Although the use of inflammatory language seemed to have subsided after the public outcry, CHRAJ’s pre-election monitoring of the environment shows that tension is already mounting for the 2012 polls.
Mr Joseph Whittal, Deputy Commissioner, Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), on Tuesday said more work still needed to be done to ensure free and fair elections that would guarantee peace and success.
Mr Whittal was speaking at the 4th National Human Rights Lectures organized by CHRAJ in collaboration with the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), Africa Office in Accra.
The lecture, which was on the theme: “Ensuring Good Governance: Protecting the citizens’ right to Vote” is aimed at protecting the citizens’ right to vote and ensuring violence-free elections.
Mr Whittal said the issue of abuse of incumbency, political intolerance, use of inflammatory language, and the allegation of the discovery of a military training camp in a forest, if not well addressed could easily cause confusion and undermine the country’s democracy.
He, however, commended the political parties for their conduct with respect to CI78, which created the 45 new constituencies, though close to this year’s elections.
“There is no doubt that in some societies in West Africa such a contentious issue could degenerate into civil crisis” he added.
Dr Kwesi Aning, in-charge of Academic Affairs and Research at the Kofi Annan International Peace Keeping Centre (KAIPTC), who spoke on the topic: “Managing elections related violence and civil strife in West Africa”, attributed the causes of civil wars in the sub-region to political and economic factors and the extent of ethnic, religious and cultural diversities in society.
He said governance in the sub-region had not generated the much needed impact on the longstanding problems of human security, transparency and accountability, corruption, adherence to the rule of law, electoral credibility and economic mismanagement.
He said these issues had often led to violent protest from marginalized groups or disgruntled sections of the population.
Dr Aning also said the lack of independent, impartial, accountable and transparent state institution such as the election management bodies, security forces and the judiciary were some of the major causes of violence during elections.
He also mentioned the late arrival of election materials or officials, serious printing errors on ballot papers and the apparent deliberate undersupply of important voting material at opposition strongholds.
He said the manipulation of deep regional and ethnic cleavages, unresolved land disputes, ethnic and chieftaincy disputes by political parties during elections represent yet another problem confronting the conduct of peaceful elections in West Africa.
Dr Aning said for the sub-region to overcome election-related violence there was the need for changes in the electoral systems and the regulatory power to create permanent mechanisms to promote cooperation among political parties, relevant civil society organization and candidates for election.
He added that creating and maintaining trust among those participating in the electoral process and preventing electoral disputes was a great opportunity that could be exploited.