A two-day consultative forum on the upcoming 2012 elections, organized by the West African Network for Peace in Sierra Leone (WAMEP-SL) in collaboration with IBIS at Santano House in Freetown ends over the weekend.
Speaking on behalf of NEC Commissioner, Raymond George said with all the measures now being put in place by the Commission to ensure free, fair, credible and transparent elections in 2012, the Commission is certain that opportunities for electoral malpractices are now very limited for any party or individual to win by rigging.
He said the Commission wants Sierra Leoneans to own their elections and therefore supports all efforts to inform the public about their rights and responsibilities as electorates.
He said with the development of a five-year strategic plan (2009-2014) for the Commission, certain issues need to be addressed to ensure a peaceful election process.
These include legal reforms of the electoral laws, areas of possible conflict like the resignation of the Vice President to stand for elections as well as resignation of candidates a year before elections.
He said they are also setting up electoral courts to look into electoral complaints, look into voter registration problems and the introduction of the biometric voting system to minimize registration irregularities, capacity building of staff and infrastructural development, partnering with stakeholders and electoral education.
He talked on challenges they are face with, including the conduct of a multiple election in one day, 30% quota for women in Parliament, citizens’ participation, voting system, violence perpetuated by politicians and replacement of lost ID Cards.
The WANEP-SL National Network Coordinator, Edward Jombla, outlined the objectives of the forum which, he stressed, is for stakeholders to discuss issues relating to the conduct of a peaceful 2012 elections.
The WANEP-SL Board Chairman, Abdul Swaray, spoke of the threat to peace as a result of the exclusion of women from public affairs, and stressed that peace can only be assured when women are included in the political process.
A board member, Christiana Dickson, spoke of the failure of men to realize that women are incubators for national development.
The Board Chairman however noted that a lot of progress has been made towards women’s participation in governance.
WANEP Regional Director, Allieu Diallo, gave a background of the organization and its interventions in other West African states, adding that they work to support stakeholders in their effort to conduct credible elections through early warning, capacity building of staff and dispute resolution mechanisms.
Mr. Diallo stated that the media plays a pivotal role in ensuring electoral processes are done in the interest of peace, security and national development.
He stressed that their work is meant to compliment the efforts of NEC and security agencies that have the mandate to conduct elections.
The Ibis Country Director’s representative, Nuru Deen, said they are focused on the promotion of human rights and democratization through education and equal access to political power.
He said they are now working on citizens’ rights and responsibilities in governance, because they believe democracy goes beyond winning elections.
“Democracy is a process that produces positive aspects in peoples’ lives,” he said, pointing out that there is need for youth empowerment to enhance national development.
By Solomon Rogers