The Commonwealth has named Nigeria’s former president Olusegun Obasanjo as head of its election observer mission to The Gambia ahead of the December 4th presidential poll, APA learnt on Monday.According to a statement on the organisation’s website, Gambia’s Independent Electoral Commission had extended invitation for a Commonwealth election observer mission to the country.
The nine-member Commonwealth poll observer team was preceded by a pre-election assessment mission which was in the country last October.
It will be the first Gambian election to be monitored by a team from the 54-member organisation of mainly English-speaking countries for more than 15 years.
It will also be the first presidential election in The Gambia without ex president Yahya Jammeh taking part in the race for the highest office in this country of an estimated 1.9 million people.
Under Jammeh, The Gambia withdrew its membership of the Commonwealth but was reinstated months after he was defeated in the 2016 presidential election by current President Adama Barrow.
Jammeh’s successor faces stiff competition from five opposition contenders including Ousainou Darboe of the United Democratic Party (UDP), Mamma Kandeh of The Gambia Democratic Congress (GDC) and Halifa Sallah of the People’s Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS).
The others are former truth commission lead counsel Essa Faal who is running as an independent candidate and Abdoulie Jammeh of the National Unity Party (NUP).
Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said former President Obasanjo and its eight other members have accepted a request to be part of the poll observer team “to undertake this important assignment …despite the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Ms. Scotland added: “The deployment of this observer group is a demonstration of the Commonwealth’s commitment to supporting electoral democracy in member countries and a recognition of the right of individuals to participate in democratic processes, through credible, inclusive and transparent elections in shaping their societies.”
The Commonwealth said it is monitoring all aspects of The Gambia’s election process to determine whether the poll are conducted in line with democratic standards to which Africa’s smallest country had committed itself.
After the polls Obasanjo’s team will submit its final report about Gambia’s election process to the Commonwealth Secretary-General who will share the organisation’s impression with the government in Banjul and other stakeholders.
Aside from Mr. Obasanjo, other members of his team include Ghana’s former Interior minister, Prosper Bani, the head of Malawi’s Public Affairs Commission, Robert Phiri and ex Kenyan Justice minister Martha Karua.