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ECOWAS to help secure Guinea Bissau’s November polls

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The ECOWAS peace Mission in Guinea Bissau, ECOMIB, has reassured a visiting delegation of the ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC) of its total commitment to complementing the national security agencies in securing Guinea Bissau’s parliamentary elections slated for November 18.

President Muhammadu Buhari (R) welcoming the Prime Minister of Guinea Bissau, Umaro Sissco Embalo at the Presidential Villa in Abuja on Wednesday .

Receiving the delegation led by Prof Mahmood Yakubu, ECONEC board President and Chair of Nigeria’s Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) at the Mission Headquarters in Bissau on Friday 3rd August, the Acting Force Commander Col. Taiye Ahmed, said while ECOMIB has provided stability and restored constitutional order in the country, the security situation remained fragile.

However, he said the Force was working with the relevant national authorities, the UN and AU Missions to secure the country before, during and post-election period in line with its mandate.

The visiting delegation listened to a presentation on the structure and operations of ECOMIB, which ECOWAS leaders deployed to Guinea Bissau in 2012 following a military coup and breakdown of constitutional order in the country.

The presentation also mentioned challenges facing the Mission, including requirement for more troops and vehicles, lack of maritime and air assets and translation facilities, the mission being a three-language post (Portuguese, English and French).

At its full strength in 2014, when it provided security for Guinea Bissau’s presidential polls, ECOMIB had 825 personnel, but this has gone down to 683. The Mission comprises troops and police contingents from Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, Cote d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso.

In his response, Prof Yakubu commended officers and all personnel of ECOMIB for their sacrifice and contribution to peace and stability in the ECOWAS region, revealing that Col. Ahmed was one of his student cadets at the Nigerian Defence Academy, in Kaduna.

He said although the ECONEC remit relates to election management, he would convey the Mission’s concerns to the appropriate authorities, because according to him, “credible elections can only take place in a secured environment.”

The ECONEC President also reiterated his now famous mantra that “it is more cost-effective to deploy ECONEC in peace time for peaceful and credible elections, instead of deploying military missions (such as ECOMOG or ECOMIG) to keep peace after flawed elections.”

Prof Yakubu’s delegation, which ends its Needs Assessment Mission to Guinea Bissau on Saturday, following a solidarity visit to Senegal, was later hosted by Nigeria’s Ambassador to Guinea Bissau Ambassador Adeyemi Afolahan.

In a brief remark at the reception, the Ambassador lauded the excellent relation between Nigeria and Guinea Bissau, noting that the country and its people were very appreciative of Nigeria’s support.

En route to Abuja, the ECONEC team will stop over in Lome on a solidarity mission to Togo’s National Electoral Commission.

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