By Saikou Suwareh Jabai
The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General for West Africa and Sahel, Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas, has strongly enjoined security services to, at all times, avoid public display of loyalty to any political party ahead of the much-awaited presidential election slated for 1st December, 2016.
He reminded the security forces of their duty to provide security for the electoral process, including the protection of all candidates and voters. The UN Representative urged the police and other security services to discharge their noble responsibilities in a diligent, impartial, professional and strictly apolitical manner.
Dr. Chambas stressed the primordial role of a strong, independent and professional Electoral Commission. He added: “I welcome the (IEC) Chairman’s commitment to “uphold electoral integrity” and the principles of “electoral democracy, ethical conduct, accuracy and transparency”.
He pointed out that political parties and the presidential candidates have a responsibility to defend not only the interests of their own party and supporters, but also to safeguard the unity of the whole nation.
“I urge all political parties to make use of the existing mechanisms, like the Inter-Party Committee, to engage in meaningful dialogue as a means to resolve disputes peacefully and in the spirit of cooperation. It is regrettable that the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding, defining best practices and guidelines for a peaceful and fair campaign period scheduled for 8 November was called off,” said Dr. Chambas, while calling for a rescheduling of the signing ceremony without further delay.
He said healthy and strong civil society organisations have a very important oversight role to play in each society, and especially so, during the electoral period, in particular through voter education and electoral observation. He therefore called on the Gambian Civil Society Organizations, religious and traditional leaders, women and youth organizations, as well as other stakeholders to stay actively involved and to contribute to safeguarding the principles of an open, transparent and peaceful electoral process.
He encouraged the political parties and all electoral stakeholders to work together and to address all disagreements through peaceful means and dialogue, with a view to ensuring the conduct of inclusive, credible and peaceful election.
The UN Envoy renewed the commitment of the United Nations to accompany the people of The Gambia throughout the elections of 2016 and beyond. He finally called on all Gambians to commit individually and collectively, to working towards a successful 2016 presidential election.