West Africa Civil Society Urges ECOWAS President to Save Credibility By Ostracizing Obasanjo From Monitoring Elections

West Africa Civil Society Urges ECOWAS President to Save Credibility By Ostracizing Obasanjo From Monitoring Elections

General Olusegun Obasanjo’s sinking international reputation as a misfit in democracy circles took a deeper plunge today with members of the Civil Society community in West Africa distancing themselves from his “utterances, positions, recommendations and past records” while on Elections Observation duty in several countries in the region.

In a letter to the President of ECOWAS, the members cited missions in Togo, Senegal and the just-concluded one in Ghana in which Obasanjo had been involved and the controversies they led to, and suggested the development of minimum criteria for the selection of the Head of its Elections Observation and Mediation Missions in the region.

“[Obasanjo] did not only unilaterally smuggle a repressive and undemocratic anti-freedom of information recommendation into the preliminary declaration, but he also went further to openly canvass for the strict regulation of press freedom during the ECOWAS/AU press briefing,” said the letter, which was signed by 14 members from countries across West Africa, including Nigeria.

“Past leaders with unenviable records and undemocratic antecedence cannot be honored with the task of supervising a democratic process,” they said. They also called on ECOWAS to consider providing concrete analytical support and technical assistance to the Heads of Mission to properly advise them on their activities, utterances, and interventions in relation to the discharge of their duties as Heads of Mission during elections observation missions.

“ECOWAS should endeavour to comprehensively brief the Heads of Mission on the Code of Conduct for election observers, specifically the need for observers to be strictly unbiased, impartial and neutral towards national authorities, political parties, and candidates among other stakeholders in the elections, or any activities connected to the conduct thereof, while conducting their duties,” they recommended.

With reference to Obasanjo personally, they underlined that his actions do not only generate negative dispositions in relation to ECOWAS' expected neutrality during election exercises, but also portend serious danger to the safety and security of the many observers that are often deployed on behalf of the ECOWAS observation missions.

“We wish to recall that President Obasanjo conducted what was widely-described as the most undemocratic elections in the history of his country, Nigeria,” the letter said.

“The elections of 2003 and 2007 superintended by President Obasanjo brought international opprobrium on the country. This is a fact that has been registered in several quarters on the global scene. It is therefore certain that the former President is not in the caliber of Elder Statesmen desired for such delicate interventions as Elections Observation assignments.”

Four days ago, the leadership of ECOWAS held an emergency meeting at which they vowed never to invite Obasanjo ever again to head an election monitoring mission. This followed the embarrassing revelation that he was behind the recommendation of the ECOWAS observation team that the media be curtailed in election observation, a position that contradicts the normal position of ECOWAS and the United Nations.

Using a variety of under-handed methods, Obasanjo has manipulated elections in Nigeria for many years, including imposing candidates on the Peoples Democratic Party, and rigging them into office.

Text of the LetterOPEN LETTER ON THE INVITATION OF GENERAL OBASANJO TO HEAD ECOWAS ELECTIONS OBSERVER MISSIONS

We members of the Civil Society community in West Africa, while extending our sincere compliments to the ECOWAS President, wish to register our deep concern over recent developments with respect to the appointment of former Heads of State and Government to head ECOWAS Elections Observation Missions across West Africa.

We wish to express our deep concerned with the utterances, positions, recommendations and past records of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria while on Elections Observation duty in several countries across the West African region. In specific terms, past missions involving the former Head of State ended with controversial interventions as follows:

1. The intervention of President Obasanjo during the Togolese transition in 2005 was considered undemocratic by Observers and Togolese Citizens. Falling-out from this, incidents of attacks on some ECOWAS observers during the last elections in Togo were recorded;

2. Former President Obasanjo's Mission to Senegal under the ECOWAS generated international and local criticisms where, as Head of Mission for the ECOWAS Observation Team, he appealed for an unconstitutional and undemocratic tenure elongation of 2 years for the former President Abdoulaye Wade; and,

3. Lastly and most recent is President Obasanjo's appointment as ECOWAS and AU Head of Mission to the just concluded Ghanaian General Elections. The Head of Mission did not only unilaterally smuggle a repressive and undemocratic anti-freedom of information recommendation into the preliminary declaration, but he also went further to openly canvass for the strict regulation of press freedom during the ECOWAS/AU press briefing.

We therefore note that such actions do not only generate negative dispositions in relation to ECOWAS' expected neutrality during election exercises in Member States, but they also portend serious danger to the safety and security of the teeming observers often deployed on behalf of the ECOWAS Observation Missions.

We wish to recall that President Obasanjo conducted what was widely described as the most undemocratic elections in the history of his country, Nigeria. The elections of 2003 and 2007 superintended by President Obasanjo brought international opprobrium on the country. This is a fact that has been registered in several quarters on the global scene. It is therefore certain that the former President is not in the caliber of Elder Statesmen desired for such delicate interventions as Elections Observation assignments.

In the light of the above, and to ensure the integrity, neutrality and professionalism of elections observation missions conducted by the regional organization, we hereby forward the following recommendations related to the appointment and deployment of Heads of ECOWAS Elections Observation missions:

1. ECOWAS should develop minimum criteria for the selection of Head of its Elections Observation and Mediation Missions in the region. Past leaders with unenviable records and undemocratic antecedence cannot be honored with the task of supervising a democratic process.

2. ECOWAS should consider providing concrete analytical support and technical assistance to the Heads of Mission to properly advise them on their activities, utterances, and interventions in relation to the discharge of their duties as Heads of Mission during ECOWAS Elections Observation Missions.

3. ECOWAS should endeavour to comprehensively brief the Heads of Mission on the Code of Conduct for election observers, specifically the need for observers to be strictly unbiased, impartial and neutral towards national authorities, political parties, and candidates among other stakeholders in the elections, or any activities connected to the conduct thereof, while conducting their duties.

While we anticipate your understanding and necessary action in relation to our observations and recommendations, kindly accept the assurances of our highest esteem.

Sincerely yours,

Dr. Jibrin Ibrahim. West African Civil Society Forum

Alioune Tine, RADDHO-Senegal

'Lanre Suraju CSNAC-Nigeria

Prof. Oumar Ndongo, SYTO-Senegal

Idayat Hassan, CDD-Nigeria

Wodjo Traore Fini, COSOPCI-Cote d’Ivoire

Madi Jobarteh, TANGO-The Gambia

Ngolo Katta, CCYA-Sierra Leone

Constant Gnakadja, WANEP-Benin

Dr. Emmanuel Akwetey, IDEG-Ghana

Guy Ahianyo Kokou, CALYPSO, Togo

Gadiry Abdoul Diallo, OGDH-Guinea

Mamadou Queta, Guinea Bissao

Malcolm Joseph, CEMESP-Liberia

 

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