Elections constitute the free and sovereign expression of countries; the will of their people. However, in recent years, elections in West Africa have become a source of conflict. Electoral processes have been seriously flawed, and geared only towards keeping leaders at the end of their mandates in power at all costs. The struggle for power has sometimes degenerated into violent conflict before, during and after election periods.
But Burkina Faso has long been considered as an example of stability. Ougadougou, its capital, has been the site of many previous peace meetings for neighbouring states, and its former president, Blaise Compaoré, has been internationally renowned for peacemaking. However, during the last three years ago, Burkina has fallen into the ranks of countries in crisis. The most recent of these crises led to a popular uprising in October 2014, which forced Compaoré to resign.
Elections in the country have never led to conflict or war. But the presidential elections scheduled for 2015 are a potentially dangerous road, which must be taken with care. Both political actors and civil society will need to prepare carefully for them.
The West African Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP), the organisation for which I work, is dedicated to preventing violence. In order to help guarantee a peaceful environment during the election period in 2015, it has developed a range of indicators which can be used to measure violence. In December, we organised a workshop in order to examine, amend and validate these indicators. Bringing together electoral and human security exports, representatives of political parties, journalists and civil society peacebuilders, we created an exchange platform to discuss the risks of violence for the 2015 elections, as well as propose an initial methodology for how to monitor the indicators.
During the workshop, the Secretary General of the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) presented its thanks to WANEP, as its partner in the search for peace in Burkina. He appealed to all parties to work hard to achieve this common goal: a peaceful election in 2015. There were also reminders that elections are very sensitive periods, for both candidates and voters. Both are capable of using insulting behaviour, and provoking hatred and violence. In order to respond to this potential, there must be an effective system to monitor and respond to such actions.
In order to better understand, deepen and make use of WANEP-Burkina’s proposed indicators, the workshop participants split into three main groups to discuss, reformulate and classify the indicators. They also worked on designing how best to coordinate their efforts.
Following the plenary session, the finalised list of 21 indicators were presented, in four different categories:
- Physical violence and the destruction of goods
- Verbal and emotional abuse
- Irregularities and bad conduct from political parties
- Behaviour and actions not conforming to the rules and republican principles of public actors
A lack of funds and human resources will be key challenges to face, but we are conficent of being able to implement this project. We intend to bring about peaceful change in Burkina Faso.