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Commonwealth observer mission arrives ahead of polls

Nov 21, 2011, 1:03 PM

A five-member Commonwealth team of experts arrived in Banjul Friday ahead of the presidential election scheduled for 24th November.

The team, according to a statement from the Commonwealth Secretariat, has been constituted at the invitation of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) of The Gambia, following a recent high-level political assessment mission to The Gambia led by Deputy Secretary-General Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba.

Announcing the mission of the team, Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma said the mandate of the team, led by Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, former Foreign Minister of Nigeria, is to observe the preparations for the election; the polling, counting and results process; and the electoral environment as a whole.

Supported by a four-member team from the Commonwealth Secretariat, the experts will assess the overall conduct of the elections, and the environment in which they take place and, where appropriate, will make recommendations for strengthening of the electoral process in future.

“The Commonwealth Secretariat work as a trusted partner with member states on strengthening democratic institutions and processes. A key way of doing this is by observing elections, when invited, as well as through longer term engagement on providing advice and technical assistance,” the Secretary General added.

The Commonwealth team will remain in The Gambia until 29th November 2011.

The full composition of the Commonwealth expert team is as follows: Professor Bolaji Akinyemi (chair), former Foreign Minister Nigeria; Ms Cynthia Barrow-Giles, Academic, St. Lucia; Mr Edward Alexander Canfor-Dumas, Conflict Management Consultant, United Kingdom; Mr Christopher Cobb, President, Commonwealth Journalist Association, Canada; and Madam Sa-adatu Maida, Commissioner, Electoral Commission, Ghana.

The Commonwealth Secretariat support staff team will be led by Ambassador Ayo Oke, Head of the Africa Section, Political Affairs Division.

It would be noted that the Commonwealth observed the 2011 and 2006 Presidential elections in The Gambia, and a team was also present for the legislative elections in 2002 and 2007.