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ECOWAS Appeals for Peace & Restraint as Guineans Go to Polls

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has sued for peaceful conduct and the highest degree of restraint from political parties, stakeholders and the generality of citizens as Guinea holds her presidential election on the 11th of October 2015.

The head of the ECOWAS election observation Mission to Guinea, former president of Liberia professor Amos Sawyer made the call at the Conakry international Airport, Gbessia shortly after arriving the country.

He said the observation is in keeping with ECOWAS declarations and protocols on the promotion of democratic governance. “ECOWAS is here, it is also part of a larger international initiative to work with the people and government of Guinea in deepening democracy. We are here to encourage the Guinean people and to make sure that elections are held in an atmosphere of peace” he added. 

The elder statesman maintained that the high powered ECOWAS Mission was the culmination of the ground work embarked upon by the regional group to ensure that “Guinea cannot get it wrong while the need to get broader consensus on issues that can move the country forward can only be reached in an atmosphere of peace, tolerance and commitment to the ideals of good governance and a sound democracy”

Sawyer is being supported by the president of the ECOWAS Commission Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, the special Representative of the United Nations to West Africa Mohammed Ibn Chambas, The African Union Representative and former Prime Minister of Djibouti Dileita Mohammed Dileita, Special Representative of the ECOWAS Commission president in Guinea Zaba Jacqueline Marie as well as the ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS) Salamatu Hussaini Suleiman, in holding a series of meetings with political stakeholders of Guinea on the eve of the election.

Conferring with the incumbent president and candidate of the Rally of the Guinean People (RPG) Alpha Conde at the presidential palace in Conakry, the ECOWAS delegation restated its call that all issues relating to security be addressed seeing that the protection of the environment where an election is to take place is imperative. 

The delegation thereafter met the leader of the main opposition party and contender for the presidency, former prime minister between 1996 to 1999 Cellou Dalein Diallo of the Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (UFDG), Sidya Toure of the Union des Forces Republicaines (UFR) as well as former Executive Secretary of ECOWAS Lansana Kouyate- Party de l’Espoir pour le Development National (PEDN)

Holding talks with the chairman of Guinean electoral body- the Commission Electorale Nationale Independante (CENI) Bakary Fofana, the delegation sought to know how prepared the body was for the election. Separately, the concerns bordering on arrival of registration materials, and complaints about non-availability of voters cards in certain areas were raised among others.

Suing for the need to have what he referred to as “excessive transparency” as a way of guaranteeing the credibility of the poll, Sawyer said “ECOWAS is pleased that you are taking all measures necessary to hold a credible election. There are always spoilers so it is good that you go the extra mile to diffuse their designs”

Giving assurance of a credible poll, the CENI chairman said “you have arrived at a very important time to lead Guinea into another level. We are in social transformation. There are some disturbances which we consider normal. We are working on them. We all agree that no election is perfect we are working hard at addressing all the issues”

On his part, Chambas advised all contenders to exercise restraint and be mindful of the larger issue at stake “continuous resilience is necessary”

The ECOWAS delegation has also carefully weighed up the Idea of having all parties to the Guinean election sign up to an agreement which binds them to an unwavering commitment to the country’s electoral codes and in the practices related to it such as due process in the collation of results, participation, and conduct during elections etc. 

But security remains an issue as the contest reached its grand finale. Addressing the ECOWAS long and short term election observers at an earlier briefing, Major Kamara Onore of the Guinean Armed Forces gave details of the measures put in place to guarantee adequate security.

Long Term Observers Mission (LTEOM) backed by a technical team had been on ground before the arrival of the ECOWAS delegation. Led by the head, Good Governance Division of PAPS Eyeson Okorodudu, the team had engaged the Guinean minister of foreign affairs, the European Union delegation and Francophonie as well as the resident Coordinator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)  

Operating from its situation room, the LTEOM team comprises political legal specialist, media specialist, conflict prevention specialist, among others. 

Within the framework of the ECOWAS Electoral Assistance Programme for Member States, the common message of the ECOWAS delegation for the Guinea election has been that  patience, perseverance and commitment to the process is a hard burden but one that must be borne in the national interest of the approximately 12 million people of Guinea.

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