Peace and security: two priorities for the Togo presidential elections
On 4 March, the Togolese will elect their new president in a climate of hope, with many hoping that the March elections will proceed peacefully, thereby firmly and permanently anchoring the country in a modern political era.
In December 2009, to consolidate progress made in 2007, the Togolese government, the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) and UNDP implemented a new electoral cycle support project known as PAPE (Project to support the electoral cycles in Togo).
UNDP was tasked with managing the project, to the tune of 8,755,232 euro ($11,861,000).
To guarantee the success of the elections, the EU provided almost 9 million euro ($12.2 million) for the project, plus additional allocation support of 3.5 million euro ($4.7 million) for security. Other partners have opted for bilateral contributions to top up funds remaining from the 2007 legislative election support funds.
Representing the main national political forces, CENI, the primary beneficiary of the project, is responsible for organizing and supervising the presidential elections.
A team of national and international experts dispatched by UNDP has helped CENI to set and implement the schedule for the electoral process.
As an initial step, the team has assisted CENI in updating the 2007 electoral census, enabling an 11% percent increase in voter rolls for a total of 3, 281,146 voters as ofat the end of February. The use of ‘biometric’ technology allowed for new voter cards to be issued immediately.
Approximately 36,250 technicians, census takers and trainers have been hired, trained and sent out to the 3,571 review centres, and new electoral rolls delivered to about 6,000 polling stations.
In addition, UNDP has provided CENI with electoral, public awareness and training materials and financed the deployment of national observers. The team also helped design the ballots, train electoral personnel and set up local electoral commissions located throughout the country.
The Broadcasting and Communication Authority (HAAC), the Ministry of Communication and the Constitutional Court have all benefited from training sessions.
Giving peace a chance
The country has decided to turn the page on the controversial presidential elections of 2005. According to a UN report, protests in that year left 500 dead and thousands wounded. Several thousand also took refuge in neighbouring countries.
With the legislative elections held in October 2007 deemed transparent and fair by observers and partners, Togo finally managed to break the vicious circle of violence and repression, and elect a democratic and pluralistic parliament even as UNDP began its support of the Togolese electoral cycle.
To avoid the use of violence and ensure that basic human rights are respected both during and after the elections, UNDP, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and their partners, organized a public awareness campaign entitled ‘Let us give peace a chance’.
Today the campaign is raising awareness via the media and a large-scale advertising campaign. A concert was held featuring music and artists in support of peace.
Meanwhile, 240 human rights observers are being deployed to Lomé and in towns and villages in light of the violence that occurred during past electoral cycles. CENI has accredited approximately 9,000 national observers, 3,300 of which 3,300 were accredited via 10 civil society organizations supported by UNDP through this project.
The crisis prevention initiatives will extend beyond the election period. They will include setting up a tool mechanism for observing the voting process and establishing a standby alert for anticipating and confronting the risk of electoral violence.
UNDP and OHCHR have also helped draft of a code of conduct formalizing the promise made by those involved to control their militants and to respect the outcome of the elections, and, if need be, to use the necessary legal processes to lodge any complaints.
Finally, a network of ‘peace champions’ comprised of major opinion leaders – religious leaders, academic and sports personalities, popular singers – will try to diffuse tension and keep the elections clear of violence.
It is hoped that this network will give rise to a national Peace Council that can influence politics for the better and solidify national capacity to mediate and manage conflict.