By Fatoumatta K Jallow
Civil Society Organization (CSO)-Coalition on elections, under the leadership of WANEP, with funding from UNDP, yesterday 21 November 2016 commenced two day training for CSO election observers ahead of the 1st December presidential election. The meeting held at the Gambia Pastoral Institute along Kairaba Avenue was meant to build the capacity of civil society actors be able to observe the forthcoming presidential election. With the theme “Civil Society Actors Contributing to National Development”
Mrs. Ade Mamonyane Lekoetje the UN resident coordinator express for the training of Domestic Election Observers organized by the CSO-Coalition for elections, under the leadership of WANEP, within the framework of the UNDP funded project on electoral support to the Gambia, 2016-2017.
She informed that the UNDP has adopted a partnership approach under this project to support the 2016-2018 electoral process. ‘‘We are supporting civic education, focusing especially on first time voters, effective participation of women; voter education and training of polling staff; training on effective media coverage and responsible journalism; and inclusive dialogue on electoral issues’’. She reveals.
She expressed their continuous support for the CSO-Coalition on elections, which she described as a key stakeholder of these elections. She added that they will support them for the monitoring and observation of these elections. She described the theme of this training, “Civil Society Actors Contributing to National Development” as very appropriate and insightful.
She added that Peaceful and credible elections are critical elements of democratic societies and for economic development to happen. She opined that development also goes hand in hand with respect for human rights, peace and security. She noted that every country needs civil society organisations because they ensure that citizens get involved in positive and constructive ways to benefit their communities, regions and countries.
She continued: ‘‘By training and sending electoral observers in the field, the CSO Coalition on Elections is performing its responsibility and contributing directly to increasing the transparency of the electoral process and therefore to the long-term development and prosperity of The Gambia and its people’’. She finally encourages them to continue to perform their noble civic duty throughout the 2016-2018 electoral cycles, ‘‘by signing the Pledge and Code of Conduct for Observers”, “I know you will be diligent in delivering your responsibilities.”
Ms. Anna Jones National Network Coordinator for WANEP- the Gambia in her keynote address on behalf of WANEP welcomed the participants to the 3rd cycle of training of Domestic observers organized by the CSO Coalition on Elections the Gambia. She said the Civil Society Coalition on Elections- The Gambia, spearheaded and coordinated by the West Africa Network for Peace building was established in 2006. Adding that the CSO Coalition has since then monitored and observed the electoral cycle of 2006-2008,2011- 2013 and would again embark on observation and monitoring for the 2016 – 2018 with funding from the United Nations Development Program.
She said the CSO Coalition notes with significance that its participation in the elections indicates a growing realization and involvement of Gambians in the democratization process of our country and provides Gambians the unique opportunity to directly participate in the observation of elections in a more organized and robust manner.
She added, ‘‘As part of the election monitoring and observation process for the 2016 – 2018 cycle, the Coalition has developed and validated 31election monitoring indicators to monitor, analyze and mitigate any possibility of electoral violence nationwide’’.
She informs that the Coalition has also trained 20 conflict monitors from all the regions of the Gambia and they have been deployed nationwide to monitor the electoral process based on the 31pre-validated indicators.
Now they are again gathered to train 120 domestic observers from member organizations including TANGO, Future in Our Hands, Child Protection Alliance, FAWEGAM, EFANET, Youth Ambassadors for Peace, African Center from Democracy and Human Rights Studies, amongst others. She anticipated that the observers will be well equipped to observe the opening, voting, closing and counting processes on Election Day.
In addition she reveals, the CSO Coalition on Elections would for the first time man an ‘Election Situation Room’ where real time analysis would be made on the elections. The Situation Room will provide timely and analyzed information to critical stakeholders including the Inter Party Committee, the IEC and security agencies for rapid response.