By Ekemini Simon
Ahead of the forthcoming general election, Stakeholders across various sectors of Akwa Ibom State have been trained by the United States Agency for International Development ( USAID)- State Accountability, Transparency and Effectiveness, (State2State) Activity on how to prevent and mitigate conflicts.
The training organised by USAID State2State which held in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State Capital on November 30 through December 1, 2022 during a 2 Day quarterly dialogue on conflict prevention and mitigation in Akwa Ibom State witnessed officials from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), youth leaders, persons with disability, religious leaders, government officials, Civil Society Organisations, the media among other stakeholders put heads together to fashion out possible cause of election conflicts in Akwa Ibom State and how to prevent or mitigate it.
In his welcome remarks, the State Team Lead (STL) of the Activity, Mr. Borve Paago-Imabel noted that State2State while working to increase responsiveness to citizen priorities also has the mandate to improve stakeholders capacity to manage societal conflict through prevention, mitigation and reconciliation.
He explained that the dialogue is designed to facilitate inclusive and responsive multi-stakeholder analysis of identified hot spots of electoral violence in Akwa Ibom state, and identify likely impact of electoral violence on political and socio-economic peace and stability.
Borve Paago-Imabel said that it is State2State plan to partner with the stakeholders to design an electoral violence prevention strategy including action plan to prevent and mitigate the impact of electoral violence in the state and follow up action plans.
In his speech, the Head of Operations, Independent National Electoral Commission INEC, Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Vincent commended State2State for the dialogue noting that outcome of the dialogue will enhance their work.
He added “Election violence is peculiar to democracy even in advanced societies. However, the more we practice democracy, the better we are. What causes electoral violence is that our politicians have not found their root of convergence which is public interest.
” We are glad that there is a new sheriff in town, Biometric Voter Accreditation System ( BVAS). It makes the polling unit the centre of the universe. Power has returned to the street and politicians have been handicapped.”
Earlier in a keynote address, the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Ini Ememobong commended State2State Activity in Akwa Ibom State for putting the event together.
Represented by a Director in the Ministry, Mrs. Grace Akpan, the Commissioner said since the focus of the dialogue is on mitigation and prevention, it is very commendable, because it seeks to nip conflict in the bud before it crystallizes.
Ememobong posited that elections must be taken very seriously, since every other development within a democracy is rooted in elections.
He added “When democracy shakes, no sectoral foundation can be stable- which is why political scientists postulate that the worst democracy is better than the best dictatorship.
“The ballot is the source of authority of our elected officials and therefore must be undertaken without fear and coercion. Pre and post election conflict must be consciously prevented by everyone concerned with the entire process. The players must adopt FairPlay as a principle while the umpire must make transparency their foundation, navies conflict in election sprouts when there is a suspicion of unfair play-field or attempts at rigging.”
Ememobong advocated for the use of emotional intelligence, the principle of the 4-way test, in addition to creating an Early Warning System (EWS) during electioneering.
He added “This EWS can either be an independent agency or a unit in INEC, which monitors the political space and identifies triggers of conflict and issues public warnings to and sanctions against the culprits. This will serve as a deescalation technique that prevents full blown conflict. This agency or unit must be manned by people of impeccable character who are knowledgeable in conflict dynamics.”
The event also had a presentation from the Director of Centre for Alternative Dispute Resolution, Very Fr. John O. Ebebe on “Contextual Understanding of the Conflict Environment. (Inclusive Multi-Stakeholder Identification and Mapping of Electoral Violence Hot Spots)”.