The ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC) governing board’s delegation has concluded its Needs Assessment and Solidarity mission to Sierra Leone with a pat on the back from the country’s authorities, non-state actors and donor agencies, for boosting confidence in and supporting efforts to make the March 2018 elections in the country credible and peaceful.
In their assessments, the stakeholders praised ECONEC for its solidarity with Sierra Leone, the interest and genuine efforts to support democracy in the country.
“Your visit sends a strong message and has boosted confidence that the elections would be held,” declared Commissioner Mohamed Conteh, Chair of Sierra Leone National Electoral Commission (NEC), at the debriefing session between the ECONEC team and officials of the Commission in Freetown on Friday, 14th July 2017.
During its five-day stay, the mission led by Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, the ECONEC board President and Chair of Nigeria’s Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), held consultations with various stakeholders – official establishments including the National Electoral Commission (NEC), Political parties and the Political Party Registration Commission (PPRC), Sierra Leone’s Chief Justice, the Attorney-General and Justice Minister, Internal Affairs Minister, the Inspector General of Police (IG), and the National Security Coordinator.
Others were representatives Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), the Independent Media Commission (IMC), the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP), which coordinates donor agencies in support of the electoral process.
Echoing the general sentiment of appreciation, Sierra Leone’s Internal Affairs Minister Palo Conteh, had in a meeting with the ECONEC team earlier in the day praised the Network for the solidarity and support.
He said this was consistent with the sacrifice by ECOWAS and member States for the peace being enjoyed in Sierra Leone after the nation’s devastating civil war.
In his remarks, Prof Yakubu, commended all the stakeholders for their cooperation and willingness to share their concerns and listen to ECONEC’s suggestions on the way forward.
He thanked the authorities for their commitment to address issues which could impact the electoral process, such as the boundary delimitation and electoral bills, electoral security and setting up electoral courts, funding gaps, logistics, capacity building and voter cards procurement and distribution.
While reiterating his now poplar message that “it is better to deploy ECONEC to conduct credible and peace elections, rather than deploy ECOMOG (regional peacekeeping force after flawed elections),” Prof Yakubu promised that the Network would advocate for support on behalf of the stakeholders to ensure a successful electoral process in Sierra Leone.
ECONEC members and the donor community would also be approached to support the electoral process, he added.
The mission, supported by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), INEC and the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA), proceeds from Freetown to Liberia on Sunday on a similar Solidarity visit. Liberia is holding its own elections next October.
The delegation includes heads of Electoral Commissions of Burkina Faso and Cabo Verde, an EISA Representative and ECONEC Secretariat staff.
The ECOWAS Commission set up ECONEC in 2008 to promote credible elections in member States and also encourage gradual harmonisation of electoral laws and best practices through experience-sharing and peer-learning of good practices in electoral matters.
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