The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is cautiously optimistic that Guinea Bissau’s elections scheduled for Sunday will be transparent, free and fair, says Sonny Ugoh, Communications Director for ECOWAS.
His comments followed an official visit to Guinea Bissau by ECOWAS chairman and Ghana’s President John Dramani Mahama who met with stakeholders on Thursday in the capital, Bissau, in the run up to the general election.
Ugoh says Mahama’s visit to Guinea Bissau is an indication of ECOWAS’ support to ensure that country’s election is peaceful and credible.
“This shows you the kind of interest at the highest level that this [election] has generated in the region. He talked to all those who are involved in the election, [and] the stakeholders to see what arrangement has been made, what challenges if there are any, and how if there is any other way the region can help, in order to make sure that not only that the election is free and fair, but beyond that the country would be stabilized,” said Ugoh.
Guinea Bissau twice postponed the presidential and parliamentary elections last year for luck of funds. But ECOWAS and its international partners were able to raise about $20 million to help the electoral commission organize the vote.
“At one point it was thought that it was not going to happen largely because of the financial requirement and there were [also] some grounds for criticisms,” said Ugoh. “But [ECOWAS] member states rallied and pledged some $ 20 million to support that process. That amount has been raised to help Guinea Bissau to stand back to its feet and hopefully lead to a process of political stability in that country,” he said.
ECOWAS has a 200-member team of long term observers in Guinea Bissau, who is monitoring the electoral process including the campaigning period in the run up to the vote, according to Ugoh.
He says officials from the regional bloc say Guinea Bissau’s electoral commission appears ready to organize and administer the election on Sunday.
“The feedback we are getting are quite positive and from the preparations that we have seen so far in the National Electoral Commission we are quite positive that there are grounds to be optimistic that there would be free, fair and credible election,” he said.
“We can only ask the people of Guinea Bissau to also commit themselves to realize this objective and beyond that to also work towards stability of that country,” said Ugoh. “The country has gone through a lot of instabilities and we believe that this is an opportunity for them now to end that cycle of instability, and join other member states in addressing more important challenges of economic development.”