Members of the ECOWAS 71-member Election Observation Mission to Liberia have been charged to demonstrate the highest level professionalism and impartiality in discharging their responsibility as Liberians go to the polls on October 10 to elect their country’s 25th president and 73 parliamentarians.
“The attention of the whole world is on Liberia…, and you are aware that our 15 member countries are all under democratically governments,” the head of Mission and Ghana’s immediate-past President John Dramani Mahama told the regional Short-term observers at their pre-deployment briefing in Monrovia 7th October.
He acknowledged that the elections were taking place at a difficult time in the national life of Liberia, which is recovering from the effects of a devastating civil war, the Ebola epidemic, a weak economy with degraded infrastructure and high youth unemployment.
However, he expressed the hope that Liberians will live up to expectation, and deliver credible and acceptable elections for the consolidation of democracy in the country and the ECOWAS region.
Mahama, who also led the Commonwealth’s election observation mission to Kenya’s August polls, therefore urged the ECOWAS observers to learn from the experience of Kenya by respecting their code of conduct and the international best principles governing poll observation.
“Your presence here is a demonstration of our collective resolve, as a Community, to consolidate the democratic credentials that have positioned the West African region as an example to emulate on the African continent,” he affirmed.
The Head of Mission also appealed to all contesting candidates and political parties to respect their commitment to peaceful elections, as contained in the “Farmington Declaration,” they signed in Monrovia in the presence of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government.
Similarly, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security Mrs Halima Ahmed said Liberia was “at the cross-roads” on its march to democratic consolidation and required the support of the international community.
She enjoined the observers to be diligent and professional because their conduct could impact the electoral process.
In his remarks, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, President of the governing board of ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC), expressed the hope that the elections would be successful going by the assurances of key stakeholders, especially the National Electoral Commission of Liberia (NEC).
He reiterated ECONEC’s commitment and determination to support its members to deliver credible and peaceful elections in the region.
The ECOWAS Special Representative to Liberia, Ambassador Babatunde Ajisomo, gave the observers a detailed background of Liberia’s political and electoral contexts, noting that this would be the first time in some 70 years that an elected government would be transferring political to another.
“If all goes well, you (observers) will be part of this history,” he said.
The 50 short-term observers, who join 21 Long-term observers already deployed in the field, were taken through presentations on the political situation and stakes, observation methodology and the deployment man.
The ECOWAS Observation Mission is made up of election, constitutional and conflict prevention experts, representatives of civil society, including gender and the media, ECOWAS Ambassadors, representatives of the Community Court and Parliament, Electoral Commissions in member States and ECONEC Secretariat staff. The Mission is supported by an ECOWAS Technical team.