nature of WACSOF’s Interaction with ECOWAS, CSOs and governments of member states.
24 Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience
The originality of WACSOF lies in its projected ability to facilitate regional integration and development by: 1. Creating platforms for CSOs’ interactions in ECOWAS member states by deliberating on various thematic areas under the intervention of CSOs. 2. Interfacing between civil society and ECOWAS during the ECOWAS summit of Council of Ministers of Regional Co-operation and the Summit of the Heads of States and Governments.
3.1 VISION, MISSION aNd ObjectIVeS
WACSOF envisions a West African sub region characterised by democracy, human rights, good governance, and the rule of law, economic prosperity, and social justice. The Forum aims at reinforcing the initiatives of CSOs in collaboration with ECOWAS for the improvement of human security, regional integration and economic development in West Africa. WACSOF facilitates networking, the promotion of solidarity, and confidence building among CSOs at national and regional levels .
The objectives of WACSOF are: • To promote permanent dialogue between West African civil society and ECOWAS on important questions concerning the future of West Africa. • To promote a solid partnership between governments and civil society actors, including women, the youth, the Diaspora and the private sector. • To support the political, socio-economic development and the integration of the West African sub region. • To promote democratic principles and institutions, general participation and empowerment of the people, good governance, human rights and freedoms, and social justice. • To contribute to the creation and maintenance of the institutional, human and operational capacities of West African civil society. • To popularise ECOWAS in the conscience of West African people in order to reinforce the relations between ECOWAS and West African citizenry. • To promote peace, human security and stability in the sub region. WACSOF organises an annual forum which precedes the ECOWAS Heads of States Summit. During this forum, CSOs have the opportunity to exchange information, network and build partnerships. The results of the deliberations are synthesised into an official statement which is presented to the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Regional Co-operation of the ECOWAS Commission. Through this mechanism CSOs make input into the Heads of State summit and also advocate issues which civil society considers pertinent.
Cited in a Report on the Needs Assessment of the West African Civil Society Forum, carried out by WACSI.
Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience 25
3.2. the Structure Of WacSOf
WACSOF has adopted an organisational structure in line with its mandate. It serves as: • An umbrella organisation of CSOs within the West African sub region. • An interactive forum for CSOs which reinforces the coordination of activities reduces competition among CSOs and promotes their complementary roles. • A framework encouraging civil society to engage with ECOWAS. • An instrument inspiring civil society to contribute to the processes of decision-making in West Africa. • A tool/framework for advocacy and lobbying at the regional level. The structure of the organisation encompasses: • The People’s Forum: This comprises of representatives of CSOs of member states, representatives of ECOWAS, governments and development partners. At this level deliberations centre on the evaluation of progress made in regional integration and the development of the sub region. The People’s Forum highlights strategic orientations, makes decisions on actions to be undertaken, designates the persons in charge, evaluates and validates management reports. • The Executive Committee: Serves as the Board of the Forum and is composed of twelve members. These include ten representatives of countries, a representative of the youth and another from the Diaspora. The Committee implements decisions made by the People’s Forum. It is also responsible for staff recruitment and supervision at the secretariat. • The Secretariat: Serves as the executive body and the administrative head office of WACSOF. It implements programs of the organisation in close collaboration with National Platforms. • National Platforms: Also known as Country Coordinators who comprise of a plenary national body where all CSOs of a particular country are represented. National Platforms act as executive bodies at the national levels. • The Thematic Groups: These groups are supervised by the Executive Committee. They are the technical advisers on various thematic areas and propose policy documents or programmes to the Executive Committee. These thematic areas include: » Human rights » Democracy and good governance. » Trade, immigration, border controls. » Human trafficking. » Small weapons and light weapons control. » Health, social development and regional integration.
26 Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience
» Agricultural, environmental and rural development. » Initiation of procedures for achieving integration. » Peacebuilding and conflict prevention. • The Advisory Council: This body is composed of members of WACSOF and does not have executive powers. The Council intervenes in situations where other actors are not able to provide solutions including times of conflicts, crises and electoral disputes. •
3.3. cIVIl SOcIety, WacSOf aNd electIONS ObSerVatIONS
Civil society’s visibility in the political life of African states dates back to the early post-independence period. Influenced by the anti-colonial struggle, civil society on the continent was politically oriented. For example, labour unions participated in the political process of their respective countries. Thereafter, civil society gradually shifted its approach from active political activism to humanitarian and development activities. With the re-emergence of constitutional democracy in the 1990s, civil society acquired additional importance. Democratic principles emphasise the role of citizens’ participation in political life; as a result elections have become one of the core areas of civil society’s intervention in the sub region. With the support of the United Nations and other institutions, civil society actors have consistently undertaken interventions aimed at strengthening electoral practices and systems. The following are examples of CSOs that have been involved in elections observer missions in West Africa. • The African Encounter for the Defence of Human Rights (RADDHO) in Senegal. • The Independent Observatory of the Elections (OIE) in Burkina Faso including Groupe d’Etudes et de Recherches sur la Démocratie et le Développement (GERDDES) and the League for Justice and Freedom (LIDEJEL). • The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) in Nigeria. • The National Election Watch (NEW) in Sierra Leone constituted during the September 2007 general elections. • The Mano River Women’s Peace Network (MARWOPNET). A network of women’s organisations in Mano River countries including Guinea, Sierra Leone, The Gambia. • West Africa Network for Peace building (WANEP).
This is a translated version of the original French acronym. The full name of the NGO is La Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme
Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience 27
Civil society’s involvement in elections observations was limited and less visible prior to WACSOF’s emergence in the field. WACSOF’s involvement in the field of elections observations built on these previous CSO interventions. The Forum also drew inspiration from certain institutions which promote democracy throughout the world with special emphasis on elections observation as part of their core initiatives. These organisations developed approaches and tools which were used to standardise WACSOF’s methodology. They include: • The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, based in Stockholm, commonly called International IDEA; • The United Nations, and in particular UNDP; • European Union, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Organisation for Safety and the Co-operation in Europe (OSCE); • Inter-Parliamentary Union; • The International Organisation of the Francophone. • Several legal instruments give theoretical support to civil society’s elections observation missions including. • Article 21 of the Universal Declaration on human rights of 1789 affirms: “Any person has the right to take part in the direction of the public affairs of his country, either directly, or via freely elected representatives”. The same article establishes that free elections are the only legitimate base for the authority of a government: thus “the will of the people is the base of the power of the authorities; this will must be expressed by honest elections which must take place periodically, by an equal vote for all and a secret vote or according to an equivalent procedure ensuring the freedom of the vote”. • The Charter of the United Nations, 1945. • The ECOWAS supplementary protocol on Democracy and Good Governance, 2001. • The Copenhagen document on the human dimension of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) Copenhagen, 1990 (paragraph 6 to 8). • The 1999 Declaration of the Summit of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Of Istanbul recognised that: • Electoral observation can play a significant role in reinforcing the confidence of a people in the electoral process. • The deployment of electoral observers reinforces the support for the democratic process and can help the participating OSCE states to organise legitimate and legal elections. • National Constitutions.
28 Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience
3.4 prINcIpleS Of electIONS ObSerVatION
The Code of conduct of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) defines electoral observation as “the deliberated collection of information concerning electoral processes and the formulation of judgements on these processes based on information gathered by people not being authorised to intervene in the process and whose engagement in the mediation should not harm the responsibilities as regards observation” .
The origin of elections observation dates to the formation of the UN in 1945. At its creation the Institution was charged with the responsibility to observe elections in countries which surrendered in World War II. The first UN elections observer mission was sent to Korea and Germany after the Second World War. These missions comprised teams of foreign experts. The Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (BIDDH) in its Handbook of Elections Observation , describes elections observation missions as exogenous interventions.
The principles of elections observation include: • Respect for the sovereignty of the host country; • Respect for the laws and the electoral code of the country; • Neutrality and impartiality; • Objectivity; • Transparency; • Honesty; • Exhaustiveness and the exactitude of the facts.
3.5 QualItIeS Of a deMOcratIc electION
Democratic elections should be seen as being free, transparent, peaceful and equitable. Democratic elections are “not merely symbolic… they are competitive, periodic, inclusive, definitive elections in which the chief decision-makers in a government are selected by citizens who enjoy broad freedom to criticise government, to publish their criticism and to present alternatives ”. The following are additional qualities of democratic elections :
• A free election involves electoral competition where all parties meeting certain criteria (including age, mental faculties, and civic rights, financial capacity and administrative conditions) have access to the electoral process. The conditions must be set by a valid text of law. • Transparency is achieved through a process in which all stages and actions can be observed or
International IDEA, Code of conduct, ethical and professional electoral Observation. Stockolm, 1998, p. 10 Office of the Democratic Institutions and the Human Rights /OSCE. Handbook of observation of the elections. Warsaw, 2005 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Election#Definitions_of_the_democratic_election (accessed 28 July, 2008) 44 Adopted from ibid
42 43 41
Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience 29
followed by all actors. • A peaceful election is characterised by the absence of the following, physical, moral and verbal assault. • Equity implies ensuring all actors’ have equivalent chances and reasonable participation in the process. In addition, conditions related to voting exist. In democratic elections, voting must be universal, equal, direct and secret. It is significant to develop guidelines and objectives for election observations in order to ensure transparency and increase confidence in West African electoral systems. Paragraph 8 of the Copenhagen Document (1990) of the OSCE stipulates that the presence of observers, both foreign and national, can improve the integrity of the electoral process. Elections observation is particularly important for West Africa’s nascent democracies given the fragile nature of democratic institutions. WACSOF’s approach therefore meets the requirements for nurturing these fragile democratic institutions.
3.6. apprOacheS aNd tOOlS Of electOral ObSerVatION IN WeSt afrIca
The interventions of CSOs in elections observation provide entry points for non-state actors into negotiations with political and administrative authorities in the target countries. Though most of these interactions are characterised by mistrust and suspicion of civil society, their very occurrences is contributing to eventual recognition, if not acceptance of civil society as a credible participant in the process. Civil society’s elections observation approach is not different from approaches used by other sectors. However, with its engagement in elections observation, the Forum has enhanced the approach and the framework of elections observation. WACSOF’s election missions are structured to observe the existence of conditions of peace and stability in a given context as it relates to elections, and if necessary work towards promoting these conditions. It also ensures that stakeholders are equitably represented in the election process. Such stakeholders include political parties, the voter population, especially women, the handicapped, youths, local NGOs, the media and development actors. Moreover, it ensures that material conditions for polls are suitable to allow voters to exercise their franchise. Two types of elections observation missions with their specific objectives exist.
30 Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience
• This type of electoral observation is carried out by highly qualified individuals who have experience in electoral administration and/or observation. The experts involved in this process must be capable of analysing complex situations and reporting on them; • Long-term observation consists of continuous follow up on all situations over a long period of time, (minimum of 6 months), while maintaining impartial relations with actors involved in the elections including administrative agents, campaign organisers, representatives of political parties and candidates, the media and relevant CSOs; • It facilitates an independent analysis of the pre-election environment in a country. The selected period makes it easier to follow several stages of the electoral process; • Long-term observation is adapted for conflict or post-conflict situations where elections are part of a comprehensive process of rebuilding a country for example Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Cote d’Ivoire.
• This type of observation is carried out over a short period, i.e., two days before the polling day. A major limitation of this process is that the team of observers do not observe all the processes involved in elections including voter registration, political party primaries, activities of Electoral Commissions, potential sources of violence, latent threats, larval crisis, and inconsistencies in the electoral registers, among others. • It involves people with experience in electoral administration and/or observation spending approximately one week in the host country during the polls. • The observers are deployed in teams and are in charge of observing polls and the counting of votes on the Election Day. • Their deployment is carried out in accordance with a plan which guarantees a balanced distribution in the host country on the day of the polls. Ideally, long-term observation presents many advantages in comparison to short-term observation.
OSCE, http://www.osce.org/publications/odihr/2005/11/17148_478_en.pdf (accessed 15 July, 2008). In 1994, the OSCE developed the long term elections observation methodology when the organisation’s member states recognised that an election is not a oneday event. Election is a process that commences several months before the actual Election Day. The process continues after the Election Day. Consequently, the OSCE mandated the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) to play an enhanced role in election monitoring before, during and after an elections. 46 Ibid
Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience 31
However, long-term observation requires institutions with adequate financial and material resources to undertake observations. WACSOF adopted short-term observation techniques for all its missions due to limited resources. The adoption of this formula made it possible for the Forum to reduce the expenditure required. It also enabled the organisation to deploy an adequate number of observers to cover most of the countries in the sub region. Majority of the respondents interviewed for this report expressed their preference for long-term observation.
WaCsoF’s electoral observation tools
WACSOF has designed a number of tools to assist in the observation process. These include structured questionnaires; a grid to capture the results of the observation; modules for observers and press release templates. The Forum’s questionnaires are structured to cover the main aspects; from the opening of polling stations to the counting of votes to post voting analyses. The questionnaire content relates to the quality of the location of the polling station; respect for the provisions of the electoral code regarding the availability of voting materials; the safety of polling stations and external influences that might affect the process. The grid analysis synthesises the results of the individual observations to generate a press release from the observer missions. A typical observer team comprises of 70 observers, with each of them completing between 5 to 10 questionnaires. In total, over 1000 responses are obtained at the end of each observation. Afterwards, the information is collated and analysed. The final analysis of the grid makes it possible to draw out the main centres of interests or concerns. WACSOF developed training modules adapted to country situations in order to equip observers with skills. The purpose of the pre-electoral assessment missions was to identify the capacity building requirements of national observers. Training modules have been developed on the following themes: Rule of Law, Democracy and Good Governance; • Electoral Observation tools; • Types and stages of Electoral Observation; • Theory of Electoral Observation; • Civil society, Democracy and Development in Africa; • Crafting Electoral Observation questionnaires. Press releases are a significant tool in WACSOF’s approach. These resources are a summary of the results of the elections observation and serves as an official statement through which one can articulate an assessment of civil society in the elections process.
32 Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience
Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience 33
CAPE VERDE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS 12TH FEBRUARY 2006 ELECTION OBSERVATION MISSION ARRIVAL STATEMENT WACSOF presents its compliments and appreciation to the Government and people of Cape Verde especially the National Elections Commission (NEC), for granting WACSOF international observer accreditation for the 12th February 2006 Presidential Elections. WACSOF expresses its interest in and support for the ongoing electoral process in Cape Verde beginning with the Parliamentary elections on 22nd January 2006 and culminating in the 12th February 2006 elections for a new President. WACSOF believes that the successful conduct of this election, in a free, fair and transparent manner would not only strengthen and deepen the democratic culture in the country but also create the environment for good governance and economic development Cape Verde. The WACSOF Elections Observation Mission is here to observe the 12th February 2006 Presidential elections. During its stay in the country, the mission will: 1. Consider the impact of the results of the parliamentary elections on the outcome of the presidential elections. 2. Consider the turnout of the electorate in comparison with that obtained at the parliamentary elections. 3. Consider and review the processes and procedures employed by the election management body in order to ascertain whether or not they meet minimal levels of international best practices for the conduct of free, fair and democratic elections. WACSOF is therefore deploying a combined team of International and National Observers in two of the ten Islands on Election Day. This strategy allows WACSOF to be engaged in long term election observation, covering the entire electoral process. While the national observers carry out pre-election and post election monitoring/observation, they are complemented by the international observers on Election Day observation of the election administration and procedures. While calling upon the National Election Commission, political parties, candidates and their supporters to ensure a peaceful, free, fair and transparent election, WACSOF assures all stakeholders that it would conduct its mission in a non-partisan and professional manner, ensuring that all relevant and applicable standards of international elections observation are maintained. Sadikh Niass Head of Delegation Mrs Rosaline Worou Houndekon Peace and Governance Officer, WACSOF
34 Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience
ELECTION OBSERVATION MISSION, NIGERIA PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS, 21 APRIL 2007 PRESS STATEMENT The West African Civil Society Forum (WACSOF) wishes to register its thanks and appreciation to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of Nigeria for granting WACSOF accreditation to observe the 21 April 2007 Presidential and National Assembly Elections. WACSOF also presents its compliments and appreciation to the Government and People of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for the warm reception extended to this WACSOF Election Observation Mission since its arrival and deployment in the country. On polling day, WACSOF deployed a total of 10 international observers and 60 domestic observers across the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and thirty states of Nigeria. WACSOF observers across the country spoke with the polling station officials, political party agents, journalists covering the elections, voters, and members of the security services at the various polling stations. The WACSOF observers employed the use of the same methodology and checklist across the country. Based on these primary sources of information and our observations, WACSOF is pleased to note a number of positive issues:
1. The elections were conducted in a generally calm and peaceful atmosphere much against the negative hype by the international media of anticipated violence. Although there were reports of a few and isolated cases of disturbances to the voting process, such cases were readily resolved by the polling officers and security personnel. 2. WACSOF is particularly impressed by the determination of the Nigerian electorate to have peaceful elections. The Nigerian electorate turned out to vote early in the day. They were tolerant and waited patiently for the arrival of voting materials which was quite late in many instances. The security agents also performed creditably in the way and manner they intervened in cases where security was threatened. They were not overbearing in their intervention and this commendable. 3. Vote counting was done in an open and transparent manner in many polling stations, in the full view and presence of party agents and observers. This is commendable.
The elections attracted a high level of interest in the international community as attested by the large number of international observation missions that were accredited by the INEC to observe the polls. This high level of interest and the fact that the INEC gave accreditation to many of these international observers to observe the polls is worthy of note. However, it is instructive that some of the notable international election observer missions visited the polling stations with armed police escorts in a situation were the security agents manning the polling
Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience 35
stations were unarmed. The above notwithstanding, WACSOF wishes to draw attention to a few issues that need to be addressed in subsequent elections: 1. Appropriate and sufficient notices were not put up in a number of polling stations thus making it difficult for them to be identified. WACSOF observed that even though the required signs were made available by the INEC, many of the polling station officials did not put these signs up for their respective polling stations and this impacted on the ability of many voters to easily and quickly locate their polling centres. Likewise, the INE C polling station officials were not all uniformly identifiable and this could have been exploited. There were also discrepancies in the number of officials at polling stations, ranging from two to seven in different polling stations. 2. Many polling stations were located in open places. The open places provided no shelter or respite from the vagaries of the weather to both the electorate and the polling officers. Some other polling stations were located at, or in the vicinity of certain inappropriate places including places of worship, private residences, palaces of traditional rulers and even drinking bars. This may have affected the layout and organization of many polling stations which in turn negatively impacted on the smooth operation of the voting process making some polling stations rowdy. 3. Voting materials arrived at many polling stations very late in the day. In some cases, materials arrived after the time designated for polls to close. Some polling officials closed voting much earlier at some polling stations than was announced by INEC and therefore disenfranchised some eligible voters. 4. Polling materials were not adequate for the conduct of the elections. A number of polling stations did not have the three required ballot papers for the respective elections. The Presidential election ballot papers did not have serial numbers. In a number of the polling stations visited, only one ballot box was provided for the three elections. The ballot boxes did not have any security seals to secure them during and after the exercise. Voting booths were largely not available. This greatly affected the secrecy of the ballot as a number of voters were compelled to make their choices in the full glare of other voters, security agents and polling officials. Provisions for lightening were also insufficient especially in many cases where vote counting and collation had to be done in the night. 5. Arrangements made to convey election materials and polling officials to and from the polling stations to the collation centres were inadequate. Upon close of polls, many of them had to be conveyed from the polling stations to the collation centres by unofficial means. 6. The number and quality of party agents at a number of polling stations left much to be desired considering their critical role in the exercise. Many of them displayed a below average level of commitment to their assignment. 7. There were no visible arrangements made to assist the physically challenged, the aged and pregnant/ breastfeeding women to vote during the elections.
36 Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience
While commending the Nigerian electorate, the political parties and their candidates, the INEC and other stakeholders for their respective roles in the conduct of these elections, WACSOF appeals to the candidates, the leadership of the political parties and their supporters to ensure a continuation of the peaceful atmosphere under which the elections have been conducted. WACSOF shall remain engaged in support of the democratic process in Nigeria and wishes all Nigerians well.
Mr. Ken Abotsi Head of Delegation
Dr. Richard Konteh General Secretary, WACSOF
Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience 37
ELECTION OBSERVATION MISSION: SIERRA LEONEAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS 12 AUGUST 2007 PRESS STATEMENT The West African Civil Society Forum (WACSOF) wishes to register its thanks and appreciation to the National Electoral Commission (NEC) of Sierra Leone for granting WACSOF accreditation to observe the August 11 2007 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections. WACSOF also extends its compliments and appreciation to the Government and People of the Republic of Sierra Leone for the warm reception extended to this WACSOF Election Observation Mission since its arrival and deployment in the country. In March this year, WACSOF deployed a Pre-Election Assessment Mission to look at all the processes that were being put in place in preparation for the General Elections. The report of that Pre-Assessment Mission formed the basis for our terms of reference for our engagement in the yesterday’s Elections. On polling day, WACSOF deployed both International and Domestic Observers across all the Provinces of Sierra Leone. Our observers spoke with polling station officials, political party agents, journalists covering the elections, voters, and members of the security services at various polling stations. All WACSOF observers employed the use of the same methodology and checklist across the country. Based on these primary sources of information and our observations, WACSOF is pleased to note a number of positive issues:
1. The elections were conducted in a generally calm and peaceful atmosphere much against the negative hype by the international media of anticipated violence. Although there were reports of a few isolated cases of disturbances to the voting process, such cases were readily resolved by the polling officers and security personnel. 2. WACSOF is particularly impressed by the determination of the Sierra Leonean electorate to have peaceful elections. The electorate turned out to vote early in the day. They were tolerant and waited patiently for the arrival of voting materials. The security agents also performed creditably in the way and manner they intervened in cases where security was threatened. They were not overbearing in their intervention and this was commendable. 3. Polling centres were generally accessible while some of them which were located in open places were sufficiently protected from the vagaries of the weather. 4. Voting booths were designed in a manner that ensured secrecy of votes and this is commendable and a novelty that other West African Countries could learn from. 5. Polling officials were easily identifiable thus making it easy for voters, observers and other stakeholders to contact them when the need arose. 6. The media was particularly engaging and their involvement in the whole process needs to be commended though caution needs to be exercised to avoid sensational reportage in subsequent elections.
38 Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience
7. The elections attracted a high level of interest from the international community as attested by the large number of international observation missions that were accredited by the NEC to observe the polls. This high level of interest and the fact that the NEC gave accreditation to many of these international observers to observe the polls is worthy of note.
The above notwithstanding, WACSOF wishes to draw attention to a few concerns that need to be addressed in subsequent elections:
• Appropriate and sufficient notices were not put up in a number of polling stations thus making it difficult for them to be identified. WACSOF observed that even though the required signs were made available by the NEC, many of the polling station officials did not put these signs up for their respective polling stations and this impacted on the ability of many voters to easily and quickly locate their polling centres. • The high number of invalid votes recorded at polling stations observed by WACSOF may be indicative of some deficiencies in the strategies employed for civic education before the elections. It is our opinion that not only should civic education be seen to be done, but also the right methods should be employed taking into cognisance the high illiteracy and poverty levels of the populace. It is our opinion that civic education should be an integral and neverending process that should be geared towards enhancing the participation and engagement of all relevant stakeholders in the democracy consolidation processes in Sierra Leone. • Voting materials arrived at many polling stations very late in the day. In some cases, materials arrived after mid-day. This lapse could potentially disenfranchise voters who may not have the energy to wait long hours in the queue. Steps must therefore be taken in the future to address this.
These concerns notwithstanding, it is the opinion of WACSOF that the Sierra Leonean General Elections of Saturday, August 11 2007 were generally free, fair and transparent. While commending the Sierra Leonean electorate, the political parties and their candidates, the NEC and other stakeholders for their respective roles in the conduct of these elections, WACSOF appeals to the candidates, the leadership of the political parties and their supporters to ensure the continuation of a peaceful atmosphere after the release of results. We therefore urge all political actors to use the appropriate legal mechanisms to seek redress where they are aggrieved.
Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience 39
WACSOF shall remain engaged in support of the democratic process in Sierra Leone and wishes all Sierra Leoneans well. Issued this 12th Day of August 2007 in Freetown, Sierra Leone
Dr. Oumar Ndongo Head of Delegation
Madam Gertrude Adu-Yebo Member, Executive Committee
40 Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience
Press Conference on the Presidential elections of Burkina Faso (November 2005)
3.7. taSkS INVOlVed IN electIONS ObSerVatION
The main tasks involved in the preparation of WACSOF’s election observer missions consist of: • Identification of the observer team. • General logistics involved in deploying the team. • Obtaining accreditations. • Training of observers on the methodology and the tools for elections observation. • Holding preparation meetings for the deployment of the observers. • Deployment of observers on the observation site. • Supervision of observers during the poll. • Centralisation of results of the individual observations. • Analysis of results. • Formulation of the final official statement. • Organisation of the press conference. • Drafting of the final report. • Dissemination of the final report.
Stages of elections Observation Missions
There are two stages involved in elections observation irrespective of the formula adopted. These are the pre-election assessment mission and the actual elections observation mission.
Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience 41
the pre-election assessment Mission (preparatory phase)
WACSOF deploys a mission for pre-elections assessment a few weeks prior to polls in the respective country. This mission is composed of experienced experts who perform the following functions: They evaluate the electoral process of the country through the assessment of: • The legal and institutional framework including institutions, electoral codes, laws and circulars. • Logistics and state of preparation including the availability of electoral materials and distribution of electoral materials to the polling stations. • The prevailing socio-political climate prior to the elections. • The elections’ conformity with international standards by discussing with the various stakeholders their roles in the electoral process. • Legal, administrative and security concerns which have the potential of affecting the elections.
the electoral Observation Mission
WACSOF elections observation missions partly compose of a team of international observers that arrive in the target country days prior to voting. WACSOF has incorporated certain tasks during this phase of the mission. These include: • Protocol Visits. These are visits to political and administrative authorities to inform them of WACSOF’s presence and mission. The visits assist in avoiding situations such as denial of accreditation and a perception of insecurity on the part of the authorities, which could impede the course of the mission. It also enables the mission to obtain relevant information on the polls. • Protocol visits also enable the Forum to interact with States and institutions which may not favour the intervention of civil society in elections. For example, during the polls of 2005 and 2007 in Togo, the authorities were apprehensive about CSOs’ involvement in the electoral process. However, the intervention of the Forum and particularly its interactions with the authorities during the pre-election assessment mission, with the support of ECOWAS and certain diplomatic missions facilitated the participation of civil society. • Press Conference. WACSOF uses press conferences to announce its presence and mandate in the country. The conferences are also used to present the results of the pre-election assessment mission. • Training of Observers. This activity depends on the composition of the team of observers. In countries where civil society has acquired experience from independent observation like Senegal, Mali, Nigeria, Bénin, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Niger, the trainings are refresher courses on the principles of elections observation and relates particularly to the strategy for deployment of observer
42 Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience
missions. However, in situations where civil society in the country has minimal experience in elections observation, a basic training which lasts for a longer period is designed. • Deployment of Observers. The Forum’s strategy for the deployment of observers is based on the need to cover a critical mass in the country in order to collect data on key events which emanate from the polls. • However, due to financial constraints the mission covers ‘significant’ electoral centres in accordance with the prevailing situation in the country. The Nigerian presidential elections on April 2007 and Guinea Bissau elections in June 2005 are examples of elections where limited financial resources combined with other factors informed WACSOF’s strategy to limit its missions to certain electoral districts. The observers are deployed a day or two taking into account the distance that needs to be covered to reach the election centres. The team of observers are equipped with a vehicle to facilitate movement. They also provided communication tools to facilitate constant interaction with a central monitoring team as well as staff of WACSOF’s secretariat. • Observation of Voting. A typical observation team comprises of a mixture of nationals and international observers, and it is directed by an international observer. Each observer, equipped with several questionnaires (5 to 10), is deployed to polling stations before polls open. This enables the observer to witness preparation procedures before the polling station opens. The observer completes the relevant portion of the questionnaire, and observes the voting process. This process is repeated at selected polling stations. At the end of each voting day, the observer returns to all polling stations to witness the closure and counting of votes. • The observer ensures that official signatures are appended to the official record sheet and that sealed ballot boxes are sent to a central office after the counting of votes has ended. Subsequently, observers meet for a debriefing meeting where individual observers report their findings and the general conduct of the elections. The leader of the team collates these observations into a comprehensive report on the respective voting centre. • The Centralisation of Results. Shortly after polls close, the various missions hold a general debrief meeting where the leader of each observation team presents a report and submits collected questionnaires from the team of observers to the mission secretariat. According to a grid of indicators which is completed with the information given by the observers, the observer in charge of the secretariat draws up a draft report for the elections observation mission. This report is submitted
Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience 43
to the assembly for discussion. Once the assembly agrees on the content of the official statement, a press conference is convened to publicise the findings • The Press Conference. This event convenes diverse media organisations. The Head of the mission reads the official statement which highlights the missions’ assessment and findings. The press are invited to ask questions about the statements made by the mission. Questions predominantly focus on the objectivity of WACSOF’s missions, the regularity of the polls and the peaceful nature of the entire electoral process.
• The Dissolution of the Mission. Following the press conference, the international observers depart. However, observation does not end with their departure. National coordinators and other civil society bodies follow-up on the process until the final results are released by the legitimate electoral body. The drafting of the final report of the mission and its dissemination is entrusted to the WACSOF secretariat. The Forum has carried out elections observation missions in 13 West African countries using this approach which has been consolidated through successive missions.
3.8. electOral ObSerVatION MISSIONS uNdertakeN by WacSOf
WACSOF deployed 16 independent electoral observation missions in ECOWAS member states from December 2004 to October 2007. The table on the next page outlines the type of elections and subsequent activities.
44 Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience
Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience 45
3.9. an analysis oF WaCsoF’s eleCtions observation aPProaCh
WACSOF’s elections observation approach brings originality to existing methodologies. The innovation in the approach lies in the Forum’s use of both international and local observers. The rationale for including international observers is to encourage observation by actors who are not direct stakeholders in an election, thus safeguarding neutrality and objectivity. Elections observations exclusively carried out by international observers are supported by institutions or organisations with a specific mandate to offer assistance to countries in democratic transition. These organisations have substantial budgetary allocations and are not restricted by financial constraints. However, a majority of CSOs in West Africa are faced with the challenge of inadequate financial and material resources. It has therefore become imperative to develop innovative ideas and techniques that will enable them achieve the desired goals with these limited resources. WACSOF’s approach of combining international and local observers presents many advantages: • The presence of international observers guarantees the conditions of neutrality, objectivity and professionalism; • The capacities of local observers are reinforced by the experience of the international observers. A combination of local and international observers results in the organisation having a pool of tested observers deployed in each country; • Reduction of costs which enables WACSOF to increase its observation missions; • Lack of local knowledge about the electoral area, on the part of the international observers, is compensated for by the inclusion of local observers. This makes it possible to pass a balanced judgment on the entire electoral process; • The information provided by local observers fills the gap associated with the utilisation of short-term missions. It also provides data on the other stages of the election process; The use of local observers became essential in light of the acceleration of democratisation processes in the region coupled with the increasing need for citizens’ participation in building democratic governance; In addition, local civil society actors play specific roles which international observers cannot conveniently perform. Sensitisation of voters is a strong requirement for electoral processes in a majority of African countries. This function is carried out efficiently by local civil society actors; Consequently, WACSOF has empowered a number of its members to initiate their own elections
46 Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience
observation missions. Approximately 850 observers have been mobilised by WACSOF since 2004. These actors are equipped with the skills and methods of elections observation and knowledge on the legal and political contexts of the sub region. Thus, civil society groups from some ECOWAS countries can now undertake elections observation missions without WASCSOF. This was tested in Burkina Faso during the country’s local elections on April 23, 2006, where the national coordinators of WACSOF, in collaboration with the Movement for the Emergence of Social Justice (MBEJUS) deployed observer missions comprising 137 national observers in 5 cities. National observer missions also help to initiate synergies of collective action or networking among civil society in countries such as Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal, and Nigeria. Several CSOs have organised observer missions in ECOWAS member states. Nonetheless the results from these initiatives are unreported. These parochial interventions remain a key challenge which WACSOF hopes to address in future interventions.
WACSOF’s experience in elections observation has exposed challenges inherent to CSOs in the sub region. These include: • The lack of consensus on what organisations constitute “civil society” This ambiguity has implications for the interventions organisations working within the sector can undertake. This situation is compounded by the absence of uniformity in legislations of ECOWAS member states on the roles and the nature of civil society intervention. • An empirical analysis of the state of civil society in the sub region reveals that CSOs in West Africa are disparate and ill- coordinated. There is limited complimentarity and competition is rife. Furthermore most CSOs are accused of having poor internal governance mechanisms and as a result cannot serve as agents of promoting good governance by observing elections. • The deplorable transportation networks in the sub region have made observing elections difficult, as deploying observers in countries in timely and cost effective ways remains a challenge. In many cases, this situation precludes the missions from reaching the hinterlands of countries in the sub region. • WACSOF’s limited financial resources diminish the forum’s ability to carry out observation missions in a manner envisioned at the conceptualisation of the elections observation focus area. As revealed in the analysis of these missions, the appropriate follow-up methodology of electoral processes in ECOWAS countries should be long-term. Furthermore, civil society’s interventions in the education and sensitisation of the electorate require intense campaigning which are costly. In most observation missions, limited financial resources lead to scaling down of steps in the process.
Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience 47
• Although the culture of democracy and good governance are being promoted in countries where WACSOF intervenes, authorities of these countries still find civil society’s interventions in elections uncomfortable. This discomfort on the part of some national authorities manifest in attempts to obstruct the Forum’s missions. Some of these impediments include denial or delay in the issuance of accreditations and the perception of observers as security threats. • The collaboration between WACSOF and ECOWAS in elections observation is limited. The facilities and support which ECOWAS should provide to WACSOF at the administrative level are not always forthcoming. This was evident in Togo and Guinea Bissau’s 2005 elections. In addition to the above challenges, WACSOF itself had to undergo a restructuring process, which has necessitated reviving its internal practices and reviewing its implementation strategies, such as its approach to elections observation.
WACSOF has carried out a number of observer missions across the region. These missions provide valuable observations and lessons that would be critical to improving elections observation in general, and specifically the involvement of civil society in these processes.
the credibility and politicisation of civil Society in West africa
CSOs in West Africa face technical and institutional difficulties which impede their performance and affect its credibility. The organisational weaknesses encompass inadequate material, financial, human resources and the lack of requisite skills and access to information. The absence of synergy among civil society actors in the region is due to the absence of and/or dysfunctional dialogue and consultation frameworks, poor networks and ineffective umbrella structures in the sub region. In addition, WACSOF’s elections observation missions exposed the lack of collaboration among CSOs in the countries visited. The perception on the inefficiencies of civil society in the sub region is outlined in the outcomes of CIVICUS’ Civil Society Index project implemented in Burkina Faso, Nigeria , Togo and Sierra Leone from 2004 to 2007.
47 48 49
These weaknesses render civil society inept to discharge its responsibility of representing the interests of marginalised groups and monitoring governments’ actions. Civil society is perceived as a constituent of disguised or camouflaged political actors by some traditional political actors, especially members of incumbent political parties. The challenge for civil society is how to remain non-partisan in its activities. For example, in Togo, public actors including civil society are generally regarded as political entities. A Togolese political leader declared in an interview that “there is no civil society in Togo, they
http://content.undp.org/go/newsroom/2008/may/civil-society-in-nigeria--contributing-to-positive-social-change.en;jsessionid=aQj_QRqDMC-7?c ategoryID=349588&lang=en(accessed 12 August 2008) 48 http://civicus.org/new/media/CSI_Togo_Country_Report.pdf (accessed 12 August 2008) 49 http://www.civicus.org/new/media/ICSI%20paper.pdf (accessed 12 August 2008)
48 Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience
are all politicians” arguing that the political neutrality of CSOs was compromised during the April 2005 elections. This alleged politicisation of the Togolese civil society was a recurring theme raised by a number of people interviewed. The problem of the “politicisation” of civil society was also visible in Cote d’Ivoire where five years of ethno-political conflict deeply divided civil society. The international community’s initiatives for peace building suffered a major setback since some civil society actors had compromised their neutrality.
the pace of regional Integration
The core mandate of ECOWAS is to promote regional integration. The ideology of this integration is that member States will be guided by the same principles, for example, democracy and good governance. This has been difficult to achieve in practice. For example, the multiple protocols and other legal instruments that ECOWAS creates are essential elements of regional integration. These provisions, although accepted by the majority of members of the community, are yet to be fully actualised at national levels. The 2001 protocol on democracy and good governance proposes adequate legal provisions for the democratisation of the member states and the organisation of elections cannot come into force until it has been ratified by at least nine member states. In spite of this, majority of the electoral codes in force in these countries reiterate provisions in the ECOWAS protocol. However, the reality in the sub region is that electoral processes remain contentious. Very few elections are without interminable disputes, political crises and open conflicts. In addition to this, the ECOWAS protocol has some inadequacies: • The supplementary protocol on democracy and good governance has inherent constraints. Article 45 comprises indirect provisions which border on the suspension of member states and it states that; “During the period of suspension, ECOWAS shall continue to monitor, encourage and support the efforts being made by the suspended Member State to return to normalcy and constitutional order” . As a political body the conference of Heads of State is ipso facto an ineffective jurisdictional body. • The members of this assembly find it difficult to judge situations independently of their own situations and affinities, interests or alliances with the country in crisis. The conflicts and crises experienced in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire and Togo are obvious examples. • The supplementary protocol does not have a mechanism for consistent review and evaluation involving diverse actors such as civil society and development partners. Through the mobilisation of CSOs from member states and the centralisation of data on public policies, national platforms could be used to attain integration, democracy and development.
ECOWAS, http://www.sec.ecowas.int/sitecedeao/english/protocoles/Protocol%20on%20good-governance-and-democracy-rev-5EN.pdf (July 15, 2008)
Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience 49
It also allows for a comparison of progress made by countries regarding processes leading to the democratisation of their political systems. Common indicators of the harmonisation process are related to the electoral register, electoral materials, and organisation of the poll, citizens’ participation, and actions of political actors, press freedom and the legal system. These constitute a framework of analysis of electoral processes in the sub region. Linguistic differences also affect regional integration processes. Several supranational organisations, including ECOWAS, are operated by English, French and Portuguese-speaking people. These differences pose as an obstacle for agreements to be reached during negotiations and for the development of regional policies. This problem also affects interactions, networking and dialogue among civil society actors and constitutes a major handicap for civil society’s development in the sub region.
compliance with democratic Values
There are two dimensions of electoral processes; i) Regular organisation of elections; ii) Compliance with democratic values. The main report regarding electoral processes relates to the first dimension. Since the 1990s the majority of countries in the sub region have organised elections regularly. However, most countries have barely managed to comply with democratic principles. Few national elections are held without disputes and very often, elections precede long periods of instability. WACSOF’s elections observer missions experienced and reported a range of irregularities in the various countries covered. These include: • Incomplete electoral register with a number of irregularities such as multiple inscriptions, omissions, errors, among others. • Elaborate electoral processes which are often non-transparent and non-participatory. • Non-equitable territorial demarcations. • Distance to the polling stations. • Deliberate elimination of candidates from the contest. • Inadequate supply of electoral materials in certain polling stations. • Early or late opening and closing of certain polling stations. • Late declaration of results. • Suspicions of stuffing of ballot boxes. • Verbal exchanges and insults during political campaigns. • Physical violence against political opponents. • Detentions of political opponents or voters.
50 Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience
Evidence emerging from the missions’ observation is that instability and violence after elections in many countries are attributable to an inadequate supply of election officials and tampering with available materials. In several cases materials were missing. In Guinea Bissau polling stations were sited in ‘family rooms’ or did not meet international standards as shown in the picture on the next page. The hurricane lamps needed for vote counting in the night were not available in some polling stations in Burkina Faso (April 2006). Also, in Togo there were some ballot boxes without inscriptions (October 2007). The October 14, 2007 election in Togo was an example of a well-organised election . However, earlier elections in the same country on April 25, 2005 and another in Nigeria in April 2007 are examples of ill-organised elections in the sub region. See the case below:
Challenges in Nigeria In April 2007 general elections were held in Nigeria (legislative, senatorial and presidential).These elections were significant as they represented the country’s first peacefully transition from one civilian government to another. Since independence, Nigeria has witnessed successive military regimes and Nigerians waited with anxiety to witness a democratic transition. However, the electorates were disillusioned by the chaotic nature of the elections. The pre-elections period was initially marked by tension following the selection of presidential candidates and the armed violence in the Niger Delta. According to reports from various observers which were released by the international press including Reuters, the elections were tainted with many irregularities. Local observers contended that the presidential elections had proceeded in an unacceptable manner and called for its cancellation. While the president of the Senate affirmed that it would leave a legacy of hatred and resentment among Nigerians. According to the International Republican Institute (IRI), a group of observers based in the United States, the poll did not meet international standards. According to this organisation, “elections of April 14 and 21 are below the standards set by the preceding elections in Nigeria and below the international standards observed by the IRI in the entire world “. “We will ask that the election be started again. One cannot base an election outcome on the results of half of the country to announce who is the new president “, declared Innocent Chukwuma, president of the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), a local group of observers which had deployed more than 10,000 people all over the country. EU Observers also gave a detailed report on irregularities such as violence, stuffing of ballot boxes and a serious shortage of ballot papers. WACSOF deployed a team of observers and also collected information from other civil society actors in Nigeria. It was gathered that in more than three States including Ekiti polling stations were closed earlier than the electoral code stipulated. In Emure, for example, voting in several polling stations was stopped at 10:30 am, five hours before the actual closing time, thus denying many voters their franchise. In Omuo Ward III voters who trooped the polling station at 10:40 am were turned away by the police. The police told them voting had stopped. With the short duration allowed for voting, the entire voting exercise was marked by interferences and intimidation. These controversial elections negatively impacted on democracy in West Africa taking into cognisance Nigeria’s stature in the region.
See Siaka Coulibaly, “Lessons from Democracy”, Lome, October 2007 for a detailed description of what transpired in the 2007 Togolese election which leads him to declared the elections as ill-organised.
Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience 51
The purpose of these recollections is to demonstrate that CSOs Involvement in electoral processes reinforces democracy and good governance. This is critical as West Africa is on a trajectory to change. The region is experiencing relative stability as the Liberian and Sierra Leonean conflicts have been resolved and elections were held in 2006 and 2007 respectively. Cote d’Ivoire and Togo have succeeded in concluding major political agreements aimed at resolving their political differences. This encouraging trend has to be harnessed through strengthening governance processes that incorporate CSO and private sector participation. In doing so, this positive change has to confront the dwindling rate of voter turnout in countries WACSOF has observed. Results from elections reveal that there is growing voter apathy in West Africa. Countries that have experienced low voter turnout include Burkina Faso, November 2005, Senegal, March 2007; Mali, April 2007. This situation has led actors to question the efforts being made by ECOWAS states in nurturing and strengthening democracy. In recognition of this phenomenon, WACSOF plans to undertake a study to unravel the causes of disinterest in voting among electorates, and to suggest appropriate solutions to address increasing voter apathy. The identification of these challenges by different missions helps to establish the relevance and the need for the development of frameworks to build the capacity of civil society actors in the region.
52 Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience
Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience 53
VI. CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
This documentation exercise carried out by WACSI reveals that WACSOF has the potential to play an important mobilising role within the CSO sector in West Africa. The Forum’s mandate and decentralised structure has the ability to contribute to democratic reforms in the region. One of the ways WACSOF can play this role is through its “on the ground” experience of elections observations in the region. However, the prevailing peculiar socio-political context of the sub region presents challenges captured in this report. Addressing these challenges require the concerted effort of ECOWAS, national governments, civil society and other actors. Though WACSOF has made significant strides in promoting the role of civil society in elections observation, more needs to be done. WACSOF should be encouraged not to limit itself to shortterm elections observation. Instead it should adopt long-term strategies that will enable it meticulously observe entire electoral processes. In conclusion, WACSOF’s mandate as a platform for CSOs to interface with ECOWAS presents opportunities for leveraging CSOs direct involvement in processes that have previously excluded them. The WACSOF elections observation experience illustrates the invaluable contributions civil society can make to democratisation processes. It is important that WACSOF continues to build on these experiences and strengthen its partnerships with national governments and ECOWAS. This partnership should be one of complimentarity, technical assistance and collaboration. Specifically, WACSOF should position itself to play an advisory role to national governments and ECOWAS on how to improve elements of elections observation. This form of constructive engagement will in the long-term enhance the recognition of civil society as an undeniable partner in governance and democratisation processes in the region.
The following recommendations are a summary of the study findings:
1. WACSOF needs to strengthen its National Platforms. These platforms should be made functional as soon as practicable, to contribute towards future observation missions. 2. It is urgent for WACSOF to broaden the scope of observation missions to take into account other thematic areas CSOs are working on, such as human rights and gender. 3. It is imperative for the Forum to develop fundraising strategies for its observation missions to ensure that the standard and quality of the mission is not compromised and that the overall objectives of missions are achieved. 4. WACSOF’s Elections Observation Unit should endeavour to function with professionalism. The Unit should recruit a core of group of experts to inform and guide the conceptualisation, implementation and evaluation of election observations. 5. Documentation of experiences should take the form of a project or an activity to facilitate comparative analysis and evaluation of elections organisation in countries where WACSOF intervenes. This will
54 Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience
help in measuring attitudes of actors including voters, electoral commissions, and political parties, and media, national and international observers. 6. In light of CSOs skills deficiencies in elections observation, WACSOF should design region specific tools to train CSOs in the region on the fundamentals, practicalities and techniques of elections observation. 7. The Forum should develop efficient dissemination strategies to make its experience known to a larger and global community of CSOs. This would give WACSOF the credibility to participate in observation missions outside West Africa. 8. Civil society and the media should increase the pace of civic education in order to achieve a higher degree of citizens’ participation in elections. These actions should target citizens in the area of attitudinal change and the recognition and acceptance of election results to avoid the occurrence of violence and confrontations.
9. It is important to review of the constitutional and regulatory frameworks in all the countries of the sub region and revise the legal and institutional frameworks to reflect current national contexts, aspirations and needs. These revisions will also guarantee the respect for basic human rights and encourage citizens’ participation. 10. The institutions and structures in charge of organising elections should be harmonised while reinforcing their independence. However, governments must ensure that these bodies are adequately resourced to discharge their duties efficiently. 11. National Governments across the region should be more receptive to civil society’s involvement in observation mission. Governments should view CSOs as partners in the democratisation process and not adversaries. It might be useful for national governments and civil society actors to organise pre elections consultations as “trust building” measures to clearly outline the role CSOs will play in the process.
12. It is urgent for ECOWAS to support the harmonisation of democracy and good governance practices in member states. The adoption of a community legal instrument such as a community electoral code is urgently required. 13. ECOWAS should develop mechanisms to evaluate democratic institutions and electoral processes through its electoral assistance unit. Such structures should engender collaboration between multistakeholders such as public actors, the private sector and civil society. 14. ECOWAS and other development partners should support WACSOF in commissioning a study on the level of citizens’ participation in elections in West Africa. This study should examine factors which have contributed to voters’ apathy and how these can be addressed.
Civil Society and Elections Observation in West Africa: The WACSOF Experience 55
APPENDIX: Individuals and Organisations Consulted
burkina faso Sinare Michel Diallo Abdrahmane Hien Jonas Boukary Sana Sidibe Habass Tankoano Mathias Sorgho Charles Kone Ibrahim Senegal Balde Djibril Alioune Tine Abdoulaye Vilane El Hadj Hamidou Diallo Amacodou Diouf Sadikh Niass Oumy Cantome Sarr togo Claude Bamnante Ralph Atoukouvi Johnson Adodo Amah Essoh Elise Deputy secretary-general of the RPT Member of the Union of the Forces of the Change, person in charge of the data-processing cell Member of the CENI National coordinator WACSOF/FOSCAO Assistant of program for refugees at WARIPNET President of the RADDHO Member of the Political Board of the Senegalese Socialist Party Secretary-general of the Block for the Reinforcement of the Democracy in Senegal (BRDS) 1st Vice President of the CONGAD, President of Human Action for Integrated Development in Senegal Coordinator of the WARIPNET, member of the RADDHO Director of Manoore FM Voice of the women Yameogo Francois d’ Assise Ex Coordinator of WANEP, international observer Program Officer of NDI Burkina Faso Secretary-general of the National Cell of Civil society capacity building Member of the Burkina Movement for the Emergence of Social Justice (MBEJUS) Member of the RESOCIDE Legal adviser of the President of the CENI Principal private secretary of the President of the CENI Member of the GERDDES Member of the RESOCIDE
No. 202 yiyiwa Street p. O. box at 1956, achimota, accra tel: 233 21- 778917/18 fax: 233-21-764727 Website: www.wacsi.org
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