Polls postponement: ECOWAS Head of Observer Mission departs Nigeria

The ECOWAS Head of Election Observer Mission, former Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf on Monday returned to her country following the postponement of the February 16 general elections.

Mr Jonathan Bara-Hart of the Directorate of Communications, ECOWAS Commission, in a telephone interview in Abuja on February 18, 2019 said that Mrs Johnson-Sirleaf would be back to Nigeria on the 21st of February,2019.


Mr Bara-Hart said that there were four members in her delegation from different parts of the region.

The United Nations, Commonwealth, European Union, African Union, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation were among international observers approved by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to observe the elections.

INEC had rescheduled Saturday’s presidential and National Assembly elections until February 23 and also postponed the governorship, state assemblies and FCT area council elections from March 2 to March 9.

The Heads of the international observation missions in Nigeria on Saturday in a joint statement urged INEC to strictly adhere to the new dates it had scheduled for the general elections.

They also called on Nigerians to continue to remain calm and supportive of the electoral process as INEC worked to implement its new timeline.

The missions also added that they would continue to closely observe preparations across the country.


Presidential poll: ECOWAS deploys 200 observers

ECOWAS has deployed 200 election observers across the six geopolitical zones of the country ahead of Saturday’s presidential and national assembly elections.

This was made known at a briefing by the ECOWAS Election Observation Mission to Nigeria on February 14, 2019 in Abuja.

The ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Francis Behanzin, noted that a pre-election fact-finding mission had been to Nigeria in November 2018 ahead of the elections.

Mr Behanzin explained that the fact-finding mission included high-level representatives of the ECOWAS Commission who met with relevant stakeholders in the electoral process and urged them to support peaceful and credible elections.

“Based on the recommendations of the pre-election fact-finding mission a five-member core team of Long-Term Observers were deployed on Jan. 13 to observe the phases of the electoral process leading up to the elections.

“This core team was joined by additional 27 Long Term Observers from Jan. 26.

“In furtherance of our commitment to the process, a total of 200 Short-Term Observers are ready to be deployed in all the six geopolitical zones in the country to support the long term mission on the Election Day,” he said.

The commissioner encouraged observers to be attentive, strictly follow the observation codes and guidelines and give their full commitment to the mission.

The Head of the mission, former Liberian President, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, tasked observers to be proactive in the discharge of their duties.

Mrs Johnson-Sirleaf said their commitment would contribute to building the confidence and trust of the electorate in the democratic process in Nigeria and the region.

She added that the outcome of the mission would undoubtedly serve as a yardstick to measure the credibility of the elections.

“It is in this spirit that we should all see this onerous task as very important which should be diligently and meticulously done without compromise.”

She also urged political parties and leaders to “conduct themselves in a manner that contributes to a peaceful, free, fair, credible and transparent election, as has been done previously in the country”.

“In the case of Nigeria, the current election is being held on the heels of nagging security challenges and tense political environment.

“We are, however, confident that Nigeria’s strength and resilience, as well as with the support of friends, will go through this process in the most successful manner.

“We should remain mindful of the fact that the onus to hold peaceful, free and fair elections rests with the Nigerian people themselves,” she added



ECOWAS launches Plans of Action for its Conflict Prevention…

The Plans of Action (PoA) of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)’ Conflict Prevention Framework (ECPF) was launched on Monday, the 28th of January 2019 at the ECOWAS Commission headquarters, in Abuja, Nigeria.

The ECPF comprises 15 components including its Enabling Mechanism which is at the heart of reinforcing intra-ECOWAS cooperation and ensuring the coordination of the implementation of the ECPF Plans of Acton that contributes to a measurable improvement of peace, security and stability in the region.

The PoA being launched, drive the activities of the components which include: Early warning, preventive diplomacy, democracy and political governance, human rights and rule of law, media, natural resource governance, cross-border initiatives and security governance.

Others are: Women, peace and security, youth empowerment, ECOWAS Stand-By Force, Humanitarian assistance, peace education (Culture of peace) as well as the Enabling Mechanism.

The launch of the PoA is a precursor to the upcoming retreat meant for the ECPF Focal Point Directorates from the 29th to the 31st of January 2019 in Goshen City, Nasarawa State, Nigeria.

The retreat is positioned to create a platform for all ECPF Focal Point Directorates to strategize on the improvement of conflict preventions blueprints and to enhance effective cross-departmental collaboration, cooperation and capacity building.m

Additionally, the gathering is meant to reinforce learning and strategizing for effective resource mobilization initiatives and project implementation best practices.

The ECOWAS Conflict Prevention Framework (ECPF) was adopted by the ECOWAS Mediation and Security Council (MSC) in January 2008 to provide a framework for identifying, designing and implementing programs and activities for operational and structural conflict prevention in ECOWAS Member States.

By mainstreaming conflict prevention into ECOWAS’ policies and programs, the ECPF seeks to provide tools to strengthen regional and national capacities for preventing violent conflicts or their recurrence.


ECOWAS moves to protect Child rights and prevent Child…

Ministers responsible for children affairs from Member States of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) made a political declaration and took a common position against child marriage during a meeting which witnessed them adopt the ECOWAS Child Policy and its Strategic Action Plan (2019-2023).

The declaration was made by the regional Ministers on 25th January 2019 in Abuja, Nigeria where they resolved to promote the retention of all children in formal and/or alternative quality education systems up to the age of 18 in a compulsory and progressively free manner.

The Ministers urged the inclusion of gender-sensitive educational policies and programs that address issues of gender stereotyping, gender-based violence and child marriage. This they stated will not only improve the lives of children in the region but also create an enabling environment for the development of economic opportunities.

In order to ensure that the rights of children are protected, the Ministers stressed the need for cooperation on all levels (regional/national) to mobilize financial and technical support for planning, implementing laws and policies, monitoring and evaluation, as well as accountability for measures taken to end child marriage.

The ECOWAS Commission’s Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender, Dr. Siga Fatima Jagne in her remarks during the meeting, reiterated the Commissions’ commitment to prioritizing, mobilizing and allocating the necessary resources to address the multi-faceted issues affecting children in West Africa.

The Commissioner stated that child marriage is a good example of problems that still persist in West Africa. “Available data shows the prevalence of child marriage in ECOWAS to be about 42% among girls and 3% among boys”, she said.

The representative of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) at the Ministerial meeting, Mohamed Fall enthused that, with the adoption of the ECOWAS Strategic Framework for strengthening child protection systems and the update of the ECOWAS Child Policy, ECOWAS is emerging at the forefront of African institutions that promote and protect the rights of the child.

Also, the representative of the International Labour Organization, David Doukenoo, added that all West African governments can develop and implement national action plans to end child labour and child marriages as well as support girls who are already in forced marriages.

The Ministers adopted the reviewed ECOWAS Child Policy and Strategic Action Plan and the roadmap on prevention and response to child marriage which will be submitted to Council of Ministers and subsequently to the Authority of Heads of States and Government for approval



2019: ECOWAS, AU launch apps to monitor threats to…

The West Africa Network for Peace building (WANEP) Nigeria has launched the Online National Early Warning System (NEWS) Platform and the ArcGIS 360 mobile application as part of measures to prevent violence and other threats to the 2019 general elections.

Speaking during the launch and training of 80 Election Conflict Monitors in Abuja, WANEP Executive Director, Dr. Chukwuemeka Eze, said despite the widespread success of the 2015 general elections, there were reports of over 60 violent incidences resulting in 58 deaths and wanton destruction of properties.

This according to him necessitated the series of activities by the organisation partnering with ECOWAS, African Union (AU) and others to ensure the peaceful and credible conduct of the election, especially that it is being seen by political analysts as a test for the nation’s democracy and stability.

On his part, the Programme Officer (GIS) and Mapping, Department of Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Early Warning Directorate of ECOWAS commission, Mr. Ismaila Gueye, said “If you look at the last election in Ghana, Benin or any other country, you will see that there is a lot of progress.”

Also, the Information Systems Officer, Continental Early Warning System, Peace and Security Department, African Union Commission, Taye Abdulkadir, said the AU has a number of frameworks that have been designed through the years to provide good governance, election, democracy.

On her part, the Analyst for West Africa, Early Warning System, Peace and Security Department, African Union Commission, Mfrekeobong Ukpanah, said there are series of threats and there are series of signs and that was why they started the project in collaboration with ECOWAS and WANEP in October.


Africa: Communiqué On the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The African Union Commission has released its communique on the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The African Union Commission stated that it has taken note of the decision of the Constitutional Court of the Democratic Repubic of the Congo proclaiming the final results of the presidential and national and provincial and legislative elections of 30 December 2018.

The Commission further calls on all concerned to work for the preservation of peace and stability and the promotion of national harmony in their country.

The Commission reiterates the continued availability of the African Union to accompany the Democratic Republic of the Congo in this critical phase of its history, as well as its solidarity with the Congolese people.

It should be noted that the visit of the high-level delegation to Kinshasa on 21 January 2019 has been postponed.

The February 2019 Summit of the Union will receive a report on the efforts made, in solidarity with, and support to, the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


Ecowas, Move to Eliminate Child Marriage in West Africa

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has expressed commitment to eliminate child marriage in the region through the validation and implementation of its reviewed Child Policy and Plan of Action.

ECOWAS Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender, Dr. Siga Jagne, at an experts’ validation meeting on child policy in Abuja on January 21, said the previous policy, which was based on international frameworks, was approved by the Heads of State in 2008 and covered the period of 2009 to 2013.

The commissioner said the increasing rate of child marriage in West Africa was unacceptable with the sub-region accounting for the highest in Africa and the second highest in the world.

“Indeed, six of the 15 ECOWAS countries, Niger: 76 per cent, Mali: 55 per cent, Burkina Faso: 52 per cent, Guinea: 51 per cent, Nigeria: 43 per cent and Sierra-Leone 39 per cent, are among the 20 countries with the highest rates of child marriage in the world.”

“Two ECOWAS countries, Nigeria and Niger, rank among the 20 countries with the largest absolute number of child marriages in the world,” she stated.

She said the review would include the multi-dimensional issues affecting the rights of the child with a focus on the roadmap on prevention and response to child marriage.

She added that the ECOWAS Commission, will present for validation, the Child Policy and Strategic Plan of Action and a Roadmap on Prevention and Response to Child Marriage, aimed at charting a clear course for the region in dealing with this issue in the coming years.

Jagne, therefore, urged representatives of member-states to scrutinize the texts and consider modalities for implementation at the national and regional levels.

Representative of the United Nations Children Education Fund (UNICEF), Mrs. Denise Ulwor, said the review of the ECOWAS child policy would be an opportunity to scale-up action on the regional child rights agenda.

Ulwor said the successful implementation in the plan of action would contribute to efforts to respond effectively to the challenges children are facing in different contexts.

Also, Specialist in Workers Activities, International Labour Organisation (ILO), Mr. David Dorkenno, said effective implementation of the policy would ensure every child in the region enjoy developmental rights.


ECOWAS calls for free, fair elections in Nigeria, Senegal

The ECOWAS Heads of State and Government have charged Nigeria and Senegal to leave no stone unturned in ensuring the conduct of elections are peaceful, free and transparent.

The leaders, who gave the charge in a final communiqué issued at the just concluded 54th Ordinary Session in Abuja , directed the ECOWAS commission to provide the necessary support to the two countries.

“The Authority notes with satisfaction, the status of preparation for the general elections in Nigeria on Feb. 16, 2019 and presidential election in Senegal on Feb. 24, 2019 and urges the government and relevant electoral bodies to leave no stone unturned in ensuring the elections are peaceful, free and transparent.”

They also lauded the smooth conduct of the presidential elections in Mali and congratulated President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on his re-election.

They instructed the commission to take measures to support the democratic process and implement the Agreement and the roadmap of March 22.

On the political situation in Togo, the leaders commended the endeavors of President Nana Akuffo-Addo of Ghana, President Alpha Conde of Republic of Guinea and ECOWAS facilitators in the resolution of the crisis.

They noted the readiness of the Togolese Government to organise local elections in 2019 and encouraged the active involvement of all stakeholders for a peaceful process.

The Heads of State encouraged the Togolese Government to intensify the peace and confidence-building measures between all political stakeholders to further ease the socio-political situation.

They also urged security forces to demonstrate professionalism in their mission of maintaining order and ensuring the security of people.

On The Gambia, the Authority lauded the positive developments in the political and security situation and further took note of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission.

They also called on the country to swiftly implement the security sector reform programme.

On Guinea Bissau, the Heads of State expressed concern on the continued delay in the conduct of parliamentary elections, taking note of the challenges involved.

They further encouraged stakeholders to work towards the conduct of the forthcoming parliamentary elections on March 10, 2019 and also urged the commission to intensify technical support for smooth electoral process.

“The Authority mandates the Chairman to impose sanctions on the basis of proposals for the President of the commission, against stakeholders who obstruct the smooth conduct of the electoral process,” they directed.

The leaders also reaffirmed the importance of peace, security and stability in ECOWAS for the economic development of the region.

They also reiterated their condemnation of terrorist attacks and expressed solidarity with the affected countries.

They lauded the cooperation among certain member states intending to effectively combat the scourge of terrorism and instructed the commission to support and extend cooperation to the states.

The Heads of State also urged member states to expediate the simplification of information and intelligence sharing mechanisms and the harmonisation of their legal systems to respond to terrorist attacks.

The 54th Ordinary Session of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government had in attendance nine presidents while five were represented.

They are presidents Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, Roch Kabore of Burkina Faso, Alassane Ouattara of Côte d’Ivoire, Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana, Alpha Conde of Guinea, José Mário Vaz of Guinea Bissau, Issoufou Mahamadou of Niger, Julius Madaa Bio of Sierra Leone and Faure Gnassingbe of Togo.

Sengal was represented by its Prime Minister, Mahammed Dionne, while The Gambia, Mali and Liberia were represented by their foreign ministers.

Benin was represented by its ambassador to Nigeria while Cape Verde was not present at the meeting.


ICC acquits ex-Ivorian leader Laurent Gbagbo of war crimes

In a severe blow to prosecutors, who have lost other major cases in recent years, presiding Judge Cuno Tarfusser said they did not prove accusations against Gbagbo and co-defendant Charles Blé Goudé, a former political youth leader.

“The chamber by majority hereby decides that the prosecution has failed to satisfy the burden of proof to the requisite standard,” Tarfusser said.

“[The court] grants the defence motions for acquittal for all charges against Mr. Laurent Gbagbo and Mr. Charles Blé Goudé, and orders the immediate release of both accused,” he added.

Gbagbo, 73, and Goudé, 46, hugged in the Hague courtroom after the decision was handed down, while supporters cheered wildly and clapped in the public gallery of the court, prompting Tarfusser to order them to sit down and “behave”. The pair could be released as soon as Wednesday after procedural hearings.

Gbagbo is “relieved and happy. He is happy to have put his faith in the justice process,” said defence lawyer Emmanuel Altit. “It is too soon right now to comment on the future and where he will go, but you can imagine he is very attached to Ivory Coast.”

Outside the courthouse, dozens of Gbagbo supporters, many who traveled to The Hague by bus from Paris, broke into cheers and dancing when the verdict was announced.

Gbagbo was the first former head of state to stand trial at the ICC. His release will be a huge disappointment for victims of atrocities in Ivory Coast between December 2010 and April 2011, when he refused to accept defeat by rival Alassane Ouattara.

“Forces loyal to both Gbagbo and Ouattara were responsible for shocking violence. More than 3,000 people were killed and dozens of women raped,” Jim Wormington, an Africa researcher at the New York-based Human Rights Watch, said on Twitter.

“People were burnt alive in the street. Men were summarily executed for their perceived political affiliation. Women were targeted for sexual violence.”

Gbagbo was arrested with the help of French and United Nations forces in April 2011, and handed over to the ICC in November that year.

Tuesday’s ruling was yet another defeat for prosecutors, who also lost cases against Jean-Pierre Bemba the Congolese ex-vice president released last year after his war crimes conviction was overturned, and Kenyan President Unhuru Kenyatte, who had charges against him dropped in 2015.

Prosecutors have only won three war crimes convictions over the past 15 years.

Gbagbo faced four counts of crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, persecution and other inhumane acts during post-electoral violence.

“The acquittal of Gbagbo and Blé Goudé will be seen as a crushing disappointment to victims of post-election violence in Cote d’Ivoire,” said Marie-Evelyne Petrus-Barry, Amnesty International’s west and central Africa director.

“This ICC ruling reminds us that fair trial and due process must be at the heart of international criminal justice. Victims of the 2010-2011 violence are yet to see justice and reparations for the harm they suffered.”



ECOWAS Court confirms 60 cases filed in 2018

The ECOWAS Community Court of Justice filed  over 60 cases in 2018, the highest number in a single year in the Court’s history,this is according to a statement issued on Friday in Abuja by the President of the Court, Justice Edward Asante.

The court’s president in a New Year message, said this was compared to the 47 cases filed in 2017 and 45 in 2016.He stated that a total of 115 cases were pending, by the end of 2018, compared to 89 in 2017 and 63 in 2016.

He added that this represented an increase in the number of pending cases before the court.

He said the number of judgments delivered by the court also increased to 31 in 2018, higher than the 19 delivered in 2017 and the 29 delivered in 2016. He further noted that there was an improvement in the number of court sessions held in 2018 which increased to 85 from 79 in 2017 although much lower than the 105 held in 2016, which was a historic high in the court’s history.”

Asante further added that the new threshold was evidence of the “increasing confidence in the court” by citizens in addressing their human rights violation.

He decried the decision to reduce the number of judges of the Court from seven to five at a time of increase in the number of cases pending before the court.

He, however, pledged the commitment of the judges, who assumed duty in August 2018, to faithfully discharge their responsibilities while adding that they would ensure that justice was done in a timely manner in spite of the reduction as well as the insufficient facilities.

“We have already lined up a host of cases to deliver judgments in January when the judges return from their Christmas vacation to demonstrate the resolve to make a difference,” he said.

He gave an assurance of the court’s determination to work with member states to resolve the issue of the enforcement of its decisions.

He further said the court was considering options for engaging with member states and the relevant authorities to address the concerns to enable the court’s effectiveness towards regional integration, peace and security.

He also said the court was holding engagements with Nigeria to provide a suitable accommodation for the court in line with its obligation under the headquarters agreement to host the court.