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Ollen Mwalubunju Executive Director of NICE signs the agreement as German Ambassador His Excellency Jorgen Bosch looks on.
The German Government has invested K120 million to support NICE to hold political public debates in 89 constituencies and 231 wards. The funding will go towards strengthening civic and voter education for credible free and fair 2019 Tripartite elections in Malawi.
Speaking at the signing ceremony of the agreement between the German Government and NICE in Lilongwe at the German Embassy, Ambassador for the Federal Republic of Germany His Excellency Jurgen Borsch said they are very happy that NICE agreed to become the implementation partner since NICE is an organization with a broad base of volunteers to reach out to every corner of the country .
‘Our main interest is, in the most constructive and positive sense, to have a debate on content, we want to go away from discussions about people, persons and faces towards discussions about programs. We can call it a competition of good ideas’ ambassador Jorgen said.
Reacting to the sentiments Ollen Mwalubunju Executive Director of NICE said, “The funding is also complementing to our ongoing civic education, as you are aware that the EU is also supporting this. So it has pleased the Germany government to contribute in terms of the gap that we indicated to them and we are grateful that they have positively responded”
Speaking on the sidelines of the meeting Gray Kalindekafe NICE Trust National programmes said elaborated more on the political debates and are aimed at giving a platform for the candidates to articulate their manifestos.
‘We shall create a face to face interaction between the aspiring candidates and the electorate because at the same time the debates will also be raising voter awareness focusing on mobilizing people to turn up on the actual polling day.” Kalindekafe said.
NICE as an institution that peomotes transparency and accountability, will also use the debates as an accountability tool because they will be recorded and later on be played to the community.
“ Not only will we do the debates and forget about it, we intend to record all political debates and later on we will come back to the same community and the candidates who wins will be asked make plans with the community on how they will full fill their promises made. That is how the debates will be used as an accountability tool” Kalindekafe said.
Kalindekafe went on to say that the debates will also act like a framework for holding leaders accountable as they will sign a social contract. The debates will act like an accountability tool for the winner to plan and execute a plan to fulfill the promises made. The elected candidate will meet the electorate to chat a way forward on how to hold these candidates accountable once elected through signing of a social contract called “ Fullfill Your Promise Campaign.
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NICE Public Trust as one of the major stakeholder in Elections in Malawi is taking part in the two conferences onelections in October. The first conference which is “Sustaining Peace through Elections” which has been organised by the United Nations Development Programme, the European External Action Service and the European Commission will take place from 8-11 October, 2018.
The Conference aims at revisiting existing methods to deflect conflicts and electoral violence. Participants at the Conference will debate if political dialogue and peace declarations are efficient tools to promote peace and if it can prevent violence in electoral processes through the monitoring of pre-electoral moments, such as the voter registration, candidate nominations, internal party elections/nominations, among other topics.
According to NICE Executive Director Mr. Ollen Mwalubunju, the conference is timely and very important to NICE as the major civic education body in Malawi as a country because of the already existing conflicts on the ground as we are getting closer to the second Tripartite Election next year on 21st May 2018. Mwalubunju also said that, “given the expected competitiveness of the forthcoming elections and the early warnings so far observed, the Conference will give opportunity for Malawi stakeholders gain and share experiences that could add value for a free, fair and peaceful elections.”
The second conference is on “The Future of International Election Observation” and has been organised on 10th and 11th October by the European Parliament, and the European External Action Service. The Conference will bring together key electoral stakeholders from partner countries and organisations, for an open and interactive discussion on new challenges and opportunities on electoral processes, including the impact of the use of ICT and social media as well as preventing election-related violence. The Conference will be opened by Mr. Antonio Tajani, the President of the European, and Mrs. Federica Mogherini-the High representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice President of the European Commission together with the representatives from African Union and United Nations.
It is expected the two high level conferences will bring invaluable expertise on how to support the strengthening of democratic institutions, build public confidence in electoral processes, and help to deter fraud, intimidation and violence.
Malawi just like any other nation in the world, the ICT inclusive of social media plays a vital role in everyday life and not just the elections. As Malawi is getting geared towards the elections, use of social media is very important and through NICE, Malawi will learn from other countries on how they effectively use social media on electoral related. Another critical aspects of ICT which is increasingly becoming a bone of contention is use of ICT in transmission of election results, this is an area which should be given adequate attention, especially in Africa-the matter has been a source of disputed elections in some countries.
The Delegation from Malawi that have been funded the European Union-Malawi Office to attend the two Conferences include; Mr Ollen Mwalubunju the Executive Director of NICE, Steven Duwa-the Chairperson of the Pan African Civic Educator Network ( PACENET) and Justice Dr Jane Ansah-the Chairperson of the Malawi Electoral Commission.
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he European Union says it is satisfied with previous programmes undertaken by National Initiative for Civic Education Public Trust (NICE ). Speaking at the launching Ceremony of a Five Year Multi Annual Programme Estimate MAPE in Lilongwe ( which is part of the Government of Malawi Democratic Governance Program called Chilungamo), the Head of EU Ambassador and Delegation, to Malawi His Excellency Marchel Gerrmann said during the launch that supporting the long term program, the MAPE, is a clear demonstration of EU’s long term commitment to NICE. He said that NICE has been a long-term partner of the EU since it was established in 1999.
‘This is an illustration that we are satisfied with the results from the previous programmes with NICE,’ Ambassador Gerrmann said adding that NICE needs the support of other partners and the Malawi government in order to sustain and scale up activities in all the districts in Malawi. The Ambassador noted that there are a lot of emerging issues in Malawi that NICE should pay particular attention among others; mismanagement of funds in councils, and misunderstandings between Ward Councilors and Members of Parliament roles which affect implementation of community projects, population boom among others.
“NICE needs to pay more attention to these things. You should never at any point be derailed by any form of pressure.’ Advised the EU ambassador.
Commenting on the role of NICE in civic and voter education, the EU Ambassador commended NICE for significantly contributing to reduction of the percentage of null and void votes from 4.5% in 2009 General eelection,to slightly above 1% in the first ever Tripartite Elections in 2014, adding that, the EU was confident that this remarkable achievement would be sustained in the 2019 Tripartite.
Speaking at the event Guest of Honor, the former Vice President of Malawi Right Hounourable Dr Justin Malawezi said that the 5-years long funding of the MAPE from the EU, would go a long way in strengthening NICE to be a more viable organization. This will contribute to expectation that the Trust should conduct civic education in a permanent and sustainable manner.
Earlier on the Chairperson of NICE Board of Trustees Mrs Susan Kaunda said that the launch of the MAPE was intended to help in raising the profile of the Trust and confirm its commitment to contribute towards the promotion/strengthening of democracy and good governance in Malawi through the provision of impartial and non-partisan civic and voter education.
‘The main objective of the launch of NICE Public Trust MAPE is to raise awareness among the Malawian citizenry on the presence of the long-term program of the civic and voter education body and outline strategies put in place to contribute towards a stronger democratic culture among Malawians’ Kaunda said.
The MAPE is EU funded 5 years Multi-Annual Programme Estimate (MAPE) which started in February 2017 and will run up to January 2022, with the main aim of promoting democratic governance and active participation of citizens in decision making processes so that they can hold their elected representatives, public officials and service providers to account for their actions and non-actions. The Program also focusses on capacitating communities to access to justice.
The ceremony was held at the Great Sapitwa Hall at Cresta Crossroads Hotel in Lilongwe and was also attended by Malawi Electoral Election Chairperson Justice Jane Ansah SC, The First Deputy Speaker National Assembly Honourable Esther Mcheka Chilenje. The Solicitor and Secretary of the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Dr Jane Banda, The National Authorising Office officials among others.