Accra, July 29, GNA – The National Election Early Warning and Response Group (NEEWARG), instituted to discuss, develop, and recommend strategies to mitigate threats to the peaceful conduct of the 2016 election, has officially been launched in Accra.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), in partnership with the National Peace Council, the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) officially launched the group to undertake its mission.
The launch brought together representatives from the National Peace Council as well as eminent persons from relevant state and non-state institutions to complement government efforts in the prevention and mitigation of election-related violence.
Mrs Levina Addae-Mensah, the Programme Director of NEEWARG, said: “The Group will ensure that the response strategies are in tandem with electoral laws, sensitive to human security, and adhere to ethics and best practices”.
She said through WANEP’S extensive network of civil society organisations and community monitors across the country, the group would be better placed to identify potential risks of election violence.
“If monitoring in a given area reveals a heightened risk of violence at any point in the election cycle, WANEP will develop recommendations on how it can be prevented and will channel these recommendations to members of NEEWARG for immediate deliberation and action,” she said.
Mrs Addae-Mensah said the NEEWARG was also expected to be a source of information on the impact and progress of the National Early Warning System in Ghana.
She said the NEEWARG structure would be replicated in the Ashanti and Northern regions.
She said the Ashanti Region would be hosted by the Ashanti Regional Peace Council, which would represent the interest of the Southern Regional Peace Councils, and the Northern Region would be hosted by the Northern Regional Peace Council to represent the interest of the Northern Regional Peace Councils.
Mr Prosper Bani, the Minister of the Interior, said violent democratic transmissions had been as a result of poor culture of electoral dispute management, weak democratic structures and institutions to deal with sectarian politics fuelled by ethnic and religious sentiment among other things.
He said in a democracy such as Ghana’s where the risk of violent conflict and instability ranked high, it was imperative to establish mechanisms to anticipate and address triggers of electoral violence and ensure that it run throughout the electoral cycle.
“However with the level of support and preparations we are putting in place the election will not only be peaceful but will meet international standards,’’he said.
Mr Bani urged all Ghanaians to contribute to the sustainability of a peaceful election.
Dr Emmanuel Akwetey, the Chief Executive Officer of the Institute of Democratic Governance, in a presentation on: “Dynamics of the 2012 Elections: Lessons Learnt and its Implications for the 2016 Elections,’’ said early warning systems had so far been effective in contributing to averting post-election violence but more needed to be done to prevent such violence.
Mr Robert P. Jackson, the U S Ambassador to Ghana, and Mr Dominic Sam, the UNDP Country Director, expressed commitment to support the Groups’ efforts to strengthen early response to threats around the elections and reduce the potential for conflict.
Mr Jackson said: “Ghana has strong democratic credentials; however, we must not be complacent, but remain vigilant of the risks of instability in the upcoming elections’’.
Most Reverend Professor Emmanuel Kwaku Asante, the Chairman of the National Peace Council, commended the USAID, WANEP and the UNDP for their enormous efforts in maintaining Ghana’s stability.
Mr Amadu Sulley, the Deputy Chair of Operations, Electoral Commission, gave the assurance that the EC would conduct a free and fair election.