Head Of ECOWAS Observation Mission Urges Peaceful, Credible Elections In Sierra Leone
Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas, Head of the 95-member strong ECOWAS Election Observation Mission to Sierra Leone, on Wednesday called on Sierra Leoneans to ensure that Saturday’s elections for a new president, parliament, and councilors were peaceful, credible, and transparent.
Since his arrival on Tuesday, Dr Chambas, who is well known in the region, having served as ECOWAS Commission President and Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in West Africa and the Sahel, continues to repeat his message of peace and conciliation during engagements with various stakeholders ahead of the crucial elections.
During consultations with officials of the Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone (ECSL) led by Chief Commissioner Mohamed Konneh, the Head of Mission called on the Commission to remain focused as an impartial umpire to continue to enjoy the confidence and trust of political parties, candidates, and the electorate.
“Do not get tired of engagement, communicating and explaining your activities and policies to ensure that you carry all stakeholders along,” Dr Chambas affirmed, adding that complaints from all quarters, including opposition All People’s Party (APC), should be resolved to ensure a peaceful and successful electoral process.
While pledging ECOWAS’ support, the Head of Mission noted that Sierra Leone and Liberia as post-conflict countries had achieved irreversible progress on the path of democracy, citing Sierra Leone’s recent election to the rotational UN Security Council seat.
Briefing Dr Chambas on the level of the Commission’s preparedness, Chief Commissioner Konneh said that he was living out the pledge he made on assuming office to work with all stakeholders to deliver elections whose results would stand the test of time.
He explained that most of the complaints by the APC, such as alleged duplication and under-age registrations and about the election results management had been addressed.
The Chief Commissioner reiterated the Commission’s readiness to conduct the elections, adding that the opposition party’s call for a postponement or an independent audit of the voters’ register could throw the country into constitutional crisis.
At a separate meeting with officials of Sierra Leone’s Political Party Regulations Commission (PPRC), Dr Chambas commended the Commission for its activities, especially the Commission’s brokered political pledge on peaceful elections and for encouraging the political parties to sign it.
“This was a right step,” the Head of ECOWAS Mission said, adding that Sierra Leone was being admired for its democratic progress after the 1991-2002 civil war.
He also praised the PPRC for the being “at the heart of the ongoing mediation” between the ECSL and the APC on the electoral process.”
“Continue the dialogue to ensure peaceful and credible elections on Saturday and beyond,” said Dr Chambas, who further called for a halt to the region’s democratic decline.
ECOWAS would continue to support Sierra Leone, he assured.
Lending his voice in praise of the PPRP, Amb. Abdel-Fatau Musah, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace, and Security said, that apart of election observation, ECOWAS also carries out preventive diplomacy during and after elections in member States, adding that a joint ECOWAS and AU pre-election fact-finding mission was in Sierra Leone in April.
The PPRC Executive Secretary, Olushogo David briefed the ECOWAS delegation on the Commission’s work.
He said that apart from isolated cases of skirmishes or violence, the pre-election and campaign periods were relatively peaceful, and expressed the hope that Saturday’s elections would go smoothly.
Also, in Dr Chambas’ delegation were Amb. Ansumana Ceesay, deputy Head of Mission and the ECOWAS Special Representative to Sierra Leone, Amb. Moussa Harouna.
The ECOWAS Long- and Short-Term observers have been deployed to Sierra Leone’s 16 electoral Districts for Saturday’s elections to elect a new president and fill 135 parliamentary and 493 Mayoral and Local Council seats.