As the people of Guinea were preparing to go to the polls to cast their vote to elect their president on 27th June 2010, the West Africa programme in collaboration with the Mediation Support Project – a joint venture between swisspeace and the Center for Security Studies (ETH-Zurich) – ran four mediation training workshops during May 2010 in N’zérékoré, Conakry, Labe and Kankan.
The three-day training workshops were attended by 25 participants representing civil society organisations, political parties, the Independent National Election Commission (CENI), elders, security forces, religious leaders, women and youth groups. During the opening ceremony, the Governors of the involved prefectures stressed the importance of the training as the people of Guinea are preparing to exercise their democratic rights in the presidential elections, and subsequently in the legislative and municipal elections. They indicated that even if the elections are fair, free and peaceful, it is helpful to build the capacity of the participants so that they acquire the necessary skills and techniques to prevent and potentially resolve election-related conflicts.
The training workshops were designed to include sessions on conflict-sensitivity, mediation (including simulations), the electoral cycle, and lessons learned from other African countries by experts from International Alert, swisspeace, and EISA (Electoral Institute of Southern Africa). In view of a possible follow-up, the participants also developed a mechanism to respond to the situation in Guinea on the last day of the workshop.
During the trainings, participants raised issues related to the lack of information-sharing, unavailability of the revised constitution and electoral code, and suspicion about the electoral registration process. Unless these issues are addressed in time they can led to uncertainty, to the spread of rumours and subsequently to confusion, which has the potential to trigger violence. Therefore, the awareness-raising and training in mediation that the workshops aimed to achieve will be of utmost importance.
Guinea is a country that tends to be ignored by the outside world including international donors, and it is hard to fund our work there. However Alert is determined to continue its engagement in Guinea, as the need for conducting similar kinds of training and dialogue processes and to build a critical mass of people committed to the development of a democratic culture remains highly important.
The activities were implemented with financial support from the United Nations Democracy Fund and the Swiss Government.