ECOWAS Commission to strengthen regional electoral bodies on democracy
The ECOWAS Commission will continue to support and partner with electoral management bodies to deliver democracy and good governance through the conduct of credible, fair and peaceful elections in the region, the Vice President of the Commission, Mr. Edward Singhatey pledged in Abuja on Friday, 7th July 2017.
Receiving members of the governing board of the ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC) at the Commission’s headquarters on behalf of President Marcel Alain de Souza, the vice president said the Commission attached a great importance on the work of Electoral Management Bodies (EMBs), as a sine qua non to credible elections, and on how they have asserted their independence.
For instance, he said the outcome of the political situation in the Gambia, his country could have been different if the national electoral Commission “had not stood up” to its responsibility, in a reference to the dispute which resulted from the country’s December 2016, which necessitated the robust intervention by ECOWAS to ensure eventual peaceful transfer of power.
The vice president promised that the Commission would redeem the financial pledge of nine hundred thousand US dollars (USD$900,000) it made to the ECONEC Secretariat in 2014 and also consider the request for the provision of a Special Fund and a Budget Line for electoral assistance in the Commission’s regular budget.
He said this would supplement the Commission’s technical and financial support to individual EMBs and ECONEC as a group, for effective monitoring and observation of elections in member States and the realisation of ECOWAS’ electoral assistance mandate.
“There is no price you can put on democracy or the freedom of our people,” Mr. Singhatey noted, commending the ECONEC Secretariat for its work in spite of its “poor funding.”
He also assured that the Commission would support ECONEC in the mobilisation of external funding from development partners to enable the Network to play its role of promoting credible elections by encouraging the gradual harmonization of electoral legislations and best practices through experience-sharing and peer learning of good practices in electoral matters.
In his remarks, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, the ECONEC board President and Chair of Nigeria’s Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), thanked the ECOWAS Commission for the commitment to support the Network.
He appealed for a quick redemption of the financial pledge made by the Commission and for “a more regular” form of assistance from the Commission’s regular budget.
Prof Yakubu also recalled the pledge of assistance to ECONEC from the Nigerian authorities, when the board members visited the Nigerian Acting President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo and the Senate President Dr. Bukola Saraki, adding that on its part, INEC has provided the Network with a Permanent Secretariat and a level of support for its operation.
He further explained that the Network members were tasking themselves and also intensifying the mobilisation of funds from external sources to ensure that ECONEC is repositioned as a major stakeholder in the delivery of credible elections, democracy and good governance in West Africa.
As a demonstration of the peer support mechanism among its members, Prof. Yakubu said that he would be leading an ECONEC delegation on a Solidarity and Needs Assessment Missions to Liberia and Sierra Leone, which are holding crucial elections in October 2017 and March 2018 respectively.
ECONEC board members were accompanied on the visit, which was on the margins of the board members’ two-day meeting in Abuja, by some INEC and ECONEC Secretariat officials.
On the ECOWAS Commission’s side, were the Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Mrs. Halima Ahmed, the Director of Political Affairs, Dr. Remi Ajibewa and Mr. Francis Oke, Head of the Electoral Assistance Division, who is also the ECONEC Permanent Secretary.
Photo: Edward Singhatey