Story By Saidu Bah
Stakeholders from Mano River Union (MRU) countries comprising Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire yesterday commenced a two-day dialogue forum on elections, youth violence and conflict prevention at the Bintumani Hotel in Freetown.
The stakeholder’s dialogue is supported by UNESCO through its office in Ghana, Trust Africa in Liberia, Campaign for Good Governance, Action Aid and the Centre for the Coordination of Youth Activities in Sierra Leone.
The objective of the dialogue is to address the underlying structural issues that trigger conflicts within the Mano River Union Basin that still remain visible and if not properly managed may in the near to long term, trigger another waves of conflicts beset by political violence, armed conflicts and social instabilities.
The need for a stakeholders’ dialogue forum, according to the organizers, is to formulate a sustained campaign of civic engagements and participation among vulnerable groups including youths and political actors.
“Elections are fast becoming the causes of new civil wars,” observed a Sierra Leonean lecturer now based in the USA, Jimmy Kandeh.
Setting the stage for the dialogue discussion, Dr. Jimmy Kandeh explained about the patterns of electoral violence in Africa instigated by politicians and youths and at the same time becoming the perpetrators and victims of political violence.
He said the dialogue forum is to provide a platform for key stakeholders involved in election and electioneering processes in Sierra Leone to reflect on the consequences of election related conflict on peace building.
Dr. Kandeh also stated that stakeholders involved in the process “should commit themselves to promoting tolerance, peaceful co-existence and non-violence in Sierra Leone throughout the electoral period”.
Several statements on the causes of political violence and conflict prevention measures were made by representatives of Campaign for Good Governance, NEC, OSIWA, Action Aid, UNESCO, UNDP and UNIPSIL each pledging support and commitment towards a peaceful Mano River Basin.
Delivering the keynote address, the Inspector General of Police, Francis Munu said there is a mixture of growing optimism and pessimism ahead of the November 17 elections in Sierra Leone, noting that at the centre of all of these uncertainties is the police.
He said free, fair and peaceful election paves the way for economic development and expressed hope that the stakeholders’ dialogue will come up with recommendations for conflict prevention within the Mano River Union. He gave assurance of the police ability and capability to prevent election violence in the country.
The conference is expected to end today after several presentations and plenary sessions and the signing of a communiqué by representatives of participating organizations. The communiqué is expected to commit stakeholders to the principles of peaceful non-violent elections within the Mano River Union.
Story taken from the Awoko Website. Click here for original.