By Raphael Oni
As part of effort to support of the ongoing electioneering preparations in Benin Republic, the ECOWAS Commission, with support from Open Society Initiative West Africa (OSIWA), held a virtual meeting on the 18th of March 2021. The meeting which was the first of its kind, aimed at establishing a standardised operational guidelines, which will enhance the Police and Gendarmeries roles in strengthening participatory governance principles.
While focusing on the experiences of other Member States Police and Gendarmeries, notably that of Burkina Faso, Guinea, Cote D’Ivoire and Nigeria, the meeting which had the ECOWAS Resident Representative in the Republic of Benin, Ambassador Blaise Diplo, in attendance, with a large number of senior operational Police and Gendarmerie officers from the Republican National Police of Benin, commended the Minister of Interior and the leadership of the Republican National Police for the well laid out security operational strategy that have designed, for the sustenance of elections security of the April 11th electioneering processes.
Ambassador Blaise Diplo, while expressing the ECOWAS statement to the meeting stressed the importance of collaboration between the Benin Republican National Police with the Civil Society Organizations and the Media, in strategic manner that lead to mitigating security breaches and challenges that comes with electioneering process. In this regards, Representative of the Ministry of Interior, a senior adviser of security to the Minister noted that meeting of consultations and sensitization with community leaders, Civil Society Organizations are ongoing to further enhance the readiness of the Police authorities in providing security strategies for securing the electioneering processes.
As part of the measures to guide ECOWAS to draw up foundational frameworks for developing the standards for enhancing the Police and Gendarmeries roles in participatory democracy, it was noted that special units to support elections advised to be set up. In the same vein taking into cognisance the challenges of social media on elections, policing authorities were advised by ECOWAS to look possibilities of establishing a full fledge Social Media Director of the National Police. On the point of upholding the respect and promotions of human rights, in specifics the political rights of citizens, regular capacity building knowledge and training programmes was noted a key factors for enhancing police role in participatory democracy. This was stressed due to the concerns on management of crowd protest. It was emphasized that the development of on ECOWAS Guideline on Police involvement in Participatory Democracy, is a welcome ideas that should be supported, by Police and Gendarmerie authorities in the region.
While exhorting the readiness of the Benin Republican National Police for the upcoming elections, it was noted as commendable the three stages security responses to manages unforeseen security breaches that may occur to disrupt the electioneering processes especially on election-day and immediate period after the elections. This point was elaborated with the assurance by the Benin Republic security authorities of their readiness to provide security for all elections observation mission which includes that of ECOWAS.