Preventing Election Violence in Liberia

By: Jonas Claes; Inken von Borzyskowski

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Liberia will hold presidential and legislative elections on October 10. The run-up to the vote has been primarily peaceful, and the country has engaged in ongoing efforts to prevent election violence. This Peace Brief, based on USIP research, assesses the risk of election violence and the scope of violence prevention efforts, and provides recommendations for ongoing prevention.

Summary

  • There is reason for optimism as Liberia prepares for its October 10 elections. Thus far the run-up to the vote has been calm and peaceful, with few instances of hate speech and property damage reported and no intimidation or physical attacks. A peaceful transition of power would be an impressive achievement considering Liberia’s brutal civil wars ended only fourteen years ago.
  • Despite the cautious optimism there is no room for complacency as tensions could escalate rapidly. Most concerning are budget gaps and the lack of institutional strength that, even with significant international investments, could prevent the Liberian National Police and National Election Commission from providing adequate election administration and security.
  • Ongoing efforts to prevent election violence, including domestic and international election observation and peace messaging efforts, may help the country achieve this important milestone in its recovery from civil war.
  • In the coming weeks, international diplomats should coordinate with African leaders in the region and encourage the leading candidates to call for restraint and live up to their commitments to avoid violence.

Introduction

On October 10, the people of Liberia will participate in critical presidential and legislative elections in what may become Liberia’s first post-war transition between democratically elected governments. Considering the overwhelming development challenges Liberian institutions face, peaceful elections cannot be taken for granted. Elections often present significant challenges in countries that recently emerged from violent conflict, but Liberia may be defeating the odds. Civil society, the police, the electoral commission, international diplomats and—above all—leading Liberian politicians will further determine whether the country’s fragile peace will hold.

Sources of Conflict

Liberia remains one of the least developed countries worldwide. Roughly the size of Virginia, the country was battered by two civil wars (1989–2003) that claimed the lives of 250,000 Liberians, and experienced an Ebola crisis (2014–2015) that killed another 4,800 people. Liberians appreciate the political stability of the past fourteen years but remain cognizant about the risk elections pose to peace. A nationally representative survey indicated that a majority of Liberians (61 percent) were convinced that election disputes could reignite violent conflict.1

As provided for by the country’s constitution, current Liberian President Ellen Sirleaf will leave office in 2017 after two terms (2005, 2011). The 2017 presidential race is quite competitive, with two major and several other presidential candidates, and almost one thousand candidates for the 73 seats in the House of Representatives. About half of all voters (49 percent) are undecided, according to a recent poll. One of the current frontrunners is Joseph Boakai, who also served as vice president under Sirleaf, from the president’s Unity Party. His main challenger is George Weah, leader of the opposition Coalition for Democratic Change.2 Weah ran for president in 2005, for vice president in 2011, and remains popular among the growing youth population. His vice presidential candidate is Jewel Howard Taylor, the former wife of warlord Charles Taylor, who maintains a broad support base. Other contenders include Charles Brumskine, leader of the Liberty Party, Benoni Urey of the All Liberian Party, Senator Prince Johnson of the Movement for Democracy and Reconstruction, and Alexander Cummings of the Alternative National Congress.

In its previous post-conflict elections (2005 and 2011) Liberia experienced limited violence despite significant administrative flaws and heated rhetoric. The memory of civil war was still fresh, the international community endorsed the elections, and the political elite generally kept their cool in the face of technical challenges, urging restraint among their supporters.

Despite optimistic expectations for peaceful elections, important sources of conflict remain that could escalate into violence. Primary concerns are budget gaps and institutional weaknesses that can prevent the election commission and Liberian National Police from guaranteeing adequate election administration and security. Any technical mistakes or delays by the National Election Commission, any real or perceived fraud, and a close or tense race may encourage candidates to mobilize their supporters and challenge the election result.

Moreover, the recent enforcement of a national Code of Conduct has raised tensions among political candidates and their supporters. Section 5.2 of the Code requires ministers and other officials who want to run for an elected office to step down at least two years prior to election day. Presidential appointees with tenure positions are required to resign three years prior. The rule is designed to prevent the use of state resources to fund campaigns, but was heavily contested as it could block several lead candidates from participating in the 2017 elections.

Elections often present significant challenges in countries that recently emerged from violent conflict, but Liberia may be defeating the odds.

Whether the elections are a democratic success or precipitate a return to violence is to some extent determined by the efforts taken to prevent election violence—first and foremost by the leading candidates, but also by election observers, the election commission, police, international diplomats, and civil society. Currently, various efforts are ongoing to prevent election violence, including engaging youth constructively, restoring popular trust in the Liberian police, and ensuring the ability of the National Election Commission to hold credible elections.USIP research in Liberia aims to assess the risk of election violence in carefully selected counties and the effectiveness of the most common and promising tools to prevent its outbreak. The findings will help identify ways to prevent violence with demonstrated impact, prioritize efforts in the upcoming months, and develop more effective remedies for future elections in Liberia and other countries.

The Road to a Critical Election—Will Prevention Work?

With the support of the Liberia-based Center for Democratic Governance, USIP conducted a survey in 150 communities across Montserrado, Nimba, Lofa, and Bong counties, interviewing 1,050 community representatives. The communities were randomly selected from a larger pool of towns at risk of election violence, as they are all voter-rich and have some history of local conflict. The baseline data gathered through USIP research offers an initial indication of the risk of violence and the scope of violence prevention efforts, and may help inform ongoing prevention efforts. The same respondents will be interviewed again after the election to assess the impact of prevention activity.

The scope of violence prevention programming in Liberia has varied. The USIP survey indicated that election monitoring, peace messaging, and—to a lesser extent—civic and voter education are widely used to promote credible elections and prevent violence. Respondents valued the role of monitors in helping to reduce violence and prevent fraud. Peace messaging efforts were praised for their inclusive character: 91 percent of respondents indicate that peace messages usually reach all members of society. Civic education finds a fertile environment in Liberia, since most Liberians already demonstrate strong civic attitudes, recognizing the value of democracy and the importance of peaceful participation in elections.

Despite several ongoing initiatives, including a youth debate series and leadership trainings held by NAYMOTE,3 the survey revealed a striking need for youth programming outside Monrovia. Youth are important because children were heavily recruited during the civil wars, particularly by the army of Charles Taylor. Without appropriate education, training, or employable skills, today’s youth (ages 18–34) could be easily mobilized by charismatic politicians.

Citizens consider the police a trustworthy security provider. However, Liberian respondents also indicate that police are rarely present to prevent election violence and do not have the necessary resources to guarantee election security. Building a capable police force remains a priority given the gradual withdrawal of the UN Mission in Liberia, which helped provide election security after the civil war. Despite significant capacity-building efforts, the budget and equipment of the Liberian National Police does not match its increased responsibilities for election security, especially in the communities outside of Monrovia. A majority of Liberian respondents (57 percent) have not communicated with police officers about election security, and most (82 percent) think that police officers do not protect all voters and candidates equally.

Unlike the Liberian National Police, the National Election Commission is perceived by Liberian respondents as well prepared to organize free, fair, and credible elections, and received praise for its voter registration drive. That said, the National Election Commission has sizeable shortages in budget and equipment to organize smooth elections during the rainy season and is often confronted with impassable roads and a poorly informed electorate. Respondents’ preferred point of contact for complaints about the election is security forces or community authorities rather than the National Election Commission4, and only about half of Liberian respondents know their local National Election Commission magistrate.

Given the limited institutional capacity in Liberia, international efforts are mainly focused on technical election assistance.5 The European Union, the UN Development Program, and the US government fund the majority of programs and materials needed to ensure a credible election process. International donors seem to be focused on the right priorities, emphasizing support for both the election and security authorities as, according to prior USIP research, these are often critical in mitigating election violence.6 Internationals also engage in preventive diplomacy, but only 17 percent of Liberians interviewed think foreign diplomats can influence local leaders. The UN Mission in Liberia is considered the most influential diplomatic presence to engage on election security, followed by the US Embassy and the Economic Community of West African States.

Risk of Violence in the Months Ahead

The election process has been calm and peaceful thus far, with few instances of hate speech reported between parties and some damage to posters and banners at the start of the campaign period. While the risk of violence remains low in the coming weeks and months, promising indications should not lead to complacency as significant capacity gaps remain.

Domestic and international election observers play a valuable role in detecting technical deficien-cies, but should also report on intimidation, gender-based violence, hate speech, and other forms of election violence. Support for youth programming and the build-up of a capable police force should not end on election day, but carry forward across several election cycles.

While international prevention efforts can help, Liberian politicians and institutions hold the keys to peaceful elections. International diplomats should coordinate with African leaders in the region and encourage the leading candidates to call for restraint, and live up to their commitments to avoid violence. So far, there is reason for optimism. The election process will not be perfect (it rarely is), but Liberia seems well on its way to a historic election.

Notes

  1. “State of Peace, Reconciliation, and Conflict in Liberia,” Catholic Relief Services Report Brief, (2016): 8, www.crs.org/sites/default/files/tools-research/state-of-peace-reconciliation-liberia_0.pdf.
  2. The Coalition for Democratic Change includes the Congress for Democratic Change, National Patriotic Party, and Liberia’s People Democratic Party.
  3. NAYMOTE–Partners for Democratic Development is a grassroots organization promoting democracy, peacebuilding, and human rights by empowering community representatives and youth leaders in Liberia.
  4. The NEC and local magistrates are mandated to hear and investigate complaints.
  5. Inken von Borzyskowski, 2016, “Who Seeks and Receives Technical Election Assistance?” Review of International Organizations, 11, no. 2 (2016): 247–82, http://www.borzyskowski.net/wp-content/uploads/Technical-Election-Assistance.pdf.
  6. Jonas Claes and Geoffrey Macdonald, “Findings and Conclusions,” in Electing Peace, ed. Jonas Claes (Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace, 2016): 200–01.

About this Brief

Through evaluative research the US Institute of Peace aims to identify what works to prevent election violence in Liberia. This preliminary analysis is based on baseline findings from Montserrado, Nimba, Lofa, and Bong counties, and offers insight into the risk of violence and the scope of prevention efforts. Jonas Claes is a senior program officer at USIP, where he conducts research and analysis on the prevention of election violence. Inken von Borzyskowski is an assistant professor of political science at Florida State University. Her research focuses on international organizations and their effect on domestic conflict and elections.

Source : United States Institute of Peace

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Rivers Sets Up Commission To Probe Deaths During Election

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Governor of Rivers state, Yesom Wike has set up a Judicial  Commission of Inquiry to look into the immediate and remote cause of the killings in the state during the December 10, elections.

During the Inauguration of the  Commission  on Thursday, at the Government House, Port Harcourt, Wike directed the commission to ascertain the number of  people that were killed and those responsible for the killings.

“This Judicial Commission of Inquiry is not to investigate how they conducted their elections. You are to investigate the murders that attended the elections.

“Those involved in the killings will face the full weight of the law. This government has the capacity to follow through,” he said.

The Governor urged the members of the commission to  stand by the truth and be courageous in the discharge of their assignment.

In his response, the Chairman of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry,

Justice Chinwendu Nwogu  assured the Governor that the commission would discharge its assignment within the confines of the law.

The Judicial Commission of Inquiry has the following terms of reference:

▪Investigate the remote and immediate causes of the violence during the December 10, 2016 rerun/supplementary elections in Rivers State.

▪Identify the perpetrators of the various acts of violence and killings in the aforesaid election.

▪Identify the victims of the violence including those killed

▪Identify if property was damaged and the value of any such property

▪Determine if the violence was localised to specific areas within the state or was state-wide

▪Make appropriate recommendations concerning their findings or any other recommendations as the commission may consider appropriate in the circumstance.

Police and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, have also set up separate panels to investigate the conduct of the elections and the widespread irregularities that took place.

Trump in victory: ‘It is time for us to come together’

Hillary Now Just 26 Delegates From Nomination

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Hillary Clinton handily won the Democratic primary in Puerto Rico on Sunday, moving her within 30 delegates of clinching the party’s presidential nomination.

“We just won Puerto Rico! ¡Gracias a la Isla del Encanto por esta victoria!” she tweeted shortly after multiple outlets called the race in her favor.

With a victory in Tuesday’s upcoming California primary, Clinton could lock up the necessary amount of delegates to gain the Democratic nomination and face Donald Trump in the general election.

Source : Daily Beast

 

Death Threats Directed at U.S. Elections Regulator

In October 2014, then-Federal Election Commission Vice Chairwoman Ann Ravel did what she often does: speak her mind about political campaign issues.

“A re-examination of the Commission’s approach to the Internet and other emerging technologies is long overdue,” Ravel, a Democrat, wrote in lamenting a deadlocked commission vote over whether an Ohio-based business group must include disclaimers on political ads it posted for free on YouTube.com.

But Ravel’s statement — just finding it on the FEC’s website in no small feat — didn’t disappear into the Internet’s bowels as bureaucratic missives often do.

Instead, in a sign of how toxic American politics have become, it spawned unbridled ugliness, including death threats that have drawn the attention of law enforcement.

“Die, fascist, die!” one anonymous person wrote to Ravel in an email reviewed by the Center for Public Integrity.

“Hope you have a heart attack,” read another email.

“Go fall down about ten flights of stairs,” yet another person wrote.

Other threats, while less overt, are equally disquieting.

“Best to be careful what you ask for. You will more than likely find the ‘Nazi’ scenario showing its ugly head,” one wrote to Ravel, who is Jewish.

“Keep it up, and the pitchforks will come out and then you and your ilk will have no place to hide and the People will have their justice,” promised another.

Ravel’s recent vote to sanction conservative filmmaker Joel Gilbert for alleged violations of federal election laws — the FEC deadlocked on the matter — have prompted a new round of hate mailers to, in recent weeks, call her a “communist c—sucking b—-” and wish her “the worst for you and yours.”

“Heil Hitler” is how one writer last month concluded a screed emailed to Ravel at her FEC email account.
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Such vitriol and vulgarity, while commonplace for high-profile politicians such as Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, were previously unknown to federal election regulators who many congressional representatives — to say nothing of average Americans — couldn’t identify by name or face.

While FEC commissioners of late often clash along ideological lines and bicker among themselves, several current and former FEC commissioners interviewed said they’ve never once experienced hate-filled communications of the sort Ravel has received.

“I don’t recall a debate ever going off the rails into personal attacks … this is extremely harsh rhetoric and incredibly inflammatory stuff,” said Michael Toner, a Republican FEC commissioner who served from 2002 to 2007 and presided over the commission as chairman during 2006, when the six-member body last overhauled regulations addressing political communications on the Internet.

“It reflects a coarsening of the thinking process for some people — lack of a filter, lack of civility,” said Scott Thomas, a Democratic FEC commissioner from 1986 to 2006 and three-time chairman. “A lot of people now seem to be going off the edge.”

Law enforcement is taking the threats against Ravel seriously.

In late 2014, Edward Holder, the FEC’s acting deputy staff director for management and administration, contacted the Federal Protective Service in response to threats against Ravel.

The service, a division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that protects federal facilities, then interviewed Ravel, FEC spokeswoman Judith Ingram confirmed. Ravel also confirmed she received extra security protection during a public forum in 2015.

The Federal Protective Service “doesn’t comment on possible threats against government officials,” said spokesman Scott McConnell in declining to answer questions. It’s unclear whether the service is actively investigating the most recent messages Ravel received.

The Drudge Report on Oct. 25, 2014.

DrudgeReport.com/Screenshot

What initially prompted the torrent of messages targeting Ravel appears to be an Oct. 25, 2014, banner headline on the Drudge Report: “DEMS ON FEC MOVE TO REGULATE DRUDGE.” (Editors at the website did not return requests for comment.)

The Drudge Report headline linked to a Washington Examiner article that reported on Ravel’s comments about the FEC revisiting Internet regulations.

The story also quotes then-FEC Chairman Lee Goodman, a Republican who warned that Ravel’s interest in stronger Internet regulations could lead to bloggers and politically active news outlets facing new rules.

“I told you this was coming,” Goodman said.

Goodman underscored his concerns about Internet regulation soon afterward during a pair of Fox News interviews.

“I can’t imagine a regulatory regime reaching deep into the Internet,” he told host Tucker Carlson.

“It’s really a specter of a government review board … the government needs to know when to leave well enough alone,” he later told host Steve Doocy.

Ravel, who in 2015 followed Goodman as FEC chairman, told the Center for Public Integrity that she believes Goodman’s comments contributed to the threats against her.

“He was arguing that I was trying to squelch free speech — I wasn’t — and it put me in an awkward position,” said Ravel, who since joining the FEC in late 2013 has routinely advocated for stronger election rules and enforcement and sometimes antagonized her Republican colleagues whom she’s accused of failing to enforce certain election laws.

“I feel very strongly about the First Amendment and the rights of the press,” Ravel said. “My point is that the Internet has advanced greatly since 2006, and the FEC’s rules about it are, potentially, obsolete. Our role is to talk about them.”

Goodman’s office said the commissioner wasn’t available to be interviewed. But Goodman emailed a statement disavowing threats against her.

“Unfortunately, too many people believe that the way to counter speech with which they disagree is to censor or threaten the speaker,” Goodman wrote. “The appropriate way to challenge an idea one disagrees with is to debate the idea on the merits. Commissioner Ravel’s formidable voice on regulatory issues should not be diminished by inappropriate threats or censorship.”

Current FEC Chairman Matthew Petersen, a Republican, called for civility, saying there is “no place in these debates for threats of violence or things of that nature.”

The messages Ravel has received, Petersen added, are “beyond the pale.”

Democratic Commissioner Ellen Weintraub, who acknowledged receiving “a few” strongly worded emails of her own in recent months, declined to otherwise comment. Commissioners Steven Walther, an independent, also declined to comment, while Caroline Hunter, a Republican, did not return interview requests.

The 2006 Internet communication regulations the FEC approved in a unanimous vote left most online political messaging unregulated. Only paid political ads published online became subject to similar rules governing traditional political messages, such as those that appear on television or radio.

Since then, the FEC has generally addressed digital and Internet political communications and transactions on a case-by-case basis.

In 2010, for example, Google asked the FEC whether it could sell “AdWords” text ad space to political candidates and committees without requiring them to include disclaimers. The commission, in a 4-2 vote, determined that Google could generally avoid running disclaimers.

Then in 2011, Facebook asked the FEC to confirm that its “small, character-limited ads” about politics are exempt from federal rules requiring disclaimers. In a 3-3 vote, the commission deadlocked on the matter.

The FEC has also grappled with cases ranging from political donations made via text message to whether candidates and committees may accept contributions in the form of digital currency, such as Bitcoin.

If the FEC addresses the Internet in any fashion this election year, expect it to be along these narrow lines.

FEC Chairman Matthew Petersen.

Dave Levinthal/Center for Public Integrity

Petersen, the FEC chairman, says he “highly doubts” the FEC will reopen the lengthy Internet-related rulemaking process it undertook a decade ago. He predicted the commission would take a much “lighter touch” this year that focuses on “providing clarity, coherence and guidance” on “discreet issues” brought before the commission.

There may also be renewed appetite on the FEC to eliminate from its regulations references to obsolete technology — yes, mentions of telegrams, typewriters and “magnetic diskettes” are still found — and otherwise update rules to reflect how campaigns do business in 2016, Petersen said.

Ravel, of course, prefers a more aggressive approach to regulating online politicking — an approach the body isn’t likely to take anytime soon.

So is serving on the FEC even worth it anymore to Ravel, who President Barack Obama nominated three years ago next month?

Beyond the threats she’s received, Ravel isn’t shy about her frustrations with agency gridlock, even appearing on “The Daily Show” in November to colorfully question whether the FEC still serves a purpose.

Ravel also maintains a home in California, shuttling back and forth from Washington, D.C., to visit her family in a commute she hardly enjoys.

In December, when asked by the Center for Public Integrity, Ravel revealed that the White House has seemingly taken little interest in her tenure at the FEC, saying she had never met with the president and had almost “no contact with the White House.” At the time, Ravel would only say that “it’s possible” she’d continue serving through the 2016 election.

Whether on purpose or by coincidence, White House almost immediately started paying Ravel more attention.
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Visitor logs show Ravel traveled to the White House on Jan. 20, according to a review of White House visitor logs.

Ravel then met with Obama himself on Jan. 28 in the White House’s West Wing. Stacy Koo, the Presidential Personnel Office chief of staff, also attended the meeting, according to a visitor log entry.

Both Ravel and the White House confirmed the meeting but declined to discuss it.

“The President is pleased with Commissioner Ravel’s performance as an FEC commissioner,” the White House said in a statement.

Asked again how long she planned to stay at the FEC, Ravel said she “will stay as long as I feel I can contribute.”

In the meantime, she said she will attempt to take any additional threats in stride — as much as one can.

“These are an attempt to be intimidating, to make me either not speak out or to make me stop doing my job,” Ravel said. “It’s creepy, a little worrisome. I’m just going to keep doing my work.”

This story was co-published with the Daily Beast.
Source : EIN News

The Secret Movement to Draft General James Mattis for President

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Gen. James Mattis doesn’t necessarily want to be president—but that’s not stopping a group of billionaire donors from hatching a plan to get him there.

An anonymous group of conservative billionaires is ready to place their bets on a man dubbed “Mad Dog,” hoping to draft him into the presidential race to confront Donald Trump.

Think of it as a Plan B should Trump be nominated by the Republican Party in Cleveland: swing behind retired U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis and press him into service yet again as a third-party candidate.

Mattis is the former commander of Central Command, which includes the strife-afflicted conflict zones of the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia, and has developed a reputation among troops as a general officer who cares about the little guy. This reputation blossomed into the political realm during the 2012 presidential contest, when a Marine Corps veteran started an online campaign to write-in Mattis on presidential ballots—it ultimately lacked the backing to take off.

But this situation involves far bigger players: Close to a dozen influential donors—involving politically-involved billionaires with deep pockets and conservative leanings—are ready to put their resources behind Mattis. At their request, a small group of political operatives have taken the first steps in the strategic legwork needed for a bid: a package of six strategic memos outlining how Mattis could win the race, in hopes of coaxing him in.

The general has received the package of memos, according to two individuals involved with the project.

Mattis, who is also nicknamed the “warrior monk” for his contemplative devotion to the military arts, would be a fallback option for anti-Trump forces. But since the next series of GOP nomination contests heavily favor Trump, this is not exactly a fantasy scenario.

“Everyone is hoping that Ted Cruz pulls it out, but I think a great deal of Republicans would rally behind an American hero if the choice is between Mattis and Trump,” said John Noonan, a former Jeb Bush aide now involved in the project to draft Mattis.

“He’s a man of character and integrity. He’s given his life to his country. How do you ask someone like that to leap headfirst into this toxic mud puddle of a race? It’s damn hard. But Trump is a fascist lunatic and Hillary has one foot in a jail cell. That means the lunatic can win. I’d be first in line to plead with the general to come save America,” Noonan added.

The strategy would not be for Mattis to win, at least at first—the operatives behind this potential bid would only be seeking to deny Trump and Clinton the 270 electoral votes necessary to win the general election outright. And there is also the incredible logistical challenge of getting Mattis on the ballot in a large number of states.

“The process is actually quite simple, but it’s difficult,” one of the strategists concedes in a memo, and the chances of Mattis winning the White House outright as a third-party candidate are “very low.” But if the retired military officer could win several states won by President Obama in 2012, they might be able to block Clinton, thus forcing the incoming House of Representatives to make a decision on the next president of the United States.

With the House split, the strategists reason, Mattis could be the consensus choice.

“The theme of 2016 is ‘all bets are off’ and this is a cycle where the unexpected has become the defining characteristic of this election,” said strategist Rick Wilson, who is also involved in the project. “In a moment when American politics on the left and right has been upended, and where the frontrunners of both parties are compromised, the time may be upon us where a uniquely qualified, and uniquely credible third-party alternative like General Mattis can take the stage.”

Another limiting factor is Mattis himself, who is disinclined to run. These strategists hope he could change his mind if he were to feel compelled to serve his country.

Those close to him are skeptical that his mind could be changed.

“It is difficult—if not impossible—to see him accepting being drafted,” said a source close to Mattis.

Still, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol poured fuel onto the fire Feb. 22, after Trump victories in New Hampshire and South Carolina. Speaking at a fundraiser for the Hoover Institute, where Mattis is a visiting fellow, Kristol suggested—perhaps jokingly—that the former four-star general might be conscripted into the race.

“No way!” shouted back a jocular Mattis, from the audience.

Mattis, who declined to speak with The Daily Beast, has previously suggested that he could not endure the political correctness required to be a contender for the White House. But given Trump’s myriad controversies, this may not be a problem this year.

“I’ve lived a very colorful life and I’ve said some things,” Mattis told an audience last year, according to the Marine Corps Times. “But not once have I taken them back, and I’ve never apologized for them—and I won’t. I like the enemy knowing there are a few guys like me around.”

The pro-Mattis donors, who want to stay anonymous for the time being, have assembled a core group of seven political operatives, led by Joel Searby, a Republican consultant based in Florida. The group of strategists also includes lead attorney Mohammad Jazil; ballot access specialist Matthew Sawyer; and former George W. Bush pollster Jan Lohuizen, along with a finance team and a “top firm” that has been secured to lead the ballot access petition gathering, members of the team tell The Daily Beast.

Wilson and Noonan co-authored a memo on how Mattis might capitalize on the current media environment, arguing that Trump’s “fake-macho act falls apart” before a bona fide American hero like Mattis. The general’s overall bearing “immediately blows a hole into the central narrative of Trump: his toughness,” they argue in a memo obtained by The Daily Beast. “[A]nd the drama of watching it fall apart under fire would be amazing television.”

Comparing him to President Dwight Eisenhower, the memo concludes that Mattis has “all the iconoclastic, authentic style of non-politician Trump—and all the serious government service credibility of Hillary Clinton.”

Some conservatives, disgusted with Trump’s candidacy, have already warmed to the idea of a run by Mattis—including conservative commentators Erick Erickson and Kristol.

 

Kristol told The Daily Beast that he had “huge respect and admiration” for Mattis—and Gen. John Kelly, another high-ranking general.

“I don’t know whether they’re ideally suited for the presidency,” he said. “But I do know they’re a hell of a lot more suited for it than Donald Trump.”

Source : Daily Beast

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Tensions in  Rivers State, ahead of the re-run election set for Saturday are taking a turn for the worse.

It has emerged that  former governor, Rotimi Amaechi,  has planned a monitoring tour of all the electoral units in the state  during the exercise.

The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has described the move as “not only provocative but also aimed at inciting crisis in the state.”

“Amaechi, after failing in his bid to orchestrate commotion in some parts of the State through the activities of cultists and compromised military personnel acting on his orders, has decided to execute his last and final plot through the planned tour,” PDP Rivers Chairman, Felix Obuah, said.

Alleging the planned tour was unconstitutional and a direct affront on the electoral law, Obuah warned that the “boastful Minister of Transport”.

Amaechi should be held responsible for the consequences of such a “dangerous undertaking.” Amaechi serves in the portfolio in the Federal Government.

Obuah urged the Chief of Army Staff and the Brigade Commander of the Nigerian Army in Bori Camp to respond to Amaechi’s claimed planned deal with the army to flood the state with soldiers after he reportedly claimed they were more loyal to him than the police.

“The way and manner Amaechi is carrying on and going about intimidating people with his claim of having the army in his pocket calls for caution and a clear cut statement from the Army high command and the Brigade Command whether Amaechi’s claim is true or not to disabuse the minds of the people.”

Governor Nyesom Wike has been quoted as urging voters to beat up Amaechi when they sighted him at electoral units. Amaechi remained defiant.

Wike alleged Amaechi’s All Progressives Congress (APC) has colluded with electoral authorities to rig the polls.

Source : CAJ News

Electing Peace: What Works in Preventing Election Violence

By:
Jonas Claes

The ongoing tension and turmoil in Haiti, Uganda, and Macedonia once again demonstrate the complex relationship between elections, democratic stability and peace. Peaceful elections help create the foundation for stable political transitions. But in poorly governed states, elections often trigger violence and intimidation.

Photo Courtesy of The New York Times/Damon Winter

Over the years election violence has gained prominence within the broader fields of peace and security studies. Much of the literature looks at the drivers, triggers, perpetrators and victims of violence surrounding elections. At the same time, domestic and international actors remain surprisingly ill-equipped to evaluate and prioritize efforts to prevent election violence. Dedicated research can certainly help address this gap.

“Prevention seems to pay off; but the choice among available practice and instruments needs to be made strategically.” – Jonas Claes, USIP senior program officer

Targeted peacebuilding efforts are frequently used to prevent election violence. Practitioners possess a variety of programming options or interventions, including peace messaging campaigns, preventive diplomacy, dedicated youth programs or monitoring missions.

But the ability of election violence prevention to achieve its intended outcome merits further investigation. What works, what does not, and under which conditions? The choice among preventive measures is often made intuitively or impulsively, rather than based on empirical evidence, risk assessments or thorough practice evaluations. Commonly the practice selection is driven by the mandate of the implementing actors, or their familiarity with a given preventive approach. For example, if small NGOs develop a reputation around youth programming, they will make a case for it regardless of whether it matters in a given context or not.

USIP recently concluded an ambitious study to assess whether prevalent intervention models demonstrate a measurable impact on electoral violence. Such evaluations expand our knowledge base, and help practitioners prioritize the most appropriate and cost-effective prevention tool in a given context.

Five recent elections were carefully selected for this practice evaluation: Bangladesh, Honduras, Malawi, Moldova and Thailand. Each displayed similar levels of risk, but experienced very different levels of violence. So, did prevention make the difference? Or was it the context that explains this variation?

The findings present compelling evidence that prevention works. Thailand and Bangladesh, where prevention was minimal or absent, experienced high levels of election violence. Moldova and Malawi saw minimal levels of violence, but intense prevention activity. Historic comparison further supports this finding: The 2013 election in Bangladesh, in which little effort were made to prevent electoral violence, was marred by historically high levels of violence. Previous Bangladeshi elections saw more prevention activity, resulting in lower levels of electoral violence. In Thailand, prevention was similarly weak during the 2014 election cycle, yet the polls saw unprecedented levels of intimidation and fear.

All Prevention Isn’t Equal

Even though some electoral violence prevention strategies seem to work well in reducing overall levels of violence, all prevention practices are not equally promising. The quality and scope of some available instruments, including security sector engagement (i.e. the presence of security forces at key elections events, and the existing regulatory frameworks structuring their operation) and efforts to adequately administer the elections, correspond strongly with declines in the intensity of election violence.

Weak security sectors in Bangladesh and Thailand contribute to violence, whereas effective security provision mitigated the risk of violence in Malawi and Moldova. This demonstrates that states have important roles to play in preventing electoral violence. A well-trained and disciplined security sector, coupled with an institutionalized, legitimate and effective electoral administration body, tend to create the largest reductions in election related violence, according to our research.

Among those prevention tools available to international actors and local civil society, election monitoring and civic education stood out as the most promising. The measurable impact of peace messaging, voter consultations and youth programming remains small or unclear. All three of these are all citizen or voter-oriented instruments that are commonly—but not exclusively—led by domestic NGOs. In our analysis, the objectives of these instruments are too ambitious: These are short-term engagements, with ambitious long-term objectives, i.e. to change voter attitude and behavior in 3 or 4 months.

The use of election monitoring missions, one of the most promising tools available to international actors engaging in electoral violence prevention, highlights the potential competition between free and fair elections, on the one hand, and election violence prevention, as strategic objectives. Peace and fairness may reinforce each other, but this is not always the case. Most international practitioners emphasize the technical quality of the electoral process, and seem less concerned with outbreaks of widespread violence.  Many monitoring missions will withdraw from an election in the anticipation of widespread fraud, repression, and violence, in order not to legitimize illegitimate elections. The impact on election violence, at times, is overlooked in such situations.

Prevention seems to pay off; but the choice among available practice and instruments needs to be made strategically. Short-term activities may help manage crises around election day; long-term investments in the state capacity to administer the polls and provide adequate election security present a more evidence-based approach to address the risk of violence across election cycles.

The full findings of this research will be published in a forthcoming volume entitled Electing Peace: Violence Prevention and Impact at the Polls, published by U.S. Institute of Peace Press.

Jonas Claes is a senior program officer at USIP, conducting research and analysis on the prevention of electoral violence and mass atrocities. Reposted with permission from the web site of The Project on Explaining and Mitigating Electoral Violence, Source: “Electing Peace: What Works in Preventing Election Violence.”

Source : USIP

Uganda’s Pre-Election Violence Spurs USIP-Trained Youth to Act

By:
Aubrey Cox and Gopal Ratnam

Two Ugandans, Hassan Ndugwa and Nulu Naluyombya, are campaigning to ensure that this month’s elections challenging President Yoweri Museveni’s 30-year rule are peaceful, even as the government has arrested critics and opposition party workers. Drawing on concepts and skills of dialogue, storytelling and active listening that they learned in USIP’s Generation Change Fellows Program, the two estimate their message has reached 20,000 people.

Hassan and Nulu said they have crisscrossed the country, starting with an event in December 2015 in the capital Kampala that drew 150 people from civil society organizations, youth and women’s groups, as well as religious leaders, government officials and the police.  They join a coalition of other youth-led programs, like #IChoosePeaceUG, that are dedicated to elevating messages of peace during the election cycle. The goal is to convince citizens to engage in the election campaign in non-violent ways rather than getting involved in the kind of violence that already has broken out during the primary season.

“Finally people understood that supporting different candidates does not mean we are enemies but people with different views.” Generation Change Fellow Nulu Naluyombya.

The U.S. State Department has warned that excessive use of force, arrests of journalists and obstruction of opposition party rallies in Uganda have created an “electoral climate of fear and intimidation and raises questions about the fairness of the process.” The Feb. 18 election pits Museveni, 71, against long-time opposition leader Kizza Besigye and former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi. A prominent aide to Mbabazi’s campaign has disappeared under unclear circumstances, according to the Reuters news agency.

Although the campaign period has featured Uganda’s first ever U.S.-style presidential debate, which Museveni skipped, media coverage of the elections has been hampered by intimidation and excessive government regulation of media outlets that provide air time to opposition candidates. The political opposition and human rights groups accuse the ruling party of wielding a million-strong force of official “crime preventers” to intimidate the opposition. The government, for its part, accuses opposition candidates of forming youth militias.

Elections tend to be a key magnet for conflict to turn violent. USIP runs programs aimed at preventing such violence and conducts research to study which methods might be more effective under certain conditions. Public education, citizen consultations and peace messaging are among techniques often used to lessen the risk of tensions turning violent before, during and after elections, said USIP Senior Program Officer Jonas Claes in a March 2015 article examining the range of approaches.

Generation Change’

USIP adopted the Department of State’s Generation Change initiative in 2014 and has trained 73 young civic leaders in 10 countries under the fellows program. Hassan, a senior program coordinator with Uganda Muslim Youth Development Forum, which works to prevent extremism and youth radicalization, and Nulu, founder and executive director of Success Chapter, which trains young women in basic life skills, began their fellowship with USIP in 2014.

Both of them say the program gave them a better understanding of how conflict arises in societies and how to manage it peacefully.

“Before the program, I always thought conflict was a bad thing or it’s a negative thing,” Nulu said in a Skype interview. “After the training, I realized conflict is not necessarily a negative thing, but how you handle the conflict is going to determine whether the outcome is going to be a negative or positive.”

That, in turn, is likely to determine whether “people become violent or non-violent,” she said.

“Understanding how non-verbal communication and storytelling are very important aspects of communication, we incorporated skits in our campaigns to further drive the peace message home,” Hassan and Nulu said in a joint e-mail outlining their work.

A campaign sketch they developed in multiple local languages shows a husband and wife supporting different candidates without letting their political choices affect the peace at home.

“Putting the message in a skit helps to break it down for people who don’t understand” English, Nulu said. And “it’s fun and interactive.”

Having learned through USIP the difference between debate, which can stoke conflict, and dialogue, which can promote understanding, the pair encourages Ugandans to “use dialogue instead of debate so as to stay peaceful in this period” as they discuss support for different candidates, the two leaders said.

Active Listening

Hassan and Nulu said the learned skill of active listening has helped them address different groups of citizens with varying levels of education and economic status without belittling their audience.

Leadership training they received as USIP fellows helped them create partnerships with other groups as well as the Ugandan police, which provided security for their efforts and was crucial in their campaign across eight districts that are more likely to experience violence – Masaka, Kampala, Mukono, Mbarara, Kanungu, Fortportal, Jinja and Mbale, they said.

Unlike many non-governmental organizations working to prevent election violence through TV talk shows and advertisements, Hassan and Nulu said their efforts are focused on direct contact with citizens and involving them in generating ideas and solutions. Rather than organize events in hotel conference rooms, they focused on engaging citizens living in rural communities, reaching out to people in their homes and towns.

Approaching “people on their motorcycles or people who’re in their gardens, and giving them these messages was a powerful part of the campaign,” Nulu said. “Being able to reach people, most of whom don’t have TV sets, don’t read newspapers, they’re not even on Facebook … was exciting and powerful.”

“Finally people understood that supporting different candidates does not mean we are enemies but people with different views,” Nulu said.

With both political parties threatening to not accept defeat, Hassan and Nulu recognize the potential for violence after the elections. They acknowledge that their work will not end on February 18, and that building a more peaceful Uganda will be a long-term effort.

Source :USIP