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ECOWAS, AU claim free, transparency in Dec. 4th elections

Dec 9, 2021, 11:30 AM | Article By: Ali Jaw

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU) have universally acknowledged the December 4th elections, which took place on Saturday, as one that was free and fair per the observations and findings of their respective observers. These were revealed at a press release held by both the ECOWAS and AU at the Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara International Conference Center, at Bijilo.

 

The respective observer missions of these notable regional and sub-regional organisations expressed their overwhelming satisfaction over the way the election was conducted, maintaining that it was very free and fair. The mission also showed appreciation on the conditions in which the election was organised as well as the speed and transparency in the collection, transmission and declaration of the provisional results by the IEC.

Before the elections, and pursuant to the ECOWAS Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance (2001), president of ECOWAS, H.E. Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, deployed an Electoral Observation Mission (EOM) comprising 74 observers to observe the presidential election in The Gambia, as part of ECOWAS support to the democratic process in the country.

The EOM team, according to the preliminary ECOWAS statement on the presidential election, was led by H.E. Ernest Bai Koroma, former President of Sierra Leone, and comprised officials from the ministries of Foreign Affairs of the ECOWAS member states, electoral experts from the Electoral Commissions of the ECOWAS member states, members of the ECOWAS parliament, ECOWAS Court, as well as Ambassadors accredited to ECOWAS, journalists and members of Civil Society.

Per their observations, the ECOWAS Observation Mission noted of the early arrival of polling officials at polling centers, which enabled the starting of vote casting at the stipulated time being 8:00 a.m.; the availability of adequate and sufficient electoral materials at polling stations across the country; the efficient and professional conduct of polling officials, who demonstrated adequate knowledge of their duties.

The mission also noted the gender mix with women well represented as polling officials, party agents and security officers at polling stations but also the representations of all the parties and candidates. They also reiterated, as part of what they had observed, the use of indelible ink to indicate that voters had cast their votes; that voters were asked to show their voting cards before being allowed to vote, and that priority was given to the vulnerable like the physically challenged, pregnant or nursing women, and the elderly. There was also cooperation and non-adversary relationship between the electoral officials and party agents, which facilitated easy and efficient conduct of the election.

Lastly, the ECOWAS Observer Mission, through the Long-Term Observers and the Office of the Resident Representative of the President of ECOWAS Commission in The Gambia, will continue to monitor the post-electoral developments and expressed appreciation to the competent authorities of The Gambia for the measures to facilitate the deployment of observers for the election of 4th December, 2021.

On the same note, the African Union, according to a statement released by the organisation at the invitation of the Government of The Gambia and IEC, the chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC) H.E. Mousa Faki Mahamat, deployed the African Union Election Observer Mission (AUEOM) to the country’s presidential election.

The AU mission was charged with the task of observing, assessing and reporting on the preparations for the election in line with the relevant AU instruments for democratic elections. The main objective of the mission was to conduct an impartial, independent and objective assessment of the 2021 election, in line with the AU and international principles for the democratic elections and the national legal framework governing elections in The Gambia.

The AUEOM was led by H.E. Kgalema Petrus Motlanthe, former President of the Republic of South Africa and comprised nine (9) long-term observers (LTOs) and 60 short-term observers (STOs). The observers were drawn from the African Ambassadors accredited to the African Union (AU), Election Management Bodies (EMBs), independent electoral and governance experts and civil Society Organisations (CSOs) from 30 African countries. It was supported by the technical team from the African Union Commission and the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA).

This preliminary statement reflects the AUEOM’s assessment of the 2021 Presidential Election up to the close of polling on 4 December 2021 and the immediate post-election period. A final and comprehensive report will be released within a month from the official announcement of the final election results.

According to their preliminary statement on the election, The AUEOM observed that the campaign took place in a peaceful environment and that campaign messages were focused on peace and security, infrastructural development, education, health, youth development, vocational training, women empowerment, entrepreneurship support and economic stability. It was observed that the police were equally very proactive in monitoring the observance of approved campaign schedules to ensure no political party violated the schedule.

However, the mission received concerns from various stakeholders regarding private funding of political parties, which can compromise the playing field.

“The mission observed that The Gambia enjoys an improved, vibrant and diverse media, which allows for free expression of opinions, with active newspapers, over 50 radio stations and eight television stations.” 

The mission emphasised that the election was conducted in a peaceful, democratic and transparent environment, and as such, commends the IEC, political parties, candidates, as well as their supporters for their peaceful and commendable conduct before and during the election.

In essence, both the ECOWAS and AU election observer missions hailed and praised The Gambia and Gambian electorates for the high level of political maturity and the good conduct shown as much as the December 4th election is concerned, which has set a good example for other countries to emulate.

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