By Joseph S. Ansumana
The National Coordinator for the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP), Dr. Isata Mahoi has in an exclusive interview with this medium said that Peace and Cohesion are key to national development.
She said that WANEP as a key player in national cohesion works closely with government and other key stakeholders in Sierra Leone to achieve this objective, noting that Sierra Leone is slowly transitioning into a new political climate.
“Although the elections were largely peaceful, instances of alleged politically motivated violence were seen across the country, intimidation, harassment, and hate speech resulted in internal displacements and injuries, and drew lines of division,” she observed.
She said that all citizens of Sierra Leone must feel part of the country and society in order for development and peace and stability to be achieved.
Madam Mahoi said to sustain peace in such a society and maintain upward sustainable development trajectory emphasis must be on strengthening institutions and social cohesion.
She furthered that essential qualities of cohesive societies include high levels of trust, a shared vision for a common future, and responsive and legitimate governance institutions, which actively support inclusive economic development. social cohesion that helps prevent socio-political polarization by tapping into the local peacebuilding networks which can manage and interrupt conflict forming dynamics, and provide space for new forms of political consensus.
She informed that WANEP has been enhancing capacity of women across the region in leadership and decision-making, mediation, and political participation and noted that the organization has succeeded in establishing strong national networks in every member states of ECOWAS with credibility and a wide recognition both nationally and international due to its outstanding work in the areas of peacebuilding and conflict prevention in the ECOWAS region.
She informed that the mission is to enable and facilitate mechanisms for cooperation among civil society-based peacebuilding practitioners and organizations in West Africa by promoting cooperative responses with states actors to address the root causes of violent conflict.
Speaking on their thematic areas, she said their focus is on youth, peace and security; violent extremism; dialogue and mediation; infrastructure for peace; gender, peace and security; media, peace and security; election management; and peacebuilding program design, monitoring and evaluation and over the years, WANEP has evolved to meet changing and challenges dynamics of conflict in Africa.
She informed that WANEP has 15 national networks in 15 countries - The Gambia, Nigeria, Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Togo Mali, Niger, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Ghana Liberia, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Guinee Bissau and Cape Verde.
‘’We have repositioned our peace education programme. We continue to leverage on our partnership and the growing expertise and we have also contributed and supported Africa States and communities in preventing, mitigating and responding to peace and security challenges,” she said, assuring that WANEP will continue to make strategy contributions.
She underscored that National Early Warning and Response Systems are functional in all member states and linked to ECOWAS early warning and response systems in the regions.
She added that the West Africa Early Warning and Response Network (WARN) is WANEP’s flagship program with the primary objective of providing earning warning information and design timely responses to prevent the outbreak or mitigate the escalation of conflict, its most viable tool for prevention of violent conflicts that generally informs WANEP’s program designs and interventions.
The West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP) is the leading regional civil society organization in conflict prevention and peacebuilding.