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Ecowas to send election observers to Gambia

Jun 14, 2016, 10:55 AM | Article By: Lamin Jahateh

The vice president of the Ecowas Commission has disclosed that the commission would “hopefully” send a mission to monitor The Gambia’s 1 December 2016 presidential election, though it had boycotted the election in 2011.

“Ecowas has Gambia’s election on its calendar and, hopefully, would send an observer mission (to monitor the polls),” said Ecowas Commission VP Edward Singhateh during a brief question and answer session with young West African journalists, who were recently at the Ecowas Commission in Abuja, Nigeria, for a weeklong seminar.

“I am quite sure a good, credible team from Ecowas would definitely go (to The Gambia),” he quickly added.

The West African regional bloc had boycotted the immediate-past presidential election in The Gambia – in 2011 – by refusing to send an election observer mission.

Ecowas said the preparations and political environment for the said election were deemed “not to be conducive for the conduct of free, fair and transparent polls."

The decision to boycott was taken after an Ecowas fact-finding mission was sent to The Gambia to assess the state of preparedness of the country for the election.

The report of the fact-finding mission painted a picture of intimidation, an unacceptable level of control of the electronic media by the incumbent, the lack of neutrality of state and para-statal institutions, and an opposition and electorate cowed by repression and intimidation.

Ecowas said the status quo at the time did not meet the minimum standards set under its Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance for the conduct of elections, and subsequently decided not to be party to such election.

The Gambia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry swiftly reacted saying the decision of the Ecowas Commission was subjective, and not reflective of the prevailing political environment in The Gambia prior to the polls.

Although other international bodies such as the African Union, European Union, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and Commonwealth did send observer missions for the 2011 polls, Ecowas stood firm on its ground.

Chiagozie Udeh, an expert on politics in West Africa, said empirical evidence suggests that almost all the reasons why the Ecowas Commission boycotted Gambia’s 2011 presidential election are still prevailing, as the 2016 election is approaching.

“Let us wait and see whether the pronouncement by the vice president is the definitive position of Ecowas, and what justification they will have for sending or not sending observer mission this time around,” he said.

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