A Commonwealth Expert Team will observe the presidential elections due to take place on 24 November 2011 in The Gambia, Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma announced today. The Team has been constituted at the invitation of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) of The Gambia and following a recent high-level political assessment mission to The Gambia led by Deputy Secretary-General Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba.
Announcing that the team of five experts, supported by a four-member staff team from the Commonwealth Secretariat, will be led by Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, former foreign minister of Nigeria, Mr Sharma said that the mandate of the team is to observe the preparations for the election; the polling, counting and results process; and the electoral environment as a whole.
The Secretary-General added: ‘The Commonwealth Secretariat works as a trusted partner with member states on strengthening democratic institutions and processes. A key way of doing this is by observing elections, when invited, as well as through longer term engagement on providing advice and technical assistance.’
The expert team will assess the overall conduct of the elections, and the environment in which they take place, and where appropriate will make recommendations for strengthening of the electoral process in future.
The team arrives in Banjul by 18 November 2011 and will remain in The Gambia until 29 November 2011.
The full composition of the Commonwealth Expert Team is as follows:
Professor Bolaji Akinyemi (Chair)
Former Foreign Minister
Ms Cynthia Barrow-Giles
Mr Edward Alexander Canfor-Dumas
Conflict Management Consultant
Mr Christopher Cobb
President, Commonwealth Journalists Association
Madam Sa-adatu Maida
Commissioner, Electoral Commission
The Commonwealth Secretariat support staff team will be led by Ambassador Ayo Oke, Head of the Africa Section, Political Affairs Division.
The Commonwealth observed the 2001 and 2006 Presidential Elections in The Gambia. Commonwealth Teams were also present for the legislative elections in 2002 and 2007.
Note to Editors:
The Team’s report will be submitted to the Commonwealth Secretary-General, who will in turn send it to the Government of The Gambia, the IEC, the political parties and eventually to all Commonwealth governments.
The Expert Team will act impartially and independently and shall conduct itself according to the standards expressed in the International Declaration of Principles for Election Observation to which the Commonwealth is a signatory.