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WANEP, Critical Stakeholders Validate Election Indicators in Sierra Leone

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On May 2 2017, the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP) brought together critical stakeholders and key partners to validate early warning indicators in preparation for the 2018 General Elections in Sierra Leone. The validation exercise, which took place at the Golden Tulip Hotel, Freetown was led by WANEP Sierra Leone under the auspices of the USAID funded project on Mitigating Election Violence in West Africa through National Early Warning Systems (NEWS).

In an opening statement at the meeting, Chair of the National Board of WANEP-Sierra Leone, Dr. Victor Massaquoi, reiterated the contributions of the Network to peace and security in the country stating that WANEP’s expertise in peacebuilding has been recognized across the region and beyond. He implored the Media to ensure objectivity in its reportage before, during and after the elections so as not to escalate the situation.

Also speaking, Mr. Ifeanyi Okechukwu, Regional Coordinator, Early Warning and Project Team Lead also stressed the key role the Media can play in the success of the project in Sierra Leone and encouraged the Media to always seek clarifications with the national office in order to ensure quality coverage of the project and the promotion of peace in the country. He said “this project is not just the provision of news, or a prophecy or about alarm and indictment of the State. Rather, it is about early detection of risks, analysing the risks and communicating to relevant authorities for response.”

Participants at the meeting comprising representatives of civil society organizations, international and donor organizations and the media reviewed the 43 indicators developed to reflect the specific context of the country.

The WANEP/USAID NEWS project is designed to mitigate election related violence in five countries of West Africa including; Burkina Faso, Cote d’ivoire, Niger, Ghana and Sierra Leone with the goal to enhance early warning and response systems to reduce the risk of election violence in West Africa. It creates a platform to access information on risk factors that threaten the conduct of elections, provide avenue for exchange of relevant information to key stakeholders to respond to election violence before, during and after the elections among others.

Prior to the validation meeting, WANEP commissioned a consultant to conduct a mapping of key stakeholders and hotspot areas specifically to identify potential hotspots for political/election violence in the run up to the 2018 General Elections. The assessment identified risks areas, the spoilers, intervenors and issues that could threaten the electoral process. Other interventions to be carried out under the project include the establishment of an election early warning and response group, training of conflict monitors and the set up of an Election Situation Room (ESR) among others.