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On February 26, 2015, the West Africa Civil Society Institute launched its maiden policy dialogue series for 2015 with the aim of bringing together civil society actors, relevant government officials and agencies, development partners and the academia to discuss strategies to uphold and strengthen democratic values in the region especially ahead of the five (5) forthcoming elections in Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Togo, Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire. The West Africa Civil Society Policy Dialogue Series (WAC-PoDiS) platform also served as an opportunity for all stakeholders to deliberate on the strategies to ensure transparent, free, fair and violence-free elections in these countries, as well as reach general consensus on best practices for the promotion of democratic governance in West Africa.
Elections play an important role in the existence and functioning of states as it presents an opportunity for the critical mass of citizens to participate directly in governance by exercising their civic responsibility to vote for the political party and candidate(s) of their choice within the available constitutional and legal framework. Over the years, the continent, and indeed the West African region in particular, have faced a series of fragile situations most of which occurred as outcomes of ill-managed events prior, during and after election periods as witnessed in Côte d’Ivoire in 2010, Senegal and Ghana in 2012, Guinea 2013 and currently in Nigeria.
The role of civil society in determining the outcome of elections is evidently non-negotiable though they have the critical mass of the citizenery, especially the youth, to always confront as agents/perpetuators and victims of vote-rigging, voter bribery and intimidation, corruption and violence. While civil society continues to serve as the bridge between the people at the grassroots and governments, it has a crucial intermediary role to play in election administration, management and total governance. Besides, it has contributed significantly to playing even more technical roles such as election monitoring and observation at both local and international levels; awareness creation and the promotion of civic education, and free, fair and transparent elections. Some CSOs have absolute expertise in preventing and/or limiting the impact of electoral violence, preventing conflicts and deepening and strengthening democratic values in West Africa.
Participants deliberated on some important issues pertaining to elections in West Africa. Download to read more