Civic Forum Initiative (CFI)
The CFI is a broad coalition of civil society actors with membership drawn from advocacy NGOs, policy think tanks, faith-based organizations, community based organizations, youth groups, labour organizations, gender groups, and individual citizens. The CFI was formed in 2008 in response to an appeal by the Electoral Commission for citizens to assist the Commission to clean up the national voters’ register, after the limited registration exercise of July 31 through to August 12, 2008, yielded a bloated register.
The overall objective of the CFI is to ensure peaceful and credible electoral management through active community and citizens’ participation, and collaboration with relevant state institutions to foster national cohesion in Ghana.
During the 2008 electioneering period, the CFI mobilized and trained a critical mass of about 1,000 citizens to serve as voter educators and election observers. The network also collaborated with the National Commission on Civic Education (NCCE) and Community Radio networks to carry out voter education and observation exercises for voters’ register exhibition. Further, CFI collaborated with the National Peace Council to reduce the heightened tension, which characterized the 2008 elections, through confidence building measures and programmes of national solidarity.
In 2010, the CFI in collaboration with the Governance Issues Forum (an interface capacity platform of IDEG at the local level), mounted platforms for electorates and community members in selected districts to engage aspiring candidates on electoral issues and their respective roles and responsibilities in community development.
The membership of the CFI is diverse and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the planning, strategizing and execution of activities to promote national cohesion and development.
In mid-September 2008, the Electoral Commission appealed to Ghanaians to assist the Commission to clean up the national voters’ register, after the limited registration exercise of July 31 through to August 12, 2008, yielded a bloated register. The EC reported that 1,835,417 were registered as qualified voters. It argued that the number was too high and had increased the EC’s informed projections of the qualified voters for the December 7 Presidential and Parliamentary elections, from 10,987,057 to, 12,822,474.
The credibility of the voters’ register was therefore in question with the potential of derailing the national pursuit of free, fair, transparent and peaceful elections in December 2008. To avert outcomes of disputed results and chaos on election day, the EC called for a thorough clean up of the existing voters’ register before it was applied to the December 2008 elections, asking civil society actors to actively support the clean up exercise between October 5 and 11, 2008.
Both in response to the EC’s appeal and the opportunity to clean up the register during the public exhibition exercise, a broad coalition of civil society organizations took the initiative to mobilize citizens, communities and civil society actors to participate effectively in the public exhibition and cleaning up of the voters register. Committed to supporting peaceful and credible elections in Ghana in December 2008, the coalition formed the Civic Forum Initiative as a platform for its collective activities and campaigns.
The driving force of the CFI was the idea that citizens in their various communities are the major stakeholders of democratic elections; not the political parties. Therefore, in a situation where the major political parties were alleged to have contributed to the bloated register, it was incumbent on citizens to exercise their civic responsibilities by ensuring that the voters’ register was devoid of irregularities. Through informed and pro-active actions at the decentralized levels of polling stations and constituencies, the CFI had the conviction that citizens could contribute to both the cleaning up of the voters’ register and also undertake activities that would ensure that the December 7 elections are peaceful and credible.
Accordingly, the CFI launched a campaign of civic and community actions in support of the cleaning up of the voters register for the December 2008 presidential and parliamentary elections.
Highlights of Activities in 2008
Working towards the 2008 elections, the IDEG-CFI undertook a number of activities. These included:
- Training Workshops for observers and civic educators (national and regional trainings)
- Convening of the first National Forum of the CFI
- Regional outreach activities and publicity campaigns on cleaning of voters register
- Mass civic and voter education campaigns in collaboration with NCCE across the country
- Domestic election observation
- Monitoring of elections from Situation room
- Media engagements (interviews, press statements etc)
- Coordination, documentation and publication
- Mediating role of IDEG-CFI leadership, the National Peace Council and religious leaders to avert mass outbreak of violence and street protest, involving the two major political parties the NDC and NPP, following disputes over elections results.
The Institute for Democratic Governance serves as the host secretariat of the coalition. The CFI functions under the guidance and direction of a Steering Committee comprising representatives from the National Catholic Secretariat (NCS), West Africa Network for Peace building (WANEP), African Security Dialogue and Research (ASDR), Office of the Chief Imam, Ghana Trades Union Congress (TUC), Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC), Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF), The Ark Foundation and, the International Center for Conflict and Human Rights Analysis (ICCHRA). The CFI has membership in all ten regions and districts in the country. Organisations that share in the objectives of the CFI can apply through the host secretariat for admission by the Steering Committee.