ECOWAS electoral Management team meets Sierra Leone political stakeholders
Political stakeholders should see elections as a sovereign responsibility and democracy as a collective sacrifice for the wellbeing of the people for national development, an ECOWAS official has said.
ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC) governing board, led by its, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu made the appeal when he led his delegation to meet political stakeholders in Sierra Leone.
The delegation, which is on a NEEDS Assessment and Solidarity Missions to Sierra Leone and Liberia, are to hold crucial elections in March 2018 and October 2017 respectively.
He gave the advice in Freetown on Monday, July 10, 2017, during separate meetings with the leaderships of Sierra Leone’s National Electoral Commission (NEC), the Political Party Registration Commission (PPRC) and political parties.
“For the first time, all 15 member States of ECOWAS are democracies and ECONEC as a collective of election management bodies is determined to consolidate credible elections in our region through experience sharing on best practices, working together, helping each other and also working with partners,” Prof. Yakubu, told the gatherings.
Prof. Yakubu, who is chair of Nigeria’s Electoral Commission (INEC) adds: “we are here to listen to you and also learn from you, not to teach or dictate to you’’.
Mr Mohamed N’fah-Alie Conteh, chair of the five-member NEC, briefed the ECONEC team and made a presentation on the general preparation by the Commission for the March 2018 elections.
He covered issues related to voter registration, boundary delimitation, legal reforms, logistics, election security, electoral calendar and funding.
N’fah-Alie Conteh thanked ECONEC for the visit and ECOWAS and member States, especially Nigeria for their assistance in the restoration of peace and deepening of democracy in Sierra Leone, which went through a decade-long civil war and the Ebola virus devastation of 2014.
The NEC chairman mentioned the assistance and technical support from development partners particularly the UN Development Programme (UNDP), but said there was still a shortfall to be addressed for a successful electoral process.
Prof. Yakubu promised that ECONEC would assist with advocacy to various stakeholders in support of the Commission, stressing that the credibility of any election depended on the credibility of the election administrators and the integrity of the process, including the voter registration.
The chair of Sierra Leone’s PPRC, Justice Patrick Hamilton briefed the ECONEC delegation on the functions of the Political Party Registration Commission and expressed his optimism about progress of the electoral process and the level of cooperation from the political parties and other stakeholders.
For their part, the leaders of the political parties expressed their concerns especially in relation to voter registration, boundary delimitation and security.
In his response, Prof Yakubu urged cooperation of all the stakeholders, reiterating his now familiar exhortation: “It is better to deploy ECONEC for credible and peace election than to deploy ECOMOG,’’ (the regional military peacekeeping force) after a flawed electoral process.
“All eyes are on Sierra Leone,’’ he said, adding, “the failure of Sierra Leone will be the failure of not just West Africa, but the whole of Africa’’.
The ECONEC delegation includes heads of electoral commissions of Burkina Faso and Cabo Verde and Secretariat staff of ECONEC, its permanent Secretary Mr Francis Oke, head of ECOWAS Electoral Assistance Division.
They would later meet with other Sierra Leone stakeholders, including those in the security, judiciary, Civil society, media and development partners.
The ECONEC mission supported by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA) and INEC Nigeria, will later proceed to Liberia, which is holding a crucial presidential election next October.
The ECOWAS Commission and electoral management bodies in West Africa set up ECONEC in 2008 to promote credible elections in member States by encouraging the gradual harmonisation of electoral legislations and best practices through experience-sharing and peer learning of good practices in electoral matters. ##