By Selorm Gborbidzi
The Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC) played host, Monday 28 August, to the launch of the ECOWAS/KAIPTC pilot long-term election observer course.
Addressing participants and the press, Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Emmanuel Kotia, Deputy Commandant of the Centre, said, “The ECOWAS/KAIPTC long-term observation course stems from our mission to contribute to training, research and education in the West Africa region in support of the ECOWAS Commission, the African Union and the United Nations”.
He stressed the indispensability of “democratic elections” to “democracy”, especially as a tool for assessing national security, political stability and socio-economic development. He said that it was not enough to have elections conducted in a professional, non-partisan manner; they must also be certified to have been free, fair and credible by election observers, making election observation regimes an important element in promoting democracy.
He stated further that the capacity of ECOWAS had been challenged in the discharge of its full election observation duties, as it had not been engaging in long-term election observation, hence the need for this partnership to train Election Observers in long-term election observation.
The Deputy German Ambassador, H.E Hans-Helge Sander, in his speech said in light of the several conflicts which have arisen on the continent following fraudulent elections, election observation is a crucial tool in conflict prevention. He said that though ECOWAS had “good capacity for short-term election observation, it needs to build capacity in long-term election observation.”
“The role of long-term election observers,” he emphasized, “is very crucial in the election process as they gather, analyze and report election-related information and findings from their deployment stations. They also prepared the ground for the deployment of short-term observers”.
On his part, Mr. Francis Oke, who is the head of the ECOWAS Election Assistance Division, was full of praise for KAIPTC and the German government’s international cooperation agency, GIZ, for organizing the training course. He explained that, the training was for people who had had previous experience as election observers. The trainees come from diverse backgrounds.
This pilot program is the first step towards the deployment of long-term ECOWAS Observer Missions within the sub-region.