Banjul, Gambia (PANA) – The African Union (AU) election observer team, headed by Dr. Samuel Azu’u Fonkam, President of Elections Cameroon (ELECAM), has arrived in the Gambia to observe the country's fourth parliamentary polls holding on Thursday, PANA reported Tuesday.
The team which arrived 22 March will remain in the country until 4 April.
In a statement, the AU said its team was made up of 22 members drawn from elections management bodies on the continent, national parliaments, the Pan African Parliament, African ambassadors accredited to the AU in Addis Ababa, eminent personalities and members of civil society organizations from various African countries.
It said the team also includes observers drawn from Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Rwanda, Saharawi Republic, Somalia, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The mission is assisted by a team of technical staff from the African Union Commission, the secretariat of the Pan African Parliament and the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA), based in South Africa.
“The purpose of the mission is to make an objective, independent and impartial observation of the National Assembly elections,” the AU said.
Guided by the Durban declaration on the principles Governing Democratic Elections in Africa as adopted by the Assembly of the African Union in July 2002, the mission is, among others, expected to: Determine whether the National Assembly elections are conducted in accordance with the country’s constitution, electoral laws, other appropriate laws and the guidelines governing the conduct of elections; and determine whether the election environment is conducive for voters to participate and exercise their fundamental rights.
It will also establish whether the participating political parties, agencies and groups are satisfied with preparations for and conduct of elections; evaluate the level of voters’ awareness and whether the voters’ right to choose freely and in secrecy are guaranteed, upheld and protected; and identify and record electoral malpractices.
The AU observer mission is also expected to assess whether the media coverage and conduct are in conformity with the laid down rules and guidelines; evaluate transparency and adequacy of the voting, counting and result collation processes; as well as the announcement of the results; and establish whether the results of the elections are a true reflection of the democratically expressed will of the Gambians.
The AU said members of its mission would be deployed throughout The Gambia ahead of the voting day in order to assess the manner in which the people of The Gambia are participating in the current electoral processes, and the environment in which they will exercise their democratic rights.
A report on the elections will be presented by the team to the authorities of the Government of the Gambia through the office of the African Union Commission Chairperson.
In its assessment of the November 2011 presidential elections, the African Union said President Yahya Jammeh benefited from a strong media bias and greater financial resources than his rivals to secure a new five-year term in office.
“Although provision was made for equal access of all political parties and candidates to the public media, the actual coverage was strongly in favour of the candidate of the ruling party,” the AU observer mission concluded at the time.
However, the continental grouping found that there were no acts of intimidation during voting and concluded that despite the failings, “the results are a true reflection of the will of the sovereign people of The Gambia”.
-0- PANA MSS/VAO 27March2012