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The Northern Nigerian Governors symposium in USA

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The Northern Nigerian Governors symposium in USA

Northern Nigerian GovernorsThe Northern Nigerian Governors symposium in USA, upon the invitation of the United States Institute for Peace (USIP), met for three days in Washington DC.
 
The symposium was attended by the governors of Adamawa, Borno, Bauchi, Sokoto, Niger, Taraba, Kwara, Zamfara, Plateau, and Deputy Governor of Kano.
The governors were led by the Chairman of the Northern Nigerian Forum, Governor Shettima of Borno State, and they met with Senior US government officials, including US Secretary of State, John Kerry and Head of USAID, Condoleezza Rice.
 

The meeting was declared open by Deputy Secretary Anthony Blinkey, who emphasized the
importance of local leadership and local solutions to national challenges. He charged the governors to work closely with President Buhari. According to him, Nigeria is not just important to West Africa but the world, and he promised that the Government of the United States would continue to partner with and support Nigeria. He called on the governors to partner with necessary stakeholders, in particular the civil society, and to harness Nigeria’s youth bulge positively. According to him ‘Nigeria can grow only when the states grow’.

 
In a very fruitful meeting, the governors had the opportunity to place a wish list before Secretary Kerry. At the top of the list was education, in particular education for the girl child, as well as agriculture, healthcare and electricity. They also had the opportunity to meet National Security Adviser to President Obama;Head of USAID, Condoleezza Rice; and businesses in the US. My only hope is that the governors commence immediate follow up on all the promises.
 
Aside from the special meeting, the members of the Senior Working Group – a group of twelve set up by the USIP comprising Nigerian elder statesmen and women – had the opportunity to interact with the governors. During the meeting, the governors demonstrated significant levels of commitment to the development of their states,Northern Nigeria and Nigeria as well. I only hope this is matched with political will.the-northern-nigerian-governors-symposium-in-usa-viviangist-com-1
The governors identified poverty as the main unifier in the North. Therefore they all agreed that there is an urgent need to lift the North out of endemic poverty, which is also the driving force behind the incessant conflicts in the region. While violent conflict is prevalent in the majority of the states, conflict dynamics vary from state to state. They linked the conflicts to perceived marginalisation, alarming inequality, unemployment and low literacy rates.
Improving access and quality of education dominated the discussion throughout the three-day meeting. One of the identified challenges was the over 10.5 million children out of school, a number the governors believed to have increased by at least another million with the BokoHaram insurgency in the North East. According to the governors, if nothing is done immediately to improve enrollment and retention in schools, the prospects for the region over the next ten years will be bleak.
The governors agree that all the states are working assiduously to ensure the girl child is at the top of their agendas.According to them “unless girl child education is prioritised, the human development indices of the North will continue to decrease”. They believe that education of the girl child will reduce child marriages andvesicovaginal fistula and lead to increased development outcomes politically and economically. One of the ways they identified to immediately improve educational outcome is cooperation: let states jointly establish and manage institutions.
What I found most fascinating about the discussion was the fact that the governors recognisedthat their citizens have little or no trust in them. They acknowledge that this is a result of the bad governance previously experienced in several states. To redress ththe-northern-nigerian-governors-symposium-in-usa-viviangist-com-2is, some states are working very hard on building trust and accountability. Some of the measures they mentioned are radio townhall meetings, budget monitoring and implementation, passage of the Public Procurement Act, establishment of theBureau for Peace and Reconciliation, and establishment of aZakat (alms-giving) Board to collect and redistribute money amongst the poor..
The governors identified the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) as a window of opportunity that they are keying into to bolster development.
The early part of the third day was dedicated to an open webinar on Northern Nigeria beyond BokoHaram; during this session, the public had the opportunity to ask the governor questions online. Two questions struck me the most: one on state police was answered with a general consensus that state police have become necessary considering the security demands in the country. Another question aboutwomen in politics was answered by several of the governors identifying culture as a challenge. However, they also explained that they are surmounting the challenges by reserving appointive positions for women in their cabinets.
In a meeting with civic business leaders, the governors had the opportunity to learn about initiatives which they can tap into immediately. One such opportunity is the U.S African Development Foundation (USADF), a five year MOU collaborative platform to economic development scheme for vulnerable communities, the scheme requires a $500,000 matching grant from the state. The governors were also advised to coordinate better with local and international partners. .The Northern Nigerian Governors symposium in USA
The issue of improving the business climate for domestic and foreign investors also came up for discussion during the three-day forum. It was agreed that buying into the Federal Government Ease of Doing Business Agenda would engender much needed economic opportunities for citizens.
The meeting didn’t end without focus on the North East. The ongoing humanitarian situation in the region is dire, with 1,000 children dying on a weekly basis.If not urgently addressed, over 10,000 children may die by December. TheGovernor of Bornodisplayed much dexterity and mastery of the matter at hand. According to him, over1,450,000 IDPs are living in host communities in Maiduguri alone. He called for immediate attention to be given to IDPs in host communities to avert a humanitarian crisis.
A key take away from the meeting is the leadership question.Until good leadership is in place in the region,theNorth cannot develop and, without the states, Nigeria cannot develop.
On a lighter note, I was really impressed by the governors and theirdemeanour throughout the meeting.On arrival at Washinghton DC, I saw governor Tambuwal wheeling his own suitcases. At the opening itself, the Chairman of the Governors Forum, Shettima, made it clear that it was a difficult decision to attend the meeting as Nigeria is in recession and citizens may not understand the need for governors to participate.
All the governors attended the meetings throughout: participating every day from 8am often until as late as around 7pm. In a complete departure from previous years, the governors either attended alone or with just one aide. I also had the opportunity to arrive or depart from the venue with some of the governors, and nobody travelled in a limousine but instead used the everyday taxis of Washington DC.
I can only hope the commitment displayed by the governors to lift Northern Nigeria out of poverty and ensure the region’s development are matched with equal action in their states.
Idayat Hassan is the Director of the Centre for Democracy and Development.
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Boko Haram's Pledge to Islamic State, and Implications for West Africa

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Boko Haram’s Pledge to Islamic State, and Implications for West Africa
Centre for Democracy and Development

Facing a loss of nearly all territory under its control, and an overall declining attack radius, Boko Haram (also known as Wilayat Gharb Afriqiyah, or Islamic State in West Africa), has diminished in stature since its March 2015 pledge to Islamic State (IS) by leader Abubakar Shekau. In this sense, it appears the group has gained little from its association with the leading international jihadist organisation, and is in fact currently embroiled in a leadership crisis brought on by Islamic State attempts to remove Shekau from his position.

Despite the recent volatility and lack of overt displays of coordination or support outside the realm of media productions, Boko Haram has benefited from its relationship with Islamic State in a number of other areas. In particular, increased linkages with Islamic State actors in Libya, combined with Boko Haram’s growing reputation as a regional center for jihad, are alarming byproducts of the pledge. Thus, far from being irrelevant, Boko Haram’s decision to align with Islamic State has resulted in the spread of extremist ideology and terrorist tactics, with potentially damaging long-term ramifications for the West Africa region.

Before and After the Pledge

Islamic State’s influence figured prominently in the lead up to the March 2015 announcement. This included Boko Haram undertaking territorial conquests for the first time in its history, mirroring Islamic State’s advances in Iraq and Syria months prior, in addition to undergoing significant changes in the quality, content, and dissemination of its messaging. While these changes helped facilitate allegiance to Islamic State, both aspects have suffered greatly in its aftermath. Sustained military pressure under Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, combined with improved regional coordination, has helped to scatter the movement, removing nearly all areas from under its control. Messaging has fared a bit better, with the emergence of a dedicated media outlet in the Media Office of the West Africa Province.

Nonetheless, while quality has remained high, production has been inconsistent, with just two official video releases in 2016. While Islamic State had a demonstrable impact on the conduct of Boko Haram activities prior to its official relationship, these areas of convergence have largely dissipated since. In addition, claims by the U.S. Military that Shekau has ignored an Islamic State directive to curtail the use of child suicide bombers further cast doubt as to the status of official relations between Boko Haram and Islamic State in Syria/Iraq. Rather, the post-pledge results of Boko Haram’s relationship have taken a different form driven by geographic proximity, centering on an emerging relationship with Islamic State actors in Libya, and an increase in individuals throughout West Africa attempting to join the movement.

West Africa Nationals Joining Boko Haram

Following the pledge, little concrete evidence emerged of militants or commanders from Islamic State migrating to the West Africa Province, despite persistent rumours. For example, a May 2016 report from the International Crisis Group noted sources claiming the presence of ‘Maghreb Arabs’ in Boko Haram’s ranks, while a VICE News interview with a former Boko Haram captive described a visit by more than 20 foreign militants who only spoke English and Arabic. An official with the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) in May 2016 confirmed that there was information regarding such fighters, but no clear evidence. Thus while the potential exists for some Islamic State militants to have travelled to the Lake Chad Basin region, given the lack of evidence, it does not appear they have arrived in large numbers.

While this influx of foreign fighters may not have materialised, Boko Haram is benefitting in another way, by attracting individuals from throughout the West Africa region. In November 2015, the arrest of Senegalese militant Makhtar Diokhané at the Nigerien border with Nigeria unearthed a previously unknown pipeline of Senegalese militants to Boko Haram. Diokhané, who had fought with Boko Haram, left to set up a cell in Senegal, over 4,000 kilometers away from the group’s epicentre. To aid him in this purpose, he asked four other Senegalese who had been fighting in Sambisa Forest to return home; the detention of these four during a routine border inspection for carrying counterfeit money led Diokhané back to the region, and ultimately resulted in his detention as well.

The Diokhané case led to further arrests in Senegal, including Diokhané’s wife and sister-in-law, the next of-kin of a deceased Senegalese militant who had received financial support from Boko Haram, and imams accused of supporting terrorism. Alioune Badara Ndao, an imam from Kaolack, reportedly had already been under surveillance; after his arrest it was revealed he maintained communications with Boko Haram members via satellite phone, and had been visited by Diokhané on multiple occasions.

The Diokhané case was worrying for a few different reasons. Previously there had not been any reports of Senegalese fighting on behalf of Boko Haram, but the arrests demonstrated that although limited overall, this phenomenon was not restricted to a lone individual or two. In addition, while the original intent of these Senegalese may have been to support Boko Haram in its battle in the Lake Chad Basin region, this clearly evolved to bringing the fight back home, by exporting ideology and terrorist tactics. The case provided further evidence that Senegal is beginning to come under the strain of radical extremism, after many years of presumed immunity. In addition to Diokhané’s group, 10 to 30 Senegalese have been reported to be fighting for Islamic State elements in Libya, while others have been spotted in Syria and Iraq.

Diokhané’s efforts were not an isolated episode and have since been followed by other incidents of West African nationals attempting to join Boko Haram. A group of four, two from Guinea-Bissau and one each from The Gambia and Guinea, were reportedly arrested in Mali in January 2016 while attempting to reach Nigeria in support of Boko Haram, and in February another eight Senegalese were arrested in Mauritania while pursuing a similar objective. Under interrogation, those arrested claimed that 23 Senegalese had joined Boko Haram since 2015, while another previously arrested Senegalese national further asserted that some Mauritanian citizens had joined Boko Haram as well.

Islamic State has encouraged those who wish to join its project but cannot make it to Syria or Iraq, to seek out nearby wilayats (provinces) instead. For example, during his acceptance of Boko Haram’s pledge in March 2015, IS spokesman Abu Mohammed al- Adnani remarked that this relationship resulted in “a new door for you to migrate to the land of Islam and fight.” This sort of legitimacy and encouragement likely explains the regional influx of individuals West African Nationals Joining Boko Haram attempting to pursue jihad by  joining Boko Haram, and may lead to similar attempts by others in the future.

The influx of these like minded individuals portends disconcerting prospects regarding the spread of extremist ideologies, terrorism tactics, and ultimately increased attacks in the region. Thus far these cases represent a minimal trend, but Makhtar Diokhané’s plan indicates how the desire to return home to unleash a new front can easily lead to expansion outside of the Lake Chad Basin region. At any rate, this creeping regionalisation is a concrete result of the increased legitimacy Boko Haram enjoys in jihadist circles, brought about by its pledge to Islamic State, and serves as one of the more subtle outcomes of this association.

Towards a Wider West African Threat?
There is a risk that Boko Haram will become a regional incubator of jihadist ideology and terrorist tactics. This could be caused by Boko Haram’s deepening relations with Islamic State in Libya, combined with the burgeoning attraction of likeminded individuals from more distant countries in West Africa – although it remains to be seen how the latest leadership rift might affect such processes. At any rate, recent overall actions do not suggest an official attempt to remake the organisation into a wider West African threat, in contradiction to what its new Islamic State-inspired title would suggest. In addition, Boko Haram is very much on the defensive, rendering unclear the level of resources it could allocate towards actively expanding its struggle outside the Lake Chad Basin. Rather, the influx of militants from West Africa and assistance from Libya points to the sect utilising external connections for internal purposes. Previous outside support carried a similar objective, with Boko Haram exploiting training and tactics primarily to further its own situation within Nigeria and adjoining areas.

Nevertheless, an expansion of terror could be the result of recent dynamics, regardless of whether part of an official plan or not. One of the Senegalese fighters claimed leadership support towards the establishment of a cell in Senegal. Even without official backing, militants may eventually return home with designs of bringing back their jihad with them. The intermingling of West African nationals with returned militants from Libya could aid in this project, utilising the Lake Chad Basin as a jumping off point for the dissemination of ideology and tactics from Libya to the West Africa region.

Any Boko Haram-related expansion would likely represent a very different threat from the advancing
regional attacks by al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and associated militants in late 2015 and early 2016. Major attacks by those militants focused on hotels, restaurants, or other areas where foreign nationals congregate, combined with messaging directed at Western nations such as France. Boko Haram violence under Shekau, however, has been more rooted in local concerns, directed at regional security forces, government institutions, generally anyone who disagrees with its outlook, and in recent years, civilian soft targets. Al Qaida leadership in contrast has sought to minimise civilian casualties in recent years in order to win the public relations battle, and instead focus on Western presence.

The targeting of civilians in particular may be a particularly delicate issue for external expansion. Prior to 2013 and the emergence of vigilante groups, Boko Haram did not attack civilians in the way that they currently do. Since then, the group has lost a degree of sympathy and support, indicated by the need to resort to forced recruitment in recent years.
New purported Boko Haram leader Abu Musab al-Barnawi has also expressed displeasure at the targeting of Muslim civilians, but it remains to be seen if he can consolidate his hold on the movement to the point where attack patterns are drastically altered, and with any potential externally affiliated groups following suit.

A precedent for potential expansion in West Africa could be found in the development of a Boko Haram cell in N’Djamena, Chad in June-July 2015. This is a presence significantly deeper than previous activity in the country, which used to be confined to around Lake Chad. During the course of four violent incidents, militants attacked three police institutions and a market with suicide bombs, revealing a preference for localised targeting and a reliance on male suicide bombers. The limits to this type of expansion were also revealed, however, following the arrest of over 70 militants and little violence thereafter, demonstrating the difficulty of replenishing militant ranks in the face of an effective security response.

Mitigation Measures

In this sense, the N’Djamena case symbolises the success of efforts to mitigate potential advances thus far, giving reason for cautious optimism. Careful policing, surveillance, and coordination prevented various militants from reaching Nigeria and thwarted Diokhané’s group in its return to Senegal as well.Nonetheless, concerns exist that more activity may be occurring unchecked beneath the surface, and the uptick in such dynamics must be accompanied by an increase in dedicated resources throughout the region.

Regional coordination and border patrolling is particularly important, given the cross-border nature
of the threat. Cooperation not only between neighbors, but also non-contiguous countries in the region, is necessary to disrupt the flow of militants from countries as far apart as Senegal and Nigeria. In addition, Boko Haram relations with Islamic State actors in Libya have leveraged sparsely populated and lightly patrolled territories in between. Increased efforts aimed at uncovering travel routes can help prevent the movement of not just more supplies, but also the militants themselves. Augmented regional intelligence sharing should also help turn national boundaries into areas of militant detection, rather than a means of evasion. The proper interrogation of detained militants can also provide an important source of information on group activities. In addition to helping disrupt networks, the study of detained militants should enable a deeper profile on regional recruitment, in order to better understand the drivers and appeal of radical ideology, and therefore design more effective programs to counter this attraction.

Furthermore, while the appeal of Islamic State propaganda may be strong, a large portion of the radicalisation process likely occurs at the community level. Adequate but not intrusive monitoring, such as in the case of Ndao in Senegal, along with the maintenance of positive community linkages by governments throughout the region, can help serve as an early warning system for reported local level changes, prior to the flight of militants abroad or the introduction of violence at home.

Conclusion

Boko Haram’s pledge to Islamic State has not resulted in any major changes on the surface aside from the recent leadership predicament, but the sect has benefited more subtly from an increased partnership with affiliated actors in Libya, and a rise in willing recruits from countries further away than typical sources. In this sense, the increasing regionalisation of Boko Haram, regardless of whether official policy or not, has been a side effect of its association with Islamic State. These dynamics in turn may threaten the entire West Africa region, with Boko Haram both importing and exporting jihadist ideology and terrorist tactics, and the Lake Chad Basin region serving as a crucial link in the chain of transmission from Libya to beyond.

Nonetheless, the threat is long-term rather than immediate. Western Europe is beginning to feel the
backlash from its own foreign fighters who travelled to Syria or Iraq a few years ago, while AQIM’s current push in West Africa was predicated by years of groundwork. But while the threat is currently
limited and unlikely to result in immediate violence, if left unchecked, it may contribute to the continued advance of radical ideology and terrorist violence that has started to afflict the West Africa region, with damaging consequences for years to come.

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BENIN 2016: BRINGING SALIENT INSTITUTIONAL WEAKNESSES TO THE FORE

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Benin’s Constitutional Court postponed the Presidential election scheduled for 28th February to 6th of March 2016 due to the inability of the Liste Electorale Permanente Informatisee (LEPI) Steering and Supervision Council (COS/LEPI) to print and distribute the voters’ cards by the initially proposed timeline. The postponement is just but one challenge that needs to be addressed before this weekend’s elections.
 
Before the 2011 Presidential elections, Benin had maintained an ad hoc electoral list (only valid for six months) where registrants would have their name written on a sheet of paper. The introduction of the permanent computerised electoral list (LEPI) in 2011 was, therefore, a welcome development. However, the handing over of the LEPI to the COS/LEPI, comprising mainly politicians (9 out of its 11 members are MPs – 5 from the majority and 4 from the minority), has been problematic. The COS/LEPI, established to function from July 1st of every year through to January 31st of the following year, is tasked with the responsibility to print and distribute voter cards and to continuous update the LEPI before making it available for the Autonomous National Electoral Commission (CENA).
 
For the second time since the adoption of the electronic system, the COS/ LEPI failed to complete the printing and distribution of the voters cards on time. In addition to the inability to guarantee every eligible voter a voter’s card to participate in the forthcoming elections, is the questionable validity of previously issued voters card. New voter’s cards were issued in 2015 with the law stipulating that voter’s cards can last up to ten years. Initially, whether these voter’s cards will be valid in the forthcoming elections was an unanswered question.
 
However, the Constitutional Court of Benin has now ruled that both old and new voter cards can be used for the 6th March Presidential elections. The Court then went further to dissolve COS-LEPI (which according to the electoral code became illegal since January 31st 2016) replacing it with the Centre de National Treatment (CNT). It is believed that this decision will reduce the numbers of people disenfranchised in the election.
 
Like most of francophone countries, Benin operates a mixed Election Management Body (EMB) called Commission Electorale Nationale Autonome (CENA) presently comprising five members (however there is no longer a CSO representation).  Aside from the weaknesses of the electoral law challenging the work of the CENA, the lack of coordination between the CENA and COS/LEPI has always been a challenge. With the proscription of the latter and introduction of CNT less than a fortnight before the elections are due, coordination is likely to remain a challenge between the CENA and the CNT.
 
A total of 47 candidates presented themselves for the polls. However, only 36 were confirmed by the Constitutional Court. 11 others were rejected for various reasons such as the inability to pay the CFA FR15m – i.e. about US$27,000 – candidacy fee, amongst others). Following the Court’s decision 3 other candidates withdrew, leaving a total number is down to 33 in the race.
 
A unique and defining characteristic of Benin is that only independent candidates have been elected presidents since the country joined the third wave of democratisation in 1991. However, the major difference of this Presidential poll is the prominence of independent candidates as against political parties. Four out of the five leading candidates are independent (while in the past, only one or maybe two were so).  This dominance of independent candidates is connected to the lack of internal party democracy in political parties.
 
Like in most African countries, candidate selection is a challenge as political godfathers hold sway in terms of who emerges as candidate, irrespective of members’ interest. For instance, the ruling coalition in Benin is fragmented due to the adoption of Prime Minister Zinsou (who is considered an outsider) as its presidential candidate. Many of his compatriots in the Les Forces Cauris Pour un Benin Emergent (FCBE) (the ruling and the most important political coalition in the country) are kicking against his selection as the party presidential candidate because they claim this was done against the coalition’s internal rules, his dual nationality and his strong link with France. The Parti du Renouveau Democratique (PRD), the third political force in the country (headed by the current Speaker of the National Assembly), and the Renaissance du Bénin (RB), the fourth political force in Benin, have adopted Zinsou as their candidate.
 
However, The Union fait la Nation (UN) another opposition party, and the second most important political coalition, has given the go ahead to members to support any candidate of their choice aside from Zinsou.  Other leading candidates vying as independents are Sebastien Ajavon, who heads Benin’s  National Council of Heads of Companies; Patrice Talon, known as ‘the cotton King’ now pardoned after accusations of involvement in an alleged plot to poison Boni Yayi and Pascal Koupaki;  former finance minister and Prime Minister of Yayi (for seven years in total). Bio Tchane, a former finance minister supported by a coalition of parties called ABT, is also in the race for the Presidential election.
 
Another reason for the prominence of independent candidates over political parties are the political party financing regulations. With the gradual but effective decimation of opposition political parties from the time of Mathieu Kerekou, coupled with zero sum politics, political parties in Benin have come to rely solely on private funding to run election campaigns, and most of this money is raised internally from political godfathers and businessmen. The ousting of African presidents (mostly from neighbouring countries) who traditionally contributed to the funding of elections in Benin and some other countries has also affected the political landscape. It is worth mentioning that the two most important businessmen (and parties’ godfathers), Mr. Adjavon and Talon, are among the frontline candidates in the forthcoming elections. This suggests that by contrast political forces were unable to fund their campaigns (and hence to have their own candidates).
 
The institutionalisation of political parties has been further impeded by the legislation requiring opposition parties to register with the Minister of Interior. Rather than register under the law, political parties prefer to act as opposition (and paradoxically to be officially recognised as such) without following due process. Connected to this is the implementation of the 5 million CFA per MP funding mechanism. The ambiguity of the law, which does not clearly state if the money should go to the parliamentarians or parties, further weakens the party system and fuels corruption. The practice so far has been to dole out this money to political forces to either buy support or votes in parliament when necessary.
 
The election in Benin brings salient issues to the fore. One is the importance of political parties in a democracy. The absence of viable political parties is affecting democratic consolidation in the region. It is imperative that stakeholders put more efforts in strengthening the political party system. Secondly, there should be adequate legislation to make it as “comfortable” as possible for opposition parties to play their roles. Third, there is a need to reduce corruption and the hijacking of the democratic system by political godfathers. Lastly, are electoral reforms helping to deal with some of the challenges confronting the electoral processes such as the lack of coordination among bodies involved in the management of the electoral processes, and the weaknesses of the electoral code.
Idayat Hassan, Director, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) and Mathias HOUNKPE, Political Governance Program Manager, Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA).
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BÉNIN 2016 : LA PRÉSIDENTIELLE MET EN LUMIÈRE DES FAIBLESSES INSTITUTIONNELLES DU PAYS

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La Cour Constitutionnelle, par décision DCC 16-044 du 11 février 2016, a reporté la date du 1e tour de l’élection présidentielle du Bénin du 28 février au 6 mars 2016. Ce report s’explique essentiellement par l’incapacité du Conseil d’Orientation et de Supervision de la Liste Electorale Permanente Informatisée (COS/LEPI) d’imprimer et de distribuer les cartes d’électeurs dans les délais légaux.
Avant l’élection présidentielle de 2011, la liste électorale au Bénin était ad hoc (valide seulement pour six mois) et manuelle avec les noms des électeurs écrits sur de simples feuilles de papier. L’adoption de la liste électorale permanente informatisée (LEPI) en 2011 a par conséquent été considérée comme une évolution heureuse et saluée par tous. Cependant, le fait d’avoir confié la supervision de l’opération d’actualisation annuelle de la liste au COS/LEPI, essentiellement composé d’acteurs politiques (9 de ses 11 membres sont des parlementaires : 5 de la majorité et 4 de la minorité), a jusque-là posé des problèmes.
Le COS/LEPI, mis en place au 1e juillet de chaque année pour l’actualisation de la liste, est supposé rendre la LEPI actualisée disponible pour la Commission Electorale Nationale Autonome (CENA) au plus tard le 31 janvier de l’année suivante. Le COS/LEPI, pour la 2e fois depuis son adoption par le code électoral, se montre incapable d’achever l’impression et la distribution des cartes d’électeurs dans les délais prescrits par la loi. Au-delà de l’incapacité à garantir à chaque électeur son document de vote, se pose également la question des anciennes cartes produites en 2015 dont la validité, selon le code électoral, est de 10 ans.
Selon la décision de la Cour Constitutionnelle ci-dessus citée, les deux cartes d’électeurs – celle de 2015 et celle en cours d’impression et de distribution – peuvent servir pour la présidentielle du 6 mars 2016. Allant un peu plus loin, la Cour a décidé de la dissolution du COS/LEPI (qui conformément au code électoral est devenu illégal depuis le 31 janvier 2016) en confiant le reste du processus d’impression et de distribution des cartes au Centre National de Traitement (CNT). Il est espéré de la décision de la Cour qu’elle contribue à réduire le nombre de citoyens qui seront exclus du processus électoral.
A l’instar de la plupart de ses homologues des pays francophones, l’Organe de Gestion des Elections (OGE) du Bénin appelé CENA, est mixte (i.e. qu’une partie de ses membres sont des acteurs politiques) et actuellement composé de 5 membres (dont aucun n’est de la société civile). Au-delà des difficultés que posent les insuffisances du code électoral à la CENA, le manque de coordination entre cette dernière et le COS/LEPI a toujours constitué un véritable défi. Ce manque de coordination risque de demeurer un problème avec la dissolution du COS/LEPI et son remplacement par le CNT à seulement quelques jours des élections.
Au total, 47 candidatures à l’élection présidentielle ont été reçues par la CENA. Mais, seulement 36 de ces candidatures ont été validées par la Cour Constitutionnelle, les 11 restantes ayant été rejetées pour, entre autres, l’incapacité à payer la caution de 15 millions de francs CFA – i.e. environ 27,000 Dollars US. Ce nombre est maintenant réduit à 33 dans la mesure où 3 autres se sont eux-mêmes retirés de la course.
L’une des caractéristiques du Bénin est que seuls des candidats indépendants ont été élus présidents de la République depuis que le pays a rejoint la 3evague de démocratisation en 1991. Cependant, la prééminence des candidats indépendants (par opposition à ceux présentés par des partis politiques) constitue une spécificité majeure de la présidentielle de 2016. En effet, 4 des 5 candidats considérés comme les favoris à cette présidentielle sont indépendants (alors que par le passé seulement un ou peut être deux étaient dans cette position).
 
A l’instar de la plupart des pays africains, le choix des candidats aux élections représente un véritable défi pour les partis politiques dans la mesure où les “parrains politiques” ont la main mise sur le processus de désignation et ceci indépendamment des intérêts des membres des partis. Par exemple, le choix du Premier Ministre Zinsou (considéré comme outsider) comme son candidat à la présidentielle a contribué à fragmenter la coalition au pouvoir au Bénin. Plusieurs membres des Forces Cauris Pour un Bénin Emergent (FCBE), la coalition au pouvoir et la première force politique du pays, protestent contre le fait qu’il n’ait pas été sélectionné conformément aux statut et règlement de la coalition ainsi que contre sa trop grande connexion avec les milieux politiques français. Le Parti du Renouveau Démocratique (PRD), la 3e force politique du Bénin dirigée par l’actuel Président de l’Assemblée Nationale, et la Renaissance du Bénin (RB), la 4e force politique du pays, ont également adopté M. Zinsou comme leur candidat.
Cependant, l’Union fait la Nation (UN), parti politique de l’opposition et 2e force politique du Bénin, a instruit ses membres d’apporter leurs soutiens à tout candidat sauf M. Zinsou. Parmi les autres candidats indépendants figurent M. Sebastien Ajavon, le Président du Patronat Béninois, M. Patrice Talon, connu comme le “roi du coton” et maintenant gracié par le chef de l’état qui l’accusait d’être impliqué dans un complot d’empoisonnement contre sa personne et M. Pascal Koupaki, ancien ministre des finances et Premier Ministre de Yayi. M. Bio Tchane, ancien ministre des finance sous le président Kérékou soutenu par la coalition des partis appelée ABT est également candidat à la présidentielle de 2016.
Il est important de souligner que la prédominance des candidats indépendants n’est pas sans lien avec le financement des partis politiques. Avec la décimation progressive mais réelle des partis politiques de l’opposition depuis l’époque du Président Mathieu Kérékou, couplé à la politique à somme nulle qui caractérise l’espace partisan national, les partis politiques au Bénin ont fini par compter essentiellement sur les  fonds privés pour le financement des campagnes électorales. L’essentiel de ce financement est levé à l’interne auprès des parrains politiques et des hommes d’affaires. Le départ du pouvoir des présidents (en général des pays voisins) qui ont l’habitude de contribuer au financement des élections au Bénin ainsi que dans d’autres pays de la région a également affecté le paysage politique béninois. Il est important de mentionner que les deux plus importants hommes d’affaires (et parrains politiques), MM. Ajavon et Talon, sont parmi les favoris de la prochaine présidentielle. On comprend donc pourquoi les forces politiques étaient subitement devenues incapables de financer leurs campagnes et par conséquent d’avoir leurs propres candidats aux élections.
La législation, notamment le statut de l’opposition, qui exige des partis de l’opposition de s’enregistrer en tant que telle auprès du ministère de l’intérieur constitue un obstacle supplémentaire à l’institutionnalisation des partis politiques. Au lieu de remplir les formalités légales, les partis de l’opposition préfèrent agir en tant que telle (et paradoxalement être considérée officiellement comme telle). L’application des dispositions relatives au financement des partis – par exemple 5 million de FCFA par député – n’arrange pas les choses non plus. L’ambiguïté de la loi, qui n’est pas claire sur qui du député ou du parti bénéficie du financement, contribue davantage à l’affaiblissement du système partisan et nourrit la corruption. La pratique à ce jour a consisté à verser l’appui aux forces politiques lorsque le gouvernement a besoin de soutien au Parlement.
La présidentielle de 2016 a mis en exergue une série de problèmes. Premièrement, il y a l’importance des partis politiques car l’absence de partis viables représente une menace pour la consolidation de la démocratie dans la région. Deuxièmement, il est important d’améliorer la législation de manière à rendre l’environnement politique aussi “confortable” que possible afin que l’opposition puisse jouer sa partition. Trois, il est important de réduire la corruption et la prise en otage du système démocratique par les “parrains politiques”. Quatrièmement, initier des réformes électorales susceptibles d’aider à régler certains des défis – tels que le manque de coordination entre les différents organes impliqués dans la gestion du processus électoral et les insuffisances du code électoral – auxquels se trouve confronté le processus électoral.
Article écrit par Idayat Hassan, Directrice du Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) et Mathias HOUNKPE, Administrateur du Programme de Gouvernance Politique à Open Society Iniative for West Africa (OSIWA)..

STAKEHOLDERS DIALOGUE ON GOVERNMENT APPROACHES TO MANAGING DEFECTING VIOLENT EXTREMISTS

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Nigerian Military personnel working together with civil society and North-East region community members during a session at the dialogue
The Centre for Democracy and Development organized a on day dialogue in Maiduguri, Borno State to provide an interface between the military and non-state actor’s, especially civil society organisations and communities in the North East to effectively engage the Military and put forward their views and opinions on conflict dynamics and Operation Safe Corridor. The military informed participants on what the initiative was and their intention for listening to the views and opinions of community members, particularly those who will reside with the ex-Boko Haram members.
This dialogue became necessary as the conflict in the North East region begins to wane and following the Nigerian military’s commencement of the “Operation Safe Corridor Initiative” meant to rehabilitate and reintegrate repentant Boko Haram members back into their communities. The Operation Safe Corridor will initially be driven by the Nigerian military given how delicate the conflict remains in the region. The military intends to eventually hand over the process to more civilian agencies.
Under the Access Nigeria project,  Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD)  is leading a locally-driven dialogue process that brings all relevant stakeholders together to discuss the issues of reintegration for government/military to take into consideration when designing and implementing the Operation Safe Corridor.. The process will involve the repentant Boko Haram members going through a de-radicalisation process that conforms to the highest international standards. They will also be trained to acquire various skills of their choice to empower them and make them productive when eventually they return to their communities.
To ensure the space for citizens and non-military to voice their perspectives on the Operation Safe Corridor initiative, CDD held a one day stakeholders dialogue in Borno on government approaches to managing surrendering violent extremists. Participants at the dialogue included: The Nigerian Military, Civil Joint Task Force, civil society organisations, traditional rulers, government agencies, and academics. The dialogue provided the opportunity for participants and Nigerian Military to effectively dialogue on government approaches to rehabilitating and reintegrating violent extremists.
During opening remarks, facilitators Terfa Hemen and Napoleon Enayaba of the Centre for Democracy and Development called on the participants to actively engage the Chair of the Operation Safe Corridor, Brigadier General Bamidele Shafa, and other members present to directly listen to them.
Brigadier-General MB Shafa emphasized that the ex-Boko Haram members who had given themselves up had earned another opportunity within society in view of their repentance. The programme which is in infancy would involve various government agencies including the Ministry of Health, National Human Rights Commission, National Directorate of Employment, National Youth Service Corp and many others. At the moment there are many international organisations and other countries willing to partner with the government through the Safe Corridor Initiative to enhance its success.
Brigadier-General MB Shafa shared that the reintegration process would run for an initial period of 12 weeks after which an assessment would be done to certify if the individuals are fully de-radicalised or need to go through the process again. There will be a simultaneous training and various skill acquisition programmes to empower the repentant violent extremists members and make them more productive when they eventually return to their communities. Further, he noted that those in rehab will be assessed on regular basis and where they are found to be questionable in their conduct, they will be made to go through the rehab process over again as much time as possible. However, he mentioned that there will be a simultaneous training and various skill acquisition programmes to empower the repentant Boko Haram.
The participants present were all in unison that the initiative was a welcome development and was a necessary intervention in the bid to achieve wholesome peace in the North East region. They were elated that the military—which many are quite critical of—was engaging them and seeking their opinions. The gesture would go a long way to strengthen military-civilian relations and enhance the success of initiative and eventual return of peace in the region.
During the dialogue participants mentioned that poverty, corruption, poor leadership and absence of good governance constitute some of the cause of the conflict. Others factors includes; non-regulation and control of religious preaching, non-cooperation among security forces, the neglect of traditional institutions in affairs of society. The loss of societal values and ethics within, parental care and control of children especially the male were also identified as factors that led to the emergence of the Boko Haram insurgence. According to the participants addressing these issues was the only way that a resurgence of a similar nature can be avoided in the future. Nonetheless, some participants at the dialogue called for caution in the drive to implement Operation Safe Corridor. They noted that the conditions in most of the communities within the northeast regions where most of the repentant Boko Haram members come from were not yet conducive for them to be reintegrated back into the communities: many of the affected people are still grieving from their losses and the memories of the atrocities committed by some of the repentant Boko Haram members were still in the minds of people. According to them more time will be needed for aggrieved residents to heal before ex-Boko Haram members can be brought back into the communities. For some community members, the fact that many Boko Haram victims were still suffering in the Internally Displaced Peoples camps (IDPs) and having to know that the people responsible for their woes were in better conditions has only increased their detest for the repentant Boko Haram members.
It was recommended that the Nigerian government intensify the process of re-building destroyed communities and improve conditions for the IDPs so as to gradually soften their mindsets on the ex-Boko Haram members. The participants also highlighted the need for the government to intensify outreach and education on what the Safe Corridor Initiative entails in more communities. The success of the programme is entirely dependent on the opportunity of community members to enhance their understanding of what it is and the eventual acceptance of the Boko Haram members they intend to reintegrate back into the communities.
Many of the participants found the dialogue very useful and advised government and the CDD to continue the process and sensitization on the Operation Safe Corridor initiative. However, they cautioned that CDD and Operation Safe Corridor should be cautious with the framing of the dialogue especially in sensitive community where communities sees violent extremist as an effort by Muslims to annihilate them. They advised that the well-tailored dialogues should be taken to sensitive communities who are already seeing the conflict as inter-religious warfare. Among other recommendations already highlighted, CDD was asked to conduct a similar dialogue with clerics across the affected states to determine what role they can play both in engaging the people at community level and in bringing the insurgents to the table. A broad stakeholders dialogue was also recommended to determine what roles stakeholders can play in resolving and preventing violent extremism and determine the action plan for the actualization of the roles.
 

CDD RELEASES ONE YEAR ASSESSMENT REPORT

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The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) has released a new report titled: The Buharimeter Report: Matching Campaign Promises, Public Expectations and Government Actions in the first year of President Muhammadu Buhari’s Government. The report, which is divided into six parts, provides an independent and systematic assessment of PMB’s first one year in office. The first session of the report rationalizes the need to assess the performance of the administration after first year in office. The second part outlines the methodology adopted in writing the report. The third and fourth sections analyses specific actions taken by the incumbent administration towards the achievement of the electoral promises and matters that arise from its actions. Lastly, the report concludes and makes constructive recommendations for how to tackle the issues that arise from the assessment.
The report can be downloaded here, https://cddwestafrica.org/itstime/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/buhari-meter.pdf
We hope you find it interesting to read. For feedback, kindly send your comment and opinion to syusuf@cddwestafrica.org
Signed:
Idayat Hassan
Director

A TWO DAY AWARENESS RAISING AND REPORTING WORKSHOP ON ECOWAS COUNTER TERRORISM STRATEGY

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A cross section of participants during the workshop at Sandralia Hotel, Abuja, Nigeria
The workshop was held in Abuja at Sandralia Hotel between 4th and 5th of April. Faculties for the workshop were drawn from the media, the military, academia and civil society. Some of the faculties are renowned international trainers who have trained on this issue in different parts of the globe. Daily sessions featured interactive and practical sessions. The ECOWAS also anchored a session on the overview of the Strategy.
The workshop equipped participants with requisite skills, knowledge and facilitated networking for enhanced media and civil society contribution to the prevention and combating of terrorism in the ECOWAS. This was achieved through expert facilitated sessions, and practical session on various facets of ECOWAS Counter Terrorism Strategy, terrorism prevention and combating terrorism.
The workshop was well attended by over fifty participants drawn from the media and civil society organisation across the ECOWAS and the Sahel. The workshop provided a platform for collective network building by civil society organisations and media platforms, peer learning and experience sharing. Through acquired skills, knowledge and contacts, the focus on the media and civil society experts has engendered the roles of these stakeholders over terrorism.
Key focus was on media reporting, terrorism financing, anti-terrorism legal framework in the ECOWAS, terrorism reporting, media and CSO roles and existing arguments by the terrorist among others. An evening session on Monday 4th April 2016 featured the Pakistani ambassador to Nigeria Rtd Lt. Gen. Agha Umer Farooq (a former National Security Adviser in Pakistan) and Dr. Nna-Emeka Okereke of the Nigeria Defence College (a renowned conflict and war experts with vast experience in security research and policy development in Africa). The evening session provided a more relaxed atmosphere by the pool side for closer interaction between participants and reputable experts. Okereke spoke on prevailing violent extremism in the region while the Ambassador threw more light on the experience of Pakistan in tackling the menace.
The workshop provided stimulated regional collectivism against the threat of violence extremism within the ECOWAS, provided an avenue for advocacy by participants on the need for the ECOWAS to show more commitment towards the implementation of the CTS. Participants unanimously agreed to stimulate more media and CSO attention and called the ECOWAS and member states to show the will for stronger commitment towards to peace and stability through the CTS.
It is obvious that no single member is capable of singularly dealing with the multifaceted challenges posed by terrorism. The imperative for cooperation is anchored on the fact that modern terrorism is a result of globalization and a combination of both internal and external complexities and dynamics. Coordination and pooling of resources among states is key for effectively and efficiently eliminating the threat of terrorism. Terrorist activities, particularly those that are transnational or international in nature involve several other countries. The successful prosecution of such acts requires cooperation and joint actions among various agencies in different states. In this context, cooperation in all spheres of terrorism related-matters at the Community, continental, and international levels is essential.
Excerpts of what transpired during the workshop can be access via the link: https://storify.com/CDDWestAfrica/cdd-organises-training-on-ecowas-counter-terrorism

CDD ORGANIZES BUHARIMETER QUIZ COMPETITION FOR SECONDARY SCHOOLS

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A cross section of students during Buharimeter Quiz Competition

As part of activities to popularize the Buharimeter initiative among Nigerian youths and indoctrinate the tenets of democracy among Nigerian youths, the Centre for Democracy and Development in partnership with the Centre for Information, Technology and Development recently organized a quiz completion among secondary schools in Kano. The event was supported by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA)
The objectives of the quiz was to foster involvement of students in secondary schools in Nigeria in Buharimeter initiative. Also to broaden their understanding on the importance of accountability and transparency to democracy improvement. And to instill culture of accountability and transparency in the students as a way of building national attitude towards nation-building. The Buharimeter is should be recalled is an initiative of the Centre for Democracy and Development designed to monitor the implementation of the campaign promises of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The event had in an attendance eleven secondary schools namely:
1- Mai Kwatashi Girls
2- Fatima Mohammed GGSS
3- Rumfa College, Kano
4- GTC Kano
5- DK science College
6- Day Science College
7- Kano Capital Girls
8- CS Bukabo
9- First Lady’s College
10- GSC Garko
11- CSTC Kano
During their opening remarks at the event Abibata Barry of CDD and Kabiru Dakata of CITAD both re-emphasized the importance of getting the youth involved in issues around the democratic development of the country. The called on the kids to make use of the opportunity to exhibit their talents. The online social media platforms of the Buharimeter were introduced to the students. The students were urged to closely follow the platforms so they can be informed about the progress of the governments and its efforts to deliver democratic dividends to Nigerians. After three rounds of competition Rumfa College Kano emerged victorious while DK Science College and Kano Capital Secondary were second and third respectively.
In his closing remarks, Mr. Bachir Moctar thanked the organisers for putting together the event. He was confident that the knowledge acquired by the students would help in their understanding of democracy. The Buharimeter intiative he said was a very laudable one and something that should be replicated at the state level in Nigeria. The representative of the deputy governor of Kano State, Mr Idrissu Hamisu like commended the organisers for putting the event together and thanked them for choosing Kano State to hold the event.
Students and teachers present said they were satisfied with the event and were highly enthused about the knowledge they had acquired at the event. The called on more of such events to be organized in the future.
The students and the teachers all said their satisfaction and seek for more schools to be carried along the process in Kano and other states of Nigeria