Head of the ECOWAS Election Observation Mission to The Gambia, Prof. Kwadwo
Afari-Gyanhas, appealed to all political stakeholders to ensure the country’s
April 6 Parliamentary elections are held in an atmosphere of peace and
tranquillity so as to consolidate the gains of democracy in the country and the
Speaking at a press conference held yesterday held at the SeaView Hotel Kololi, the head of the ECOWAS 20-member mission commended the Gambian Government and people for the reasonably peaceful atmosphere prevailing in the country and expressed the hope that the positive trend would be sustained during and after the National Assembly polls.
“ECOWAS is here to observe the parliamentary elections as further demonstration of its commitment to accompany and support the Government and people of the New Gambia in the country’s political progress and development for the benefit of all,” declared Prof. Afari-Gyanhas, who also led an ECOWAS needs assessment mission to the country last February.
He said this was in the aftermath of the December 2016 Presidential election, won by the opposition party after 22 years of the administration of former President Yahya Jammeh, now exiled in Equatorial Guinea.
The ECOWAS election observation mission deployed by the President of the ECOWAS Commission H.E. Marcel de Souza, in consonance with the regional Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance, is supported by the Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security Mrs Halima Ahmed, the ECOWAS Permanent Representative in The Gambia Mrs Vabah Gayflor, the Director of Political Affairs, Dr Remi Ajibewa and the Head of the Electoral Assistance Division (EAD), Mr Francis Oke.
Prof. Afari-Gyanhas assured that the ECOWAS observation mission would be impartial and its findings made public, while reminding all stakeholders including the political parties, the candidates and their supporters, the government, the electoral Commission and the security agencies about the need to work together for peace in the interest of the nation.
He recalled that ECOWAS-led efforts, supported by the international community, had facilitated the peaceful transfer of power after the December presidential election.
“There is the need to sustain the momentum and consolidate the gains,” he said, adding: “This would only be possible with the support and cooperation of all Gambians.”
Commissioner Ahmed said ECOWAS could not observe the presidential election due to the circumstances at the time and in compliance with its normative instruments on democracy and good governance. But she explained that the Commission and regional leaders have remained engaged with stakeholders to accompany the Gambia on the path of progress and democratisation.
She noted that the Commission’s President de Souza has paid a solidarity visit to The Gambia, while the ECOWAS military Mission, ECOMIG, deployed to the Gambia following the post-election tension is still in the country providing the necessary security support. ECOWAS has also upgraded its Bureau in the Gambia to Ambassadorial status.
According to Prof. Afari-Gyan, “ECOWAS’ overarching objective of regional integration and economic development is the responsibility of all the community citizens, and we are confident that Gambians will continue to play their part towards the realisation of ECOWAS 2020 Vision for transformation from an ECOWAS of State to an ECOWAS of people.”
Some 238 candidates from nine political parties and independents are vying for positions in The Gambia’s 53-seat National Assembly in the 6 April elections.
The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) registered 886,547 voters for the elections from the country’s estimated 1.9 million people. There are 1,422 polling stations across the 53 constituencies nationwide.