ECOWAS- AU- UN JOINT MISSION APPEAL FOR CREDIBLE, INCLUSIVE ELECTIONS

Abdoulie G. Dibba

ECOWAS- AU- UN Joint Mission to The Gambia, has appealed for credible and inclusive elections in an atmosphere of peace and Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambastolerance throughout the electoral process. While doing so it noted “progress in the preparations towards the elections and welcomed all stakeholders’ commitment to the holding of peaceful elections.”

The Mission commended Gambian stakeholders for the reinstatement of the Inter Party Committee, “which may serve as an effective platform for the resolution of contentious issues ahead of, and during the electoral process.”

These statements were made by the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for West Africa and the Sahel, Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas during a press briefing at the UN House in Cape Point on Thursday 5 may 2016.

Delivering the Joint Press statement, Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas stated that the Joint Mission   aimed at developing an understanding of the viewpoints  and perspectives  of  Gambian  stakeholders  on  political  and  other   developments affecting The Gambia ahead of the presidential election due to take place in December 2016 as well as assessing compliance with regional and sub-regional standards on elections, democracy, human  rights   and  governance, including  the  ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance and the AU Charter on Democracy, Elections  and  Governance and  that of exploring  options  to  further  support  dialogue among Gambian stakeholders with a view to promoting consensus on critical issues in order to contribute to inclusive, credible, participatory and peaceful elections in The Gambia.

In that vein, he said, the Joint Mission consulted widely with Cabinet members, interacted with   the Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission, representatives of the ruling majority and opposition parties, religious leaders, representatives of civil society organizations as well as Gambia’s diplomatic partners including Ambassadors from ECOWAS countries, the Head of the European Union Delegation, the British and US Ambassadors, and the Spanish Charge d’Affaires.

Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas stated that the Mission appealed for credible and inclusive elections in an atmosphere of peace and tolerance throughout the electoral process and noted progress in the preparations towards the elections and welcomed all stakeholders’ commitment to the holding of peaceful elections.

He pointed out that the Mission commended Gambian stakeholders for the reinstatement of the Inter Party Committee, which may serve as an effective platform for the resolution of contentious issues ahead of, and during the electoral process.

In particular he said, the Mission urged political parties to work together to create consensus around electoral laws and enhance outreach to increase the participation of youth and women. The Mission encouraged the establishment of an Elections Situation Room, which is best practice in many African countries.

In regard to ongoing judicial proceedings and in particular to the events on 14 and 16 April 2016 Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas said, the Mission evoked international and regional standards according to which the State has the duty to protect the rights of its citizens, in particular, the freedom of expression, assembly and political participation and that the Mission reiterated calls for a credible and independent investigation, and urged the Government of The Gambia to allow due process of law.

The Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for West Africa and the Sahel went further to state that the Mission  also welcomed  the  announcement by the  President during  his address of  the  National  Assembly, and  looks  forward to the establishment of the proposed National Human Rights Commission.

He noted that the Joint Mission expresses the wish that The Gambia will emulate the ongoing trend of peaceful and inclusive elections across West Africa, as a precondition to confront challenges of development, in line with the aspirations by the Gambian people.

On the border issue, Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas stated that the delegation appealed to the two countries to continue the dialogue underway, and in particular, to convene the bi-lateral meeting scheduled for the middle of May with a view to arriving at a mutually agreed solution.

In conclusion, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for West Africa and the Sahel, Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas stated as thus “United in the vision to contribute to a better future for the peoples of Africa, ECOWAS, the AU, and the UN re-affirm their continuing commitment to supporting the Government and the people of The Gambia in their quest to realize the universal Sustainable Development Goals”.

The Mission was included by the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Mr. Marcel Alain de Souza; the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Dr. Aisha Laraba Abdullahi, and the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for West Africa and the Sahel, Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas and Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights through its Regional Representative for West Africa. They were in the Gambia from 4 to 5 May 2016.