Winneba, (Ghana): The Inspector General of Police (IGP) in Ghana, George Dampare, has flayed West African governments’ heavy dependence on security forces as a condition for peace during elections saying it suggests democracy is not entrenched in the region.
Dampare stated this on Friday during the panel of discussion on “Security Forces and Inclusive, Peaceful Democratic Elections in the ECOWAS Region Consolidation” at the ongoing ECOWAS Parliament High-level Seminar in Winneba, Ghana.
He urged political office contestants in West Africa to accept results at the end of elections to prevent violence that leads to political instability.
The Police Chief warned politicians against holding on to power against all odds, noting that the phenomenon is the major reason for post-election violence which has led to political instability in some countries of the sub-region.
He said: “I will urge politicians in the ECOWAS Sub-region, and you Parliamentarians to always accept results to avoid any form of crisis or violence.
“Holding on to power as if it is do or die, has created a big challenge. Losing elections is not the end of the world.
“It is better to let go of power that will destroy your country because there will always be another opportunity.”
Dampare insisted that all actors involved in the election process have a role to play in ensuring the peaceful and credible conducts of elections, advising them to live up to their responsibilities.
He said: “Electoral Commissions of Member States must conduct credible elections to avoid contestants doubting outcomes and results.”
He added that once all actors carry out their responsibilities and effectively, the provisions for security during elections will not be so necessary.
“All the actors have a role to play for a peaceful election, and they are all aware of their responsibilities.
“If Political parties, candidates, the electoral commissioner and his officers carry it to the later, then we will get to the point that provision for security during elections becomes irrelevant.
“That will be the point where we will say we have matured as democratic countries and a democratic sub-region.
“But if we keep depending on the security agencies to give you hope for the purpose of ensuring a successful election, then our democracy is still at its infancy.
“We need to get to the point where elections will be held without thinking of security and we will get there,” he said.
The Ghana’s Police Chief also warned against the misuse of social media during elections which he said has become a major trigger to the post-election crisis.
He charged Electoral Commissions to announce results within the shortest time possible to avoid inconsistencies in fake results announcements on social media.
Dampare said that announcements of results on social media make citizens doubt the integrity of the electoral process when it does not favor them.
“There has always been a challenge especially when it comes to the period of counting, and therefore after the period of counting.
“Then the collation of results at the various constitutional levels and thereafter, the escalation of those constituencies’ results in the national results being aggregated and announced.
“With social media, people start dishing out results that compromise the integrity of the whole election process in the form of fake news if I may use that word.
“That period becomes so critical, and therefore, if there is no clear timeline for the official announcement of results, then the space is given for anybody to fill in anything, then apprehension.
“Then tension develops to a level that affects the very survival of the country in terms of what is going to happen next.
“So in that context, we also do our best to provide security at that political party’s office, commission and any other place we consider to be vulnerable at that time.
“And ensure that the Electoral Commission does the needful as soon as possible,” Dampare said.
Dampare noted the police continue on policing the state, a month, two months or more, until it is satisfied with the situation, depending on the dynamics of the election.
On his part, the Inspector General of Police in Sierra Leone, Ambrose Sovula, suggested that ECOWAS should find a way to regulate the misuse of social media platforms, especially as it relates to the announcement of election results.
Soluva said that social media was designed to bring development but unfortunately, it is being used by some others to destroy.
“This social media thing is being misused; it is being created for us to be developed but today we are using it to destroy the gains we have made.
“We should look at the ECOWAS level to see how this can be addressed. Social media is used as a platform for incitements, ill-motivated individuals for political gains.
“Election will be on and social media has announced the result and both parties will be celebrating, and when one result differs from the other, in the end they will dispute the results,” Soluva said.
He urged political office holders to serve their electorates very well to avoid using fraudulent means to hold on to power at all cost.
Sovula said politicians who serve their electorates will always have an express win at the polls without fear.
He also called on the ECOWAS Parliament to make provisions for policing at intra-party politics level, adding that the process of picking candidates at party level comes with some level of crisis.
The IGP also recommended that political rallies should be held as town hall meetings and not on the street with marmot crowds which makes policing more difficult.
“You should serve your electorate well so that when it comes time for elections it should not be a do or die issue.
“When you have served your electorate, you do not have to take it by force and at all means.
“Intra-party politics, this can be addressed by this parliament because those in this parliament are responsible to pick their Presidential candidates.
“They will be able to talk to themselves on how such processes will not amount to violence.
“Political party rallies, especially major political parties that attract large crowds, is a challenge, I will recommend town hall meetings rather than taking to the street,” Soluva said.
The ECOWAS Parliament’s High-level meeting is with the theme “Two Decades of Democratic Elections in ECOWAS Member States: Achievements, Challenges and the Way Forward.
The Seminar seeks to make recommendations for new frameworks and mechanisms to improve existing legal, institutional and material frameworks for conducting elections in Member States.