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The National Democratic Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization working to support and strengthen democratic institutions worldwide through citizen participation, openness and accountability in government.


West African elections can run the democratic gamut. From the peaceful presidential polls held in Ghana in 2008 to the ongoing election-related standoff in Cote d’Ivoire, elections in the region have seen everything from successful transfers of power to ethnic tensions to widespread fraud.

Citizen election observation groups from 11 countries have formed the West Africa Election Observers Network (WAEON) to help ensure accountability, increase honesty and accuracy, and instill confidence in legitimate election results in their countries. WAEON’s goal is to enable observers from different countries in the sub-region to exchange ideas and recommendations for better approaches to observation. Comprised of independent, nonpartisan organizations, WAEON helps citizen observer groups in West Africa meet criteria set forth in the Declaration of Global Principles for Nonpartisan Election Observation and Monitoring by Citizen Organizations, an internationally recognized standard for election monitoring. NDI played a key role in the creation of WAEON by bringing together observer group representatives in a series of workshops on election best practices. Participants decided to form the network to help improve election monitoring in their countries.

In announcing its creation on Feb. 21, WAEON promised to “provide technical and moral support to its member organizations in order to encourage nonpartisan citizen election observation, champion electoral reforms and advocacy, and promote credible elections as a means of deepening electoral democracy in the sub region.”

The network will create a forum for information sharing among neighboring countries. Although international monitors have observed elections in the region since the 1970s, domestic groups have only recently taken on this task. The Jan. 31 elections in Niger and upcoming polls in Nigeria and Liberia provide observation opportunities for WAEON member groups. Network members also will have the chance to hear from counterparts in other countries, such as Ghana, that have conducted more advanced observation efforts based on statistical principles. Other WAEON goals are to increase the quality of observation across the region and improve the credibility of elections.

On Feb. 21 and 22, NDI sponsored a workshop with WAEON members on voter registration observation. Other activities include a series of exchange visits that give representatives from participating West African countries a chance to study how neighboring nations prepare for elections and tally votes. For example, WAEON members recently met with election administrators, government officials, and civil society representatives in Niger and Nigeria in the lead-up to their elections.


Pictured above: WAEON Treasurer Djeneba Kone Diarra of Mali and WAEON Chairperson Mashood Erubami of Nigeria at the launch of WAEON in Abuja, Nigeria, on Feb. 21, 2011.

Published on March 3, 2011