ECOWAS boycotts Gambia’s polls for a second time

ECOWAS boycotts Gambia’s polls for a second time

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) will not be sending observers to monitor The Gambia’s presidential polls for the second time, according to electoral sources.

Gambia’s Independent Electoral Commission Chair Alieu Njie said the regional body is yet to signal any plans to send observers and expressed his disappointment.

In June, Gambian-born ECOWAS Vice President Edward Singhateh said he was “hopeful” that the West African blog would send a monitoring mission.

“Ecowas has Gambia’s election on its calendar and, hopefully, would send an observer mission to monitor the polls,” said Singhateh this summer. “I am quite sure a good, credible team from ECOWAS would definitely go to The Gambia.”

But ECOWAS boycotted the country’s “unfair” 2011 elections citing “an unacceptable level of control of the electronic media by the party in power and an opposition and electorate cowed by repression and intimidation”

ECOWAS had sent a fact-finding mission to The Gambia to access and evaluate the factors ahead of the presidential elections after Gambian authorities arrested dozens of opposition protesters, including the leader of the main opposition party with his senior executive members.

Gambia’s foreign ministry refused to grant observer status to the European Union, although President Yahya Jammeh encouraged the electoral commission chief to invite the international community.

African Union observers are due to arrive in Banjul and may be the only international observers. Opposition coalition leader Adama Barrow has called the African Union to be neutral its observation of the polls.

(Reporting by Sainey MK Marenah; Writing by Sam Phatey; Editing by Alhagie Jobe)

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