The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is confident that Mali’s presidential election on Sunday will be peaceful and credible, says Sonny Ugoh, ECOWAS communications director.
“We have to encourage them to move in this [democratic] direction and subsequently, move in building national cohesion and restoring the country’s credentials for democracy,” Ugoh said, “and then moving on from there to address their economic challenges, some of the issues that have led to the previous situation that we had.”
Malians go to the polls Sunday to elect a new leader following a coup last year that toppled Amadou Toumani Touré’s government. The coup opened the way for Islamists and Tuareg rebels to seize parts of northern Mali.
Former Ghanaian president John Agyekum Kufuor is leading the 250-member ECOWAS poll observer mission to monitor Mali’s balloting.
“There are challenges of logistics and security but I believe that the passion that the people of Mali have shown to go through this process, and the fact this is an opportunity for them to build on the image of democracy and build it from there,” said Ugoh.
Ugoh says Sunday’s vote is an opportunity for the West African country to begin its rebuilding process.
“This will be restoring confidence in their democracy as a basis of electing people into office, electing a government that will be able to engage with the different segment of the society, to be able to resolve the problems that have manifested most recently through the rebellion that accompanied the coup of last year,” said Ugoh.
Some Malians have expressed concern about security after gunmen released election workers who were distributing voter identification materials in preparation for the election. Their capture and subsequent release sparked worry that a peaceful election could not be guaranteed.
But, Ugoh says ECOWAS is working with both the African Union and the United Nations to ensure the election is peaceful. He also expressed optimism the vote will be credible and transparent.
“We have been assured by the electoral commission and the other stakeholders on the basis of the assessment we did before, that everybody is ready to participate in this process,” said Ugoh. “And because of this interest and determination of the region to ensure that we keep an eye on all the dimensions of the process, we are [providing] such a massive observer mission.”
Ugoh says the regional bloc’s team of 250-member election observer mission has been dispatched across the country to monitor the vote.