COMMUNIQUE RELEASED IN ACCRA BY THE AFRICA MEDIA AND DEMOCRACY INSTITUTE AT THE END OF THE AFRICA MEDIA AND DEMOCRACY CONFERENCE (AMDMC) 2010-ACCRA GHANA.
Dr. Afari- Gyan, chairman of Ghana Electoral Commission, has enumerated efforts being taken by electoral administrators in the continent to help deal with common challenges facing the electoral process in many countries. In a keynote address at a just ended Africa Media and Democracy Conference (AMDMC) held in Accra, the electoral commissioner said, "practically everywhere in Africa, electoral commissions face challenges in trying to achieve credible elections." He however noted that some steps had been taken, particularly in Ghana, towards ensuring transparent and credible elections, which were yielding fruits.
"Increasingly, African election administrators are introducing built-in checks and safeguards, rigorous audit trails, tracking, particularly of sensitive election materials, and opportunities for stakeholder scrutiny of electoral activities as elements of system integrity", Dr. Afari-Gyan said.
He mentioned measures such as exhibition of the provisional voter register, which, he said, "offers the electoral commission an opportunity to fine tune the register towards making it inclusive, up to date, and accurate in the personal data." This, according Dr. Afari- Gyan, makes way for public scrutiny of the register- to ensure that the right people are those whose data have been entered, and that no eligible voter is denied his or her right to register.
He pointed out that electoral commissions must continue the search for greater transparency, accountability, and verifiability in the conduct of elections; so that we are more easily able to ascertain the authenticity of the output of the electoral system, should disputes arise. The second aspect of transparency, he indicated, "has to do with the manner in which election commissioners and elections officers conduct their business. In this connection, transparency means openness across the board, without discrimination as to party, candidate, or other stakeholders."
Among other factors the electoral commissioner considered key in the quest to conducting credible and transparent elections in Africa, so as to pave way for consolidated democracies in Africa , are; good relationships between political parties and electoral commissions, sufficient funding and prompt release of fund, sound legal framework, dispute resolution and enforcement of electoral laws.
He reiterated the need for election officials to be firm and applying the electoral laws, rules and regulations in such a uniform manner that nobody received preferential treatment, adding that this in itself will not be enough for purposes of achieving free and fair elections. It must be complimented with democratic electoral behavior on the part of stakeholders.
In his address, the director of AMDMC, Barima Adu-Asamoa, said the interface between the media and democratic process must be critically examined for the realization of sustainable good governance in a democratic dispensation in Africa. "All stakeholders involved in the democratization process have a responsibility to perform diligently and uphold democratic values for the good of the citizenry", he stated, adding that whilst Africa had undergone traumatic experiences over the years on all indexes of human development, she was still expected to demonstrate her ability to uphold democratic values.
He outlined the foundation's objectives as to; constructively promote and ensure positive influence on the role of the media in the practice of democratic governance in Africa, to facilitate a stronger relation between the academia, media practitioners and governance, and to foster the development of a culture of democracy and promote the rule of law. The organisation carries out its key activities through projects, which include; the AMDMC Conference, AMDMC Publication, AMDMC Chair Award and an AMDMC (The Africa Media & Democracy Journal) to be published later this year.
Prominent among other speakers at the three-day event which was attended by delegates from different African countries and other parts of the world included the Commissioner, Interim Independent Electoral Commission of Kenya, Madam Winnie Guchu, Mr. Bobby Livingstone, Director- Public Information of Liberia National Elections Commission, the Professor Barfour Adjei-Barwuah, former ambassador to Japan, Yang Jioa, University of Florida- USA, Dr. Gareth Stanton, Goldsmith University of London, and Prof. Dr. Dr. Daniel Buor, Vice Chancellor of Valleyview University.