Former President Goodluck Jonathan on Saturday advised Gambians to be peaceful and law abiding as they conducted their civic responsibilities in the country’s presidential election.
Jonathan, who led the delegation of the West African Elders Forum (WAEF) to the country for the Saturday election said that the West Africa sub-region needed peace to be able to develop in a sustainable manner.
The Media Adviser to the former President, Mr Ikechukwu Eze, in a statement made available to journalists in Abuja, quoted Jonathan as giving the advice when he visited some polling units during the country’s presidential election.
Jonathan said that the forum”s delegation were in Gambia to ensure there was no election-related crises, as Gambians cast their votes.
Jonathan, speaking at a meeting of Heads of Observer Missions in Banjul, noted that the efforts of WAEF during elections complemented the activities of the sub-regional and international observer missions.
He said that the members of the delegation would remain engaged in the country until the electoral processes were peacefully concluded.
WAEF is made up of former Heads of State, Presidents and Prime Ministers as well as former Presidents of ECOWAS Commission who possess a good knowledge and understanding of the developments in the sub-region.
Jonathan, speaking on the focus and activities of the forum said “whenever elections are coming up in any nation in the sub-region, the delegation visit the country, interface with key stakeholders and impress on them to keep to the laws of the land and the rules guiding elections.
He said that WAEF, an initiative of the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation, is a relatively new organisation and its presence in the Gambia was the first of such engagement concerning a national election.
He said that the forum was established to be able to intervene in some places the leaders noticed that crises were brewing.
“Our role here is not to observe the elections in the strict sense of it.
“We are here to interact with the observers, the candidates, other key stakeholders and the citizens , as well as obtain some data about the position of things and generally watch how the electoral processes are conducted and concluded.
“ If there are no crisis at the end of the day, we will thank everybody and quietly leave.
“But if there are issues resulting from the elections, it means we will stay longer and engage with the stakeholders to ensure that the matters are peacefully resolved.
“The observation missions have a limit to which they can stay but for us from the forum, we will stay and remain engaged until we are sure that the country has been able to manage the process to a successful end.”
The former president noted that the team had so far met with most of the candidates, including the sitting President Adama Barrow and the former Vice President, Oussainou Darboe as well as the chairman of the Independent electoral commission and his team.
“Our role is clearly to work with the stakeholders and impress it on them that contestation for political power should not be the cause of conflicts and that West Africa needs peace and democracy in order to foster sustainable development in the sub-region.
“We let our leaders know that the country belongs to all and that all citizens have equal stakes.
“ I commend all the international observers from ECOWAS, the African Union, the Commonwealth, the European Union and Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy for coming in here to assist the sub-region to ensure that the election is peaceful, free and fair.”
There are six candidates including incumbent Adama Barrow who are contesting the election.
It is The Gambia’s first Presidential election since former President Yaya Jammeh left office five years ago