ECOWAS commits to free, fair, credible elections in West Africa

The ECOWAS Commission is irrevocably committed to working for free, fair and credible elections in Member States with a view to entrenching democracy, good governance and facilitating regional integration and development, the President of the Commission, Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, has said.

Receiving a delegation of the executive members of the ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC) at the Commission’s Headquarters in abuja, Nigeria, on Monday, the President explained that the conduct of free, fair and credible elections, whose results reflect the will of the people, will minimize if not eliminate election-related conflicts which often threatened the region’s peace and security.

He pledged the Commission’s continued technical and financial assistance to ECOWAS Member States organizing elections and the strengthening of the Commission’s Electoral Assistance Division towards deepening electoral processes, democracy and good governance in the region.

In her remarks, the leader of the delegation and current President of the ECONEC Executive, elected a year ago, Dr. Christiana Thorpe, briefed the ECOWAS chief on the Network’s Action Plan and thanked the Commission for its immense support to ECONEC.

The four main priority areas of the network’s action plan, she said, were improving the legal and institutional electoral environment in the region; improving the contributions of Election Monitoring Bodies (EMBs) to solve problems related to the implementation of the electoral process; defining the role of EMBs in between election periods and improving the management of EMBs.

Dr. Thorpe, Chair of Sierra Leone’s National Electoral Commission, also identified ECONEC’s main challenge as “accessing of funds to carry out our programmes as a network’.

But in spite of the financial challenges, she commended the network’s reliable partners, including ECOWAS, the UN Office in West Africa (UNOWA), UNDP, the German Political Foundation, FES, and the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), for their continued support.

Dr. Thorpe, whose executive was elected a year ago for a two-year tenure with head office in Freetown, Sierra Leone, expressed the hope that partners will support the network in putting together a capacity building development concept for electoral staff at national and regional levels.

President Ouedraogo promised that the Commission would look into the network’s request for technical and financial assistance, and especially ensuring that ECONEC and EMBs are adequately represented on the ECOWAS Poll Observation missions deployed by the Commission to Member States.

He also pledged the Commission’s support to the plan by ECONEC to create an ECOWAS electoral database.

Dr. Thorpe was accompanied on the visit by Mr. Miranda Emmanuel, ECONEC 2nd Vice President and Chair of Cape Verde’s National Electoral Commission, Madam Hounkpe Lea, ECONEC Treasurer and Administrative Secretary of Benin Electoral Commission, Mr. Abu Turay, ECONEC Programme Officer, and two representatives of OSIWA.

On the ECOWAS team, were the Commissioner for Administration and Finance, Mrs. Khady Ramatu Saccoh, Dr. Jonas Hemou, Director, External Relations Directorate, Mr. Francis Oke of the ECOWAS Electoral Assistance Division, who is also ECONEC Secretary General, and Mrs. Bertine Sylla, Communication Adviser to the Commission’s President.

ECONEC was established in February 2008 in Conakry, Guinea, not only to facilitate ECOWAS assistance to Member States but also to serve as a regional platform for exchange of best practices and enhance the capacities of the electoral commissions of Member States.