Elections are a key component of democratic processes. The regular holding of credible and legitimate elections is a forerunner to the establishment of legitimate governments. The creation of a neutral and tolerant political atmosphere conducive to the conduct and management of elections, particularly in most African countries, has been challenging to achieve. Worldwide, particularly in developing countries, elections have come to be associated with the eruption of ethnic and other tensions and the increase in social antagonism as various social groups compete for ownership and control of state machinery.
In response to this challenge, ACCORD developed an ‘Elections and Conflict Management Programme’, which fell within a broader programme undertaken by ACCORD and its partners, called the Managing African Conflict Indefinite Quantity Contract (MAC IQC) Task Order 1. The programme was an attempt to strengthen and improve electoral processes as well as to advance valuable elements of the conflict prevention and mitigation of election-related conflicts in the SADC region.
South African National Elections 1994 and 1999
During South Africa’s first democratic elections of 1994, ACCORD trained well over 4000 domestic election monitors and several groupings of international observers. Two and a half thousand election monitors from 18 universities and technikons in South Africa were trained in a combination of skills to enable them to play the role of impartial monitors.
ACCORD was commissioned by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to train senior IEC monitors based at out-of-country voting stations in the USA and Canada, and contributed to the drafting of the Manual for Training Monitors, Manual for Training Observers, Handbook for Observers and Handbook for Monitors published by the IEC. In addition, ACCORD participated in mediation panels to manage relations among political parties contesting elections in the Province of Kwa-Zulu Natal.
Training of Domestic Monitors and Observers in Nigeria
To further strengthen democratic governance on the continent, ACCORD trained over 2000 domestic monitors following the political changes in Nigeria in 1999. ACCORD developed a Training-of-Trainers (TOTs) programme for election monitors and observers, funded by USAID through its Washington office. The training of election observers in Nigeria was the first of its kind to be carried out by an African organisation in a collaborative effort. This marked a significant attempt to develop South-South co-operation on the major issue of election monitoring, civil education and conflict resolution including reconciliation.
ACCORD identified three local NGOs based in Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja to help with the technical implementation of this programme. It was the first major attempt by a South African based organisation to work with three-conflict resolution oriented non-governmental organisations in Nigeria. Up to 60 per cent of those trained were women, about 3 per cent were labour leaders, party agents and the rest represented community-based organisations, local NGOs and church based organisations. Resource persons were drawn from local Universities in Nigeria. ACCORD also drafted and published the Manual for Nigeria: Domestic Monitors and Observers.