ECOWAS SUMMIT URGES GAMBIA TO HOLD FREE, CREDIBLE ELECTIONS

At its recently concluded forty-ninth Ordinary Summit in Dakar, Republic of Senegal, on 4th June, 2016, the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), in its final communiqué, is urging the Gambia Government and Parliament to initiate the requisite reforms for the conduct of inclusive, free and credible elections and for the security forces to refrain from the use of excessive force against the citizens and adopt a responsible approach.

According to a press release from ECOWAS, the Summit commends the recent joint good offices mission fielded to the Gambia by the Commission President, the United Nations Special Representative in West Africa and the Sahel and the African Union Commissioner for Political Affairs, in the wake of the tensions that arose after the closure of the borders between The Gambia and Senegal in February 2016 and the demonstrations staged by the opposition on 14 and 16 April 2016.

It commends the Gambia’s political stakeholders for the signing, on 20 April 2016, of an agreement to revive and revitalise the Inter Party Committee (IPC) comprising the ruling and opposition parties.

“The Authority consequently calls on the Gambian government and the opposition to engage in a frank dialogue at the earliest possible time and encourages the Independent Electoral Commission to prepare a Road Map for approval by all the stakeholders of the electoral process,” states the release.

The Summit also welcomes the opening of the borders between The Gambia and Senegal on 24 May 2016 and “calls on the two sister states to give dialogue a chance while strictly complying with the principles of free movement of persons, and goods as set out in the ECOWAS Protocol on Free Movement”.

The Authority of Heads of State instructs the ECOWAS Commission to deploy as soon as possible, a pre-electoral technical mission to appraise the electoral process in The Gambia.

“The Heads of State and Government urged all Member States scheduled to hold elections in 2016, namely, Cabo Verde, The Gambia and Ghana, to create a propitious environment for the conduct of peaceful, free and transparent elections,” states the release.

The Authority also calls on Member States to take ownership of, and implement, all Protocols and Community Acts and, in particular, the Community Levy Protocols, in order to fast-track the integration process.

Under the chairmanship of President Macky Sall of Senegal, the outgoing Chair of ECOWAS, the Summit was attended by 10 heads of state from the 15 ECOWAS countries and Gambia was represented by Mr. Abdou Jobe, Minister of Trade, Industry, Economic Integration and Employment.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia is elected as the new Chair of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, for a one-year term.

The Heads of State and Government decide to hold their next Ordinary Session in Abuja, Federal Republic of Nigeria, at a date to be agreed upon after consultations.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, ECOWAS Chair