Alimou Diallo, regional coordinator for WANEP in Ghana.

Civil society educates leaders to accept defeat

The real challenge is not the monitoring of the elections, but how to make leaders understand the importance of accepting defeat

A workshop at the Nordic Africa Institute deals with regional civil society organizations in Africa. What are the opportunities and constraints for organizations working across national borders?

"So far not much attention has been given to the role of civil society in regionalization. Can civil society actors be seen as key drivers for a regionalization from below? This is one of the things being discussed at the workshop", says NAI researcher Marianne Millstein.

An example of one such organization is the West African Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP) that monitors 15 countries in West Africa in order to detect early warning signs of possible threats to peace. On a daily basis, field officers report on events that can indicate future conflicts and violence. This is not always appreciated by the police or other state authorities. Their methods are often the ones that are being questioned by WANEP.

“That’s why everything we produce must be evidence-based and possible to verify. We don’t report rumors or let informants be anonymous”, states Alimou Diallo, regional coordinator for WANEP in Ghana.

After analyzing the field-data, it is sent to ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States), which decides if any measures should be taken.

“In Gambia 2011, our monitors detected several irregularities during the election campaign. ECOWAS decided not to send observers, which meant that they did not recognize the election as free and transparent. Unfortunately, however, the African Union sent their observers and thereby gave legitimacy to the elections”, says Alimou Diallo.

Elections in Ghana are normally a close race, and any manipulation can decide the outcome. Still, the real challenge is not the monitoring of the elections, but how to make leaders understand the importance of accepting defeat. Before the elections in 2012, WANEP put great effort into educating leaders about the rules of democracy. Still, contrary to an earlier agreement with WANEP, the opposition held a press conference on the election day and accused the ruling party of electoral rigging.

“This was most troublesome and could have led to outbursts of violence. Luckily, we soon managed to convince the parties to be part of a commission investigating the elections. In the end, after months of juridical procedures, the opposition accepted the ruling by the Supreme Court”, concludes Alimou Diallo.

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