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Credible Elections! A Must-Do for Nigeria

by Amb. Robin Renee Sanders

I have spent the last few weeks in Nigeria stressing the importance of credible elections with a number of speeches in both Abuja and Lagos on the issue. I refer you to my speeches at the Nigerian Institute of Management and my recent remarks at the civil society gathering of CODER -- both events focused on the road map for election reform and the future of the credibility of the Independent Election Commission, more commonly known here as INEC.

There is not a single Nigerian who does not believe that the country's 2011 elections are a marker for Nigeria's next 50 years. Yes, this is Nigeria's 50th independence celebration, but it is also more than that. Nigerians tell me it is a time for change, a time to move forward, and a time to have leadership that will be by the people and for the people. It does not get any better than that when you talk about true democracy.Governments govern by the consent of the people.

And, the people of Nigeria want credibility and transparency in their election processes.

The U.S. Government is doing its part with help in certain areas of election assistance as are other donors. We have a unique partnership with the UK and are jointly coordinating and pooling our expertise and assistance and other donors are also doing their part.

We are primarily focusing on parallel vote tabulation (or what is called SWIFT Vote Count here in Nigeria), which will seek to provide a secondary validation of polling results; training civil society monitors and observers; training INEC staff, encouraging more democratization in political party processes; and assisting with developing time lines for certain actions given what appears to be a short time line between now and when the elections may happen in early 2011 (right now it is unclear whether elections will be held in January or April 2011).

This post originally appeared at BlogIt-rss.

Dr. Robin Renée Sanders, a career member of the senior Foreign Service, arrived in Nigeria in December, 2007. Most recently, she served as International Advisor and Deputy Commandant at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in Washington, D.C. Prior to this position, she served as the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Congo (2002-2005) and as Director for Public Diplomacy for Africa for the State Department (2000-2002).She served twice as the Director for Africa at the National Security Council at the White House; and was the Special Assistant for Latin America, Africa, and International Crime for the Undersecretary for Political Affairs at the State Department (1996-1997). Ambassador Sanders holds a Doctor of Science Degree in Information Science and Communication from Robert Morris University, Masters of Art degree in International Relations and Africa Studies, and a Masters of Science degree in Communications and Journalism from Ohio University. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from Hampton University.

Dr. Sanders is the recipient of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Civilian Honor Award; three State Department Superior Honor Awards; four State Department Meritorious Honor Awards; the “Presidential Merit of Honor Award” from the Republic of Congo, and several citations in Who’s Who of America. She is a national board member of Operation Hope - a non-profit organization focused on empowerment of at-risk communities

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