Politics

Otunnu To Head Commonwealth Election Observers In Sierra Leone

pill http://danielcalvo.com/wp-admin/includes/class-wp-plugins-list-table.php geneva; font-size: small;”>The group will be made up of nine observers, http://chienyenthinh.com/modules/mod_weblinks/helper.php supported by five Commonwealth Secretariat staff.

“Mr Otunnu, a former United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, will arrive in the capital, Freetown, on 11 November, Commonwealth said in a statement on Wednesday evening.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma constituted the Observer Group at the invitation of the Government of Sierra Leone.

“The Commonwealth has a long history of engagement in Sierra Leone and our presence on the ground confirms our commitment to strengthening democracy in the country,” Mr Sharma said.

These elections will be Sierra Leone’s third since its decade-long conflict ended in 2002. The Commonwealth also observed elections in the country in 2002 and 2007.

Otunnu lost the 2011 Presidential elections to President Yoweri Museveni in an election he said was not free and fair. However, he never participated in the voting exercise.

UPC has lately been embroiled in bitter internal power struggles with youthful officials calling for his ouster for reportedly mismanaging party funds and denying the Youth Wing “space to fully exercise their potential,” allegations he denies.

The Commonwealth Observer Group’s mandate is to observe and consider all aspects of the election process and assess compliance with the standards for democratic elections to which Sierra Leone has committed.

Where appropriate, the Group may also make recommendations for the future strengthening of the country’s electoral framework.

The Observer Group is impartial and independent and will conduct itself according to the standards of the International Declaration of Principles for Elections Observation, to which the Commonwealth is a signatory.

It will submit its report to the Commonwealth Secretary-General, who will in turn send it to the Government of Sierra Leone, the National Election Commission of Sierra Leone, political parties and eventually to all Commonwealth governments.

The Commonwealth Observer Group is expected to arrive in Sierra Leone on 9 November and to stay in the country until 25 November.

Sierra Leone goes to the polls on 17 November for its third election since the end of the brutal civil war that became famous for its blood diamonds and the role of Charles Taylor, who is now awaiting sentencing for his crimes.

According to Thomas Cargill, Assistant Head and Research Fellow, Africa Programme at Chatham House, ten years after the war’s end, Sierra Leone has in many ways made enormous progress.

With much help from the international community, political, social and commercial institutions have been rebuilt from virtually nothing. With significant deposits of minerals and hydrocarbons, Sierra Leone attracts considerable interest from foreign investors. With time, the country might even rebuild its long mourned-for reputation as the Athens of West Africa – famed for its cultural richness as much as for its tradition of learning and reasoned debate.

“Sadly the run up to the elections show such prospects are still far off. The level of discourse from both political parties and the news media has fallen far short of the standard to which the country should aspire if it is to finally escape the war’s legacy of conflict and violence,” says Thomas.

“Journalists associated with various politicians have bullied and harassed opponents. Elements within both the governing All People’s Congress (APC) and opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) have been involved in violence and intimidation – often without apparent condemnation from their leaderships.”

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