A presidential election is a crucial moment for a country. Human rights are often at stake during elections, which often lead to political and local tensions. Building on the successful “Women Situation Room” done in Liberia and several other African countries, WILPF Cameroon created the Women’s Early Warning Centre to support peaceful elections in the country.
With the help of its members and volunteers, the Section and the Cameroon Women for Peaceful Elections Platform set up a Call Centre through which women and youths could report any incidents of electoral violence, in order to help WILPF Cameroon with the monitoring of the elections.
The Women’s Early Warning Centre was in full swing before, during and after the Cameroon presidential election that took place on 7 October 2018. The goal was to ensure that elections run in a fair and peaceful climate. After the election, the Centre attempts to prevent post-electoral violence and educates the population in preparation of the next elections.
The work continued after the elections. Sylvie Ndongmo, WILPF Cameroon President and National Coordinator of the Platform, with Guy Feugap, WILPF Cameroon Communications Officer, worked on a report gathering the lessons learned during the process. The report analyses the monitoring of conflict-driven factors, electoral violence and electoral violence against women during the electoral process.
It includes a comprehensive analysis of the entire election process: from the pre-election phase to the post-election period. WILPF’s Cameroon main goal was to ensure that Cameroon had free, inclusive, fair and peaceful elections. In particular, they wanted to ensure that women and youths get involved in the elections, by making sure they vote.
How Did They Monitor the Elections?
Starting in September, WILPF Cameroon alerted on conflict-driven factors, educated and raised awareness of social and political actors on the importance of promoting peace and active non-violence.
In this phase, they already encountered a few issues such as multiple registration of certain voters, prohibition of meetings and rallies by opposition political parties and civil society organisations, and no specific provisions facilitating displaced person’s right to vote.
During the electoral campaign, WILPF started to notice electoral violence in the form of verbal attacks and destruction of candidates’ posters. Citizens also reported difficulties in collecting their voters’ cards.
As a means to effectively monitor the elections and attempt to ensure peaceful and fair elections, WILPF Cameroon trained and deployed 166 election observers in 9 regions. In the South-West region, the presence of armed separatists groups fighting against the government impeded observers to travel. Instead, the call centre turned out to be an appropriate replacement, which received 1,100 calls and messages.
These activities helped to enrich the report with data that they collected and analysed such as the main concerns for calling the centre, the rate of irregularities and violence reported through the call centre, the types of observed violence by both witnesses and the election observers, the cases of electoral violence against women, which laws were violated during the electoral process and other factors.
On 8 October 2018, Professor Maurice Kamto declared himself the winner of the elections in a press conference. The election results saw country-wide frustration.
WILPF Cameroon and the platform Cameroon Women for Peaceful Elections condemned the election process that they declared undemocratic and in violation of the constitution and other domestic and international regulations. They concluded that the elections were not free, inclusive, fair or peaceful. They urged the international community to shine a light on the undemocratic process and emphasise that just elections are vital to peace.
Unfortunately, electoral violence is still present in many parts of the world. WILPF Cameroon wrote recommendations based on this electoral process. The recommendations can be applied and used by other countries with upcoming elections that are at risk of not being free, inclusive, fair and/or peaceful elections.
Amongst others, they:
Urge the government to give accreditations to an adequate number of observers from civil society organisations;
Call for the improvement of the registration process of voters with immediate deliverance of voters’ cards;
Recommend the development of a code of conduct during the electoral process;
Ask political parties to preserve peace, improve the political education of party members;
Encourage women to run for elections;
Request civil society organisations to educate and inform the population on the necessity to live together in harmony and contribute to promoting social cohesion; and - Call the media and the government to educate citizens, in particular women and youth, on the importance of their participation in the electoral process.