Former President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan who is currently in Banjul, as leader of a delegation of the West African Elders Forum (WAEF), has explained that the Forum is in The Gambia to ensure there is no election-related crisis, as Gambians vote in the country’s December 4, 2021 Presidential election.
The former President visited some polling stations in Banjul with members of the delegation including Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, former Prime Minister of Burkina Faso and former President of ECOWAS Commission, He advised Gambians to be peaceful and law-abiding as they conducted their civic responsibilities, adding that the sub-region needs peace to be able to develop in a sustainable manner.
Speaking at a meeting of Heads of Observer Missions in Banjul, Jonathan noted that the efforts of WAEF during elections complement the activities of the sub-regional and international observer missions, adding that the members of the delegation would remain engaged in the country until the electoral processes are peacefully concluded.
Speaking of the focus and activities of the Forum which is made up of former Presidents and Heads of Government in West Africa, Dr Jonathan said: “Whenever elections are coming up in any nation in the sub-region, we visit the country, interface with key stakeholders and impress on them to keep to the laws of the land and the rules guiding elections. It is a relatively new organisation and our presence in the Gambia is the first of such engagement we would be having concerning a national election.”
He said further: “We set up the West African Elders Forum to be able to intervene in some places we notice that crises are 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 is 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 Deputy 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 the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union (AU), the Commonwealth, the European Union (EU) and Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA) for coming in here to assist the sub-region to ensure that the election is peaceful, free and fair.”
An initiative of the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation, the West African Elders Forum is made up of former Heads of State, Presidents, Prime Ministers and former Presidents of the ECOWAS Commission who possess good knowledge and understanding of the developments in the sub-region.
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.