14.06.2004 General News

ECOWAS Council of Elders studies election observation modalities

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Accra, June 14, GNA - The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Council of Elders on Monday started a four-day sub-regional workshop on the role of the regional body in election observation.

The workshop would examine new trends in electoral matters and discuss lessons from past missions. It would also develop sub-regional mutual systems of cooperation and support, which would be guided by strict rules for democratic engagement.

Other issues to be considered include: "Role and Mandate of ECOWAS Regarding Good Governance"; "Democratisation, Election Observation in West Africa" and "Developments, and Recent Regional and International Trends in Designing Electoral Legislation".

Opening the workshop, the Executive Secretary of ECOWAS, Dr Mohammed Ibn Chambas said the regional body has developed two major instruments aimed at building enduring democracies as well as creating the environment for sustainable development.

The instruments are the protocol relating to the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeping and Security and the Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance.

Dr Chambas said the Protocols were aimed at tackling the root causes of conflicts and to act as an expression of democratic principles, guidelines and benchmarks for good governance in the Sub-Region.

He identified the role, relevance and mandate of missions and updated knowledge on recent developments and international trends in designing electoral legislation as critical challenges for Election Observers.

In view of the challenges, the ECOWAS, Dr Chambas said, had set out terms of reference for Election Monitoring.

They are the composition of the mission; collection of texts governing the concerned election; meeting all candidates that form both government and opposition parties and the channel of communication.

The issues of equal accessibility to state owned mass media; campaign financing; proportional representation; cooperation and assent procedures have also been noted, he said.

Mr Peter Linder, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany, sponsors of the workshop, reiterated the German Chancellor Gerhard Elmar Schroeder's statement that without peace, the people of Africa would not have the chance to share the benefits of globalisation.

He said Germany aimed at assisting Africa to develop its capabilities in the police, military and civil society organs to perform efficiently during peacekeeping operations.

The 15-member Third ECOWAS Council of Elders was established in July 2001 under Article 17 of the Protocol Relating to the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeping and Security. It was established as an organ to assist ECOWAS Mediation and Security Council in the task of restoring peace and stability to the Sub-Region. Membership is made up of a representative from each Member State, and some of the missions undertaken by the Council, included election monitoring in Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, the Gambia, Togo and Nigeria in addition to a fact-finding mission to Guinea Bissau and a mediation role in Liberia.

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