By Shout-Africa Gambia Correspondent – The Gambia government has condemned what it said was a unilateral decision by James Victor Gbeho, president of the ECOWAS Commission, not to dispatch an observer mission to The Gambia for the just-concluded presidential election.
A statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Relations and Gambians Abroad, said the Gambia Government is of the opinion that the said decision, though taken under discretionary powers vested in the person of the Commission president, was subjective and was not in any way and under any given circumstances, reflective of the prevailing political environment in The Gambia prior to the polls.
Below we reproduce the full text of the statement:
The Government of the Republic of The Gambia hereby draws attention to a Press Release from the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) referenced No. 234/2011 and dated 22nd November 2011.
The Press Release in question constitutes a statement issued by the President of the ECOWAS Commission His Excellency Mr James Victor Gbeho on the 24th November 2011 Presidential Elections in The Gambia, and detailed the decision of the latter not to dispatch an ECOWAS Observer Mission to The Gambia for the elections, given that would be preparations and the political environment for the said elections are adjudged by the Commission not to be conducive for the conduct of free, fair and transparent polls even before the elections were held.
The Government of the Republic of The Gambia and a Member State of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) hereby informs all other Member States of the Community in particular, and the larger international community by extension that the Government of The Gambia is utterly dismayed by, and condemns in the strongest unequivocal terms, the unilateral decision of His Excellency Mr Gbeho not to dispatch an Observer Mission to The Gambia for the elections.
The Government of The Gambia is of the opinion that the said decision, though taken under discretionary powers vested in the person of the Commission president, was subjective and was not in anyway and under any given circumstances, reflective of the prevailing political environment in The Gambia prior to the polls.
In fact, the course of action taken by His Excellency Mr Gbeho tantamount to inciting the Gambian people on the eve of the elections, which is in full contradiction with the principles and ideals of democracy and good governance, as well as the objectives of the ECOWAS Protocol relating to the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeping and Security.
Furthermore, the Government of the Republic of The Gambia hereby denounces the sentimental misgivings towards The Gambia and its people on the part of His Excellency Mr Gbeho which has, in no small measure, culminated in the decision taken.
By the same token, the relevant Gambian authorities frown on the lack of coherence and the unfair treatment that the country has been subjected to by the decision issued via the Press Release.
The basis of the denunciation is as follows:
First, leaning on Article 13 of the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance, the President of the Commission, His Excellency Mr James Victor Gbeho sent a Fact-finding Mission to The Gambia on the extent of preparations for the elections.
The mission was well received by the Gambian authorities and it enjoyed the full cooperation of all the stakeholders to the electoral process. However, and alarmingly for that matter, the Government of The Gambia was not provided with a copy of the report of the Fact-finding Mission for appraisal and response, even though His Excellency Mr Gbeho claims to have taken the decision relayed via the press release on the basis of the contents of the report.
Clear conscience, impartiality, and fair play would have dictated that the Government of The Gambia be allowed to transmit its views on the report of the Fact-finding Mission prior to the issuance of the press release.
Deviating from this internationally accepted norm has indicated ulterior motives on the part of the President of the ECOWAS Commission.
Secondly, albeit the fact that the Press Release has indicated that His Excellency the President of the Republic of The Gambia has been informed regarding the decision of Mr Gbeho on the dispatch of an Observer Mission to The Gambia for the elections, the letter to the effect was deliberately transmitted late via diplomatic channels, on the afternoon before the polls in The Gambia.
This clearly contravenes the tenets of good diplomatic practice and the government of The Gambia strongly deplores the act.
Thirdly, the Government of the Gambia considers the issues raised by the Press Release from the ECOWAS Commission as lacking credibility for the simple fact that the Diplomatic Corps in the country conducted similar exercises as the ECOWAS Fact-finding team prior to the elections, with the irony being that there were no pronouncements from the former along the lines taken by the Press Release.
In actual fact, and seizing the opportunity as it presents itself, the international community through the UN, AU, OIC, the Commonwealth, and the diplomatic representations present in The Gambia reported that the presidential elections of 24th November 2011 were peaceful, transparent, free and fair.
These pronouncements are in full contradiction with those issued by His Excellency Mr Gbeho, hence putting a huge shadow of doubt on his proclamations.
The Government of the Republic of The Gambia wishes to reassure the Member States of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the international community that it has always been, and remains committed to the notion of people’s liberty of choice in electing their leaders on the basis of social contract, and will also continue to advocate for and adhere to the principles of democracy and good governance for sustainable development.
Furthermore, the Government of the Republic of The Gambia will exert all efforts to ensure that such an unfortunate unilateral action by the ECOWAS Commission would not be a recurrent precedent at the detriment of the democratic aspirations of the ECOWAS Member States.
The Government of the Republic of The Gambia will thus seize this opportunity to reiterate its full and unwavering commitment to the ideals and the principles of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and, in so doing, reassures and engages all the Member States to further harness and reinforce cooperation among and within the sub regional community so that the noble aspirations of the founding fathers can be finally achieved.