An official of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) says the regional bloc will send at least 300 poll observers to monitor Togo’s upcoming election scheduled for February 28th.

Abdel-Fatau Musah, political director of ECOWAS said the observer mission will comprise 200 senior officers and 100 civilians.

“Under ECOWAS protocol, the ECOWAS commission has an obligation to assist member states who are organizing elections in various ways. So, ECOWAS already sent fact finding missions into Togo to go and ascertain the level of preparedness for the forthcoming elections. So, as part of our duty… ECOWAS is sending an observer mission, both security and civilian to observe the elections,” he said.

ECOWAS Executive Director, Mohamed Ibn Chambas
ECOWAS Executive Director, Mohamed Ibn Chambas

Togo’s Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) ruled out main opposition leader Gilchrist Olympio from the upcoming election after he reportedly failed to undergo the required medical examination stipulated in the constitution.

By the electoral body’s ruling, Olympio who leads the main opposition Union of Forces for Change (UFC) will not be able to challenge incumbent President Faure Gnassingbe in the February election.

In his place, UFC secretary, Jean Pierre Fabre, was named as Olympio’s replacement and his documents were submitted on January 15th ahead of the election.

Musah said the regional bloc wants to ensure the upcoming election is credible.

“The very reason we are sending in observers is one, to reassure the electorate in Togo that we will be there to watch over the conduct of the elections and to re-assure everybody. Besides, while the ECOWAS fact finding mission was in Togo requested that ECOWAS did something about the security environment in the country because many of them did not trust the security agencies in Togo to be impartial in the upcoming election,” Musah said.

He also said ECOWAS will work closely with the Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) to ensure a fair vote.

Musah said the international community will also have poll observers in Togo.

“It is not only ECOWAS that is going to observe (the election). The European Union will be there. We will have the African Union observers and then a lot of civil society observer groups from the region,” Musah said.

Some political observers say incumbent President Faure Gnassingbe will win the vote despite stiff challenge from the opposition.