‘Gambia Should Not Dent Progress of Democracy in West Africa’ -Dr. Ibn Chambas

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Democracy, which is government by the people, is gradually taking a stronghold in the West African region and The Gambia, which is gradually being plunged into political anarchy after the December 1 electoral process, cannot be of any exception, the most senior official of the United Nations in West Africa, Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas, has said.

The West African region has experienced successful elections as well as smooth transitions across the region in recent years, and Dr. Chambas said at a press conference in Monrovia that the situation in The Gambia cannot be a dark spot on these successes.

The conference was the climax of the 30th High-Level Meeting of the heads of the UN Missions in West Africa, convened at the invitation of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), Mohamed Ibn Chambas.

The Special Representatives of the UN Secretary-General and heads of the UN Missions in Cote d’Ivoire (UNOCI), Ms. Achatouw Mindaoudou Souleymane; in Liberia (UNMIL), Farid Zarif; and in Mali (MINUSMA), Mahamat Saleh Annadif, attended yesterday’s meeting.

The objective of the bi-annual meeting, Dr. Chambas said, was to provide insight and exchange views on the peace and security dynamics in the areas of operation of the respective missions as well as in the West African region.

In the last two years, there have been ten presidential elections across the region. Opposition leaders were victorious in five of them with the rest won by incumbents. There have been smooth transfers of powers in all of the elections that the opposition won. “This is the level of progress that we have seen in recent years and this cannot be reversed in our region,” Dr. Chambas, a native of Ghana, said.

On behalf of his colleagues, Dr. Chambas expressed the hope that upcoming elections in West Africa, especially in Liberia and a few other countries, will consolidate democratic progress and bring about increased participation in politics.

Election successes and smooth transitions simply mean that the period of coup d’états are over and democracy, the popular will of the people, is now reigning across a region that was known to have experienced the highest number of bloody coups. Dr. Chambas indicated that The Gambia must move by the wind of democracy that is sweeping across the continent.

He expressed serious concern over the rejection of the December 1 election results by incumbent President Yahya Jammeh, and called for peaceful transfer of power, noting that heads of UN Missions support the ECOWAS and the UN Security Council position on The Gambia.
Upholding the election result is a must. “The will of the people of The Gambia must be respected,” he added.

He also prayed that Liberia and other countries that will be going to the poll next year will have peaceful and transparent processes, and admitted that the real challenge that the region faces has to do with extremism. “This is our greatest challenge as a region and we must address it collectively,” he said.

The Monrovia meeting was meant to also strengthen coordination in order to address common challenges in such areas as elections, transnational organized crime, violent extremism and terrorism, the security sector and constitutional reform processes and democratic transitions.

Chambas lauded the peaceful execution of the December 7 elections in Ghana, while also commending the outgoing President John Mahama for peacefully conceding defeat. He also referenced the peaceful local and presidential elections in Cape Verde, held in September and October, respectively, this year. “We are very glad that all of these are happening in our region,” he added, and made specific reference to the upcoming Malian election which will be its first since 2009.

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