By Omar Bah
Regional stakeholders under the guidance of the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC) yesterday completed a two-day peace talks in Banjul on the domestication of atrocity prevention norms at the state level.
The stakeholders from Nigeria, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia and The Gambia discussed the strategic objective of enhancing African capacity to develop relevant structures for promoting peace and security.
The meeting provided the stakeholders with a platform to engage on critical policy issues impacting atrocity prevention efforts in West Africa, deliberate on national experiences on best practices in atrocity prevention as well as discuss appropriate structures and mechanisms for preventing and responding to atrocity crimes in West Africa.
The meeting also offered an opportunity for policy recommendations on accelerating efforts to build capacities in atrocity prevention.
The director of the faculty of academic affairs and research at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre, KAIPTC, Professor Emmanuel Kwesi Anning said the meeting offered stakeholders the opportunity to discuss important issues relating to post-election violence.
“You know across this continent and particularly the sub-region we have seen democratic reversals in which constitutions have been changed, voter registration processes not particularly transparent, registration of underage people and the manipulation of the media to give the incumbent leeway,” he said.
He said the meeting offered his institution the unique opportunity to discuss with IEC and the police about relevant security issues with regard to the December election.
“Certainly, the electoral commission is a crucial player and also the police service in providing security and the sanctity of the fairness of the process so that every Gambian will be able to go to the polling station, feel secure, and go home,” he said.
However, Professor Kwesi said though the IEC has demonstrated that they “can get the job done from the 2016 election, it is a commission that also needs support, guidance, and some lesson learned. Certainly, we will be focusing on these very crucial institutions”.
He said the Gambia Press Union should also monitor and ensure the media reports impartially to help in stabilising the tension and misunderstanding that can arise.
“In October or September, we will return to the country to provide training for some targeted institutions. It is in our collective interest as Africans that whatever procedures and mechanisms that are put in place prior to December reflects the will of the Gambian people because the success of your election in December is a crucial indicator that The Gambia can still be a leader in Democratic processes,” he said.
The head of peace support operations program at KAIPTC, Frank Okyere, said: “We are hoping that this will open up space for us to further our engagements with the Gambia government in terms of promoting national mechanisms for atrocity prevention.
“We will continue to engage the leadership of the Gambia government in the subsequent months and years so that we can find appropriate interventions that we think will bring the dream of “Never Again” in terms of the prevention of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity,” he said.
He said lack of accountability in the sub-region is seriously affecting the prevention of genocide and crimes against humanity.
“Too often perpetrators of atrocity crimes getaway with it without any sort of accountability and that is bringing the culture of impunity,” he said.
He said building the capacity of indigenous actors such as traditional and religious authorities will be crucial.