2019: WANEP, AU launches Online Platform for Early Warning
The West Africa Network for Peace Building (WANEP), as part of measures to prevent violence and other threats to the 2019 General Elections, has launched the Online National Early Warning System (NEWS) Platform and the ArcGIS 360 mobile application.
This was done with the support of the African Union (AU) and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to help Nigeria mitigate election violence.
The WANEP Executive Director, Dr. Chukwuemeka Eze, disclosed this in Abuja at the weekend, during the launch and training of 80 Election Conflict Monitors.
Eze said that despite the widespread success of the 2015 General Elections, there were reports of over 60 violent incidences resulting in 58 deaths and wanton destruction of properties.
This, according to him, necessitated the series of activities by the organisation partnering with ECOWAS, AU and others to ensure the peaceful and credible conduct of the election, especially that it is being seen by political analysts as a test for the nation’s democracy and stability.
He said: “This two days training for community monitors who are going to begin to from now onwards to monitor the electoral violence indicators that we developed in October, to monitor the Nigerian elections.
“This training is our own efforts on complementing the effort of the states both at the Nigerian level and then the intergovernmental organizations, ECOWAS and AU on their efforts at institutionalizing electoral processes and deepening democracy in Africa in line with the AU and ECOWAS protocol on democracy and good governance.”
Eze explained that the monitoring process is in three folds, involving looking at are the structural issues that could lead to electoral violence, thus the need to working with the state institutions, especially those who are involved in electoral process, the security, INEC, the Office if the National Security Adviser (NSA), the legislatures, the judiciary and others involved in electoral processes.
He listed the second level as the proximate causes of the electoral violence and the key accelerators.
“Within the aspect of key accelerators, we have key indicators that we are going to use before, during and after the election. Because we have also realized that post elections, even managing winning and losing election have become a critical issue,” he added.
When asked if the identified flashpoints changed as the election draws nearer or remained, he said that it was unfortunately that in the current electoral circle in Nigeria almost all the states have their own peculiar issues.
“You know one of the things that we have come to realize that is election is simply a trigger that now ignites deep seated conflicts that exists even before the elections. So, to that extent, it may not be election related anticipation crisis, but because there are existing crisis in those place for example the entire north east because of the issue of Boko Haram. If you come down to the north central, the issue of herders conflict and also in the north-west, if you go down the East, it is the issue of IPOB and if you go down the south-south it the issues relating to the Niger Delta militant and all that.
“However, what we have done is to use just baseline on the basis of history of electoral violence on the country. The good thing about the system we are operating with, is that the flashpoints are not static, so from now onwards if these monitors, 80 of them selected from all the 36 states including FCT begin to monitor this electoral process, then whatever they input as data, because it also have an aspect of coping mechanism, our definition of risk is vulnerability and threats. Now, once they begin to make input, the system itself tells us where to focus our attention on and that becomes the hotspot even before the election,” Eze said.
On his part, the Programme Officer (GIS) and Mapping, Department of Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Early Warning Directorate of ECOWAS commission, Mr. Ismaila Gueye, said ECOWAS is very concerned about election happenings in ECOWAS to promote peace security in the region that was why WANEP is their partner and that they know how WANEP is involved in building peace in the region.
Asked to comment on thinking that ECOWAS might have failed if democracy and elections are still being conducted amidst threats, violence and other malpractices, he said that, this cannot be called a failure on the part of the commission.
According to him, democracy is a long process and that looking at the progress made in the region, everyone can be proud of what has been achieved compared to other regions in the continent.
“If you look at the last election in Ghana, Benin or any other country, you will see that there is a lot of progress,” he said.
He also said the participants at the training are expected to add value with ‘the eyes’ component of the applications as the use paper in the field is being done away with for computerization.
Also, the Information Systems Officer, Continental Early Warning System, Peace and Security Department, African Union Commission, Taye Abdulkadir, said the AU has a number of frameworks that have been designed through the years to provide good governance, election, democracy.
“The most common example is African charter on Governance, election and democracy. And it has been ratified by many of the member states, but in addition to that, the AU also dealing with operational conflict prevention as well as structural conflict prevention,” he said.
He added, “In the operational conflict prevention aspect, we have the continental warning system and mechanisms like that. And in the area of structural conflict prevention mechanism, we have issues such as supporting countries to handle elections properly and there are also other areas AU supports all. Therefore we believe the member state Is the one responsible for responding to issues, but as much as we can at the AU awe are trying to assist the member states to increase its capacity in responding to any kind of situation such as election.”
On her part, the Analyst for West Africa, Early Warning System, Peace and Security Department, African Union Commission, Mfrekeobong Ukpanah, said there are series of threats and there are series of signs and that was why they started the project in collaboration with ECOWAS and WANEP in October.
“We tried to map and identity concretely potential hotspots, either due to issue of election related violence in past elections or due to the current security dynamics in the country. And also, we have a checklist like a set of indicators which we developed with different Nigerian stakeholders cutting across four major thematic from issues of physical violence, physical assault to issues that have to do with ethics and compliance to the Electoral Act or Rule of Law which could threaten elections to issues of hate related speeches.
“So, there are series of things that we need to work towards and preventing electoral violence, I can specifically say this is it, but we’ve actually had a long checklist, 42 of them that we are monitoring on a regular basis and that is why we are providing this training for this monitors to be able to help us systematically and in a regular basis monitor those report and provide us with valid report that we need to analyze to provide our decision mechanism possible and strategic options for response,” she said.