KAIPTC to build capacity of electoral stakeholders
By Phyllis D. Osabutey
AHEAD OF the December 2012 elections, the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC) is seeking to enhance the capacities of electoral stakeholders in managing the electoral process, with a view to promote peaceful democratic elections and transitions on the continent and elsewhere.
The Director of Training, Col Leo Hirschmann said the partial or complete failure or ineffectiveness of elections could stem from the lack of right timing to underdeveloped forms of democracy, and damaging influences from outside.
He added that corruption and the lack of professionalism and proficiency of the traditional election management bodies, due to their central role as electoral administrators, also contribute to failure of elections.
The effect of these has been that much of the effort at enhancing the efficiency of the electoral process has tended to focus on the training of election management bodies, he noted.
Col. Hirschmann was speaking at the opening ceremony of an Election Management Course for stakeholders, including civil society organizations, political parties and government agencies, national/ international NGOs, and regional economic communities as well as the traditional election management bodies, in Accra on Monday.
He pointed out that most African countries have been edging towards the institutionalisation of democracy with elections increasingly becoming the norm and the preferred means of representation and good governance since late eighties and early nineties.
According to him, even countries that were once plagued with years of violent conflict are now successfully making the transition to democracy, with countries like Liberia and Sierra Leone organizing relatively successful elections and transfer of power.
“Thus, the outcome of elections, such as those of Zambia in 2011 and Senegal in 2012 serve to give us hope and optimism”, he said.
In his view, “These relative success stories, notwithstanding the democratic terrain in our region, remains largely precarious and unpredictable, with the lingering question of whether or not elections would always result in peaceful transition and transfer of power, or they will become triggers for conflict and violent upheaval.”
He elaborated that the aftermath of the Congo DR elections of 2005, Kenyan elections of 2007, the Cote d’Ivoire elections of 2010, the Nigerian elections of 2011 and the recent impasse following elections in Guinea Bissau gives much cause for concern.
Furthermore, he stated that though elections are highly technical, they are also very political, with a myriad of factors and actors that could, and do influence the effectiveness or otherwise of the electoral process from beginning to end.
In view of this, he mentioned that the technical proficiency of the process by itself cannot guarantee the desired peaceful and credible outcome that everyone wished for.
To improve the effectiveness of the process, therefore, “We must of necessity take the interdependent relationship between the technical and socio-political dimensions into account and strive to bring both components at par with each other.”
This, he said, was the motivation for introduction of the election management course to help bridge the capacity building gap between the technical, socio-political, and other segments of the electoral population, with equally high stakes in the process.
He indicated that as a Centre of Excellence, the KAIPTC was dedicated to training in peace operations and peace building, saying “We are convinced that enhancing capacity for facilitating a positive political climate is a critical first step to ensuring peaceful and credible electoral process.”
He added that this was fundamental to consolidating the democratic gains being made in the region, and we are keen to contribute to this process, stressing “We are also confident that with time, we will be able to marshal the necessary support and resources to extend the reach of this program.”
He told the course participants that “We also look forward to learning from your own experience and input as we work to ‘fine tune’ and make this course a premier election management capacity building and training course for civil society and all the different electoral stakeholders in our region.”
Also, the Peace and Governance Advisor, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Mr. Lawrence Lachmansingh said the issue of elections was one of the defining events of the past, especially about two decades ago.
According to him, now the issues have moved from just elections to elections and conflict, elections and participation, and elections and freedom, saying, Ghana was one of the cases where there was still a lot to learn such as how to manage political transitions.
He noted that elections were not just an administrative event but very political because power was involved, adding “There is no perfect election but we want it to be good enough.”
He observed that the vast majority of people who work on elections have no training but do their work and then learn the lessons later. He thus urged the participants to take the opportunity to acquire the knowledge to help grow peace and security in Africa.
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