|Photo Credit: Ecowas/Facebook|
They also commend Gambia’s political stakeholders for the signing, on 20 April 2016, of an agreement to hold free elections.
In a final communiqué at the end of the 49th ordinary session on 4 June 2016 in Dakar, Senegal, Ecowas leaders urge the security forces in Gambia to refrain from the use of excessive force against the citizens and adopt a responsible approach.
In April and May 2016, security officers responded with brute-force on peaceful demonstrators demanding for electoral reform. Ecowas had earlier condemned the incident which reportedly led to the death of one opposition figure and many injured.
“The Authority consequently calls on the Gambian government and the opposition to engage in a frank dialogue at the earliest possible time and encourages the Independent Electoral Commission to prepare a Road Map for approval by all the stakeholders of the electoral process,” the summit agreed.
Presidential elections are slated for December 1, 2016 and national assembly and local government elections in 2017 and 2018 respectively.
The Summit instructs the ECOWAS Commission to deploy as soon as possible, a pre-electoral technical mission to appraise the electoral process in The Gambia.
A similar mission in 2011 found the electoral process “lacking the minimum standards for the conduct of free, fair and transparent” elections – leading to an Ecowas Observer Mission’s boycott of the presidential polls that year.
|Photo Credit: Ecowas/facebook|
Give dialogue a chance
In a 64-point communiqué – five of which were specifically on Gambia - the Ecowas Authority says it welcomes the opening of the borders between The Gambia and Senegal on 24 May, 2016.
They call on the two states to “give dialogue a chance” while strictly complying with the principles of free movement of persons, and goods as set out in the ECOWAS Protocol on Free Movement.
The summit heard that the Ecowas Commission President fielded to the Gambia a “joint good offices mission” that included UN and AU officials amid rising tensions after the closure of the borders between The Gambia and Senegal in February 2016 and the demonstrations staged by the opposition on 14 and 16 April 2016.
Gambian President Yahya Jammeh did not attend the Ecowas heads of states summit held over the weekend which elected President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia as the new chairperson.
Also on 4th June, Ecowas and The Gambia signed a Headquarters Agreement for the Regional Competition Authority, and by this decision , the location of the Authority complex is assigned to the Republic of The Gambia.
Written by Modou S. Joof
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- A version of this story appeared on The Voice newspaper in Serekunda on June 10, 2016