Dr. Afari- Gyan, chairman of Ghana Electoral Commission, has stated that the field of election administration in Africa is littered with challenges, from both within and without, and called on electoral commissions to continue the search for greater transparency, accountability, and verifiability in the conduct of elections.
This, according to him, will enable them to more easily ascertain the authenticity of the outputs of the electoral system in the face of any disputes. He however added that that in itself would not be enough for purposes of achieving free and fair elections, but “it must be complimented with democratic electoral behavior on the part of stakeholders.”
Dr. Afari-Gyan, who made the call when he delivered a keynote address at a just-ended Africa Media and Democracy Conference (AMDMC) in Accra, said, “practically everywhere in Africa, electoral commissions face challenges in trying to achieve credible elections”, but noted that some steps had been taken towards ensuring transparent and credible elections, which were yielding fruits.
“Increasingly, African election administrators are introducing built-in checks and safeguards, rigorous audit trails, tracking, particularly of sensitive election materials, and opportunities for stakeholder scrutiny of electoral activities as elements of system integrity”, he said.
He mentioned measures such as exhibition of the provisional voter register, which offers the electoral commission an opportunity to fine tune the register towards making it inclusive, up to date, and accurate in the personal data.
Key, among other factors the electoral commissioner said should be considered in the quest to conducting credible and transparent elections in Africa, included; good relationships between political parties and electoral commissions, sufficient funding and prompt release of fund, the use of relevant technology, sound legal framework, dispute resolution and enforcement of electoral laws, electoral education, which include making the people knowledgeable about the process, procedures and technicalities that enable them to participate in electoral events, giving information about impending electoral events and the rights and responsibilities of the voter, among others.
He reiterated the need for election officials to be firm and applying the electoral laws, rules and regulations in such a uniform manner that nobody received preferential treatment.
In his address, the director of AMDMC, Barima Adu-Asamoa, said the interface between the media and democratic process must be critically examined for the realization of sustainable good governance in a democratic dispensation in Africa. “All stakeholders involved in the democratization process have a responsibility to perform diligently and uphold democratic values for the good of the citizenry”, he stated, adding that whilst Africa had undergone traumatic experiences over the years on all indexes of human development, she was still expected to demonstrate her ability to uphold democratic values.
He outlined the foundation’s objectives as to; constructively promote and ensure positive influence on the role of the media in the practice of democratic governance in Africa, to facilitate a stronger relation between the academia, media practitioners and governance, and to foster the development of a culture of democracy and promote the rule of law. The organisation carries out its key activities through projects, which include; the AMDMC Conference, AMDMC Publication, AMDMC Chair Award and an AMDMC journal to be published later this year.
Prominent among other speakers at the three-day event which was attended by delegates from different African countries and other parts of the world included the Commissioner, Interim Independent Electoral Commission of Kenya, Madam Winnie Guchu, Mr. Bobby Livingstone, Director- Public Information of Liberia National Elections Commission, Professor Barfour Adjei-Barwuah, former ambassador to Japan, Professor Kwami Karikari, executive director of Media Foundation for West Africa, Professor Kwesi Yankah, Pro-Vice Chancelor of University of Ghana, Yang Jioa, University of Florida- USA, Dr. Gareth Stanton, Goldsmith University of London, and Prof. Dr. Dr. Daniel Buor, Vice Chancellor of Valleyview University and Kwami Ahiabenu, II African elections project.
The delegates who were made up of media practitioners, experts in governance and elections and people from the academia, came from various parts of Africa as well as other continents. The three-day conference also saw in attendance representatives of major political parties in country, the Ghana Bar Association, National Media Commission, and the Ghana Journalists Association. Among topical issues which were discussed during the plenary sessions included New Media& Democracy, Media, Elections & Democracy, Media, Society & Democracy, Media, Conflict & Democracy, and Media, Gender & Democracy.
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