By Alhagie Jobe
An African Union Pre-election fact-finding Mission is in The Gambia to assess the preparations of the upcoming December Presidential elections.
This mission is part of African Union’s aim of promoting democratic governance on the continent and in line with the national laws of The Gambia, the Mission shall contribute to the reinforcement of the democratization process by providing an objective, independent and impartial assessment of the conduct of the elections in line with the aforementioned international and regional best practices and standards.
The Gambia goes to the polls in December in which incumbent President Yahya Jammeh is seeking for a fifth term facing more and stronger opposition parties compared to past elections.
Guy Cyrille Tapokp, Acting head, Democracy and Electoroal Assistance Unit (DEAU) at the African Union Commission Monday announced on twitter the arrival of the Mission in The Gambia and meeting the Attorney General and Minister of Justice Mama Fatima Singhateh at her office.
On Wednesday, September 28th, the Mission met with all political parties at the Independent Electoral Commission Headquarters to gauge the elections preparedness and identify areas for further support. The mission is also expected to meet stakeholders, civil society organizations and diplomats.
Traditionally, formal invitation to the African Union, in terms of paragraphs V (1) and V (3) of the OAU Declaration on the Principles Governing Democratic Elections in Africa (2002), is to be made by the country organising the elections, either through the National Electoral Commission (NEC), or electoral authority, or the said government, in accordance with the democratic legal framework of the country, as necessary elements for mounting observations.
The AU, after receiving the invitation to observe an election, must ensure: Adequate lead-time for preparations; Availability of essential planning information; Availability of professional expertise; and Financial and other resources.
Therefore, the AU is required to expeditiously dispatch a team to the country planning for the election.
At the end of the visit, the Head of the AU pre-election Mission will advise the African Union Commission whether the necessary conditions and environment for a free and fair election as agreed in the AU principles governing democratic elections, have been satisfied and whatever the advice received by the Commission should be confirmed in a public statement by the Chairperson of the Commission.
The assessment team will therefore, will establish whether or not conditions for organizing credible, legitimate, free and fair elections in accordance with the Durban Declaration are in place in the country.