Guinea will hold its first local elections since 2005 on February 4 next year, the country’s electoral commission said on Monday, tentatively ending years of delays denounced by the opposition.
“We have suggested the elections be held on February 4, 2018… the president will make a decree validating our proposal,” said Salifou Kebe, the president of the electoral commission known by the French acronym CENI.
Local elections should have been held in February under an agreement reached in October 2016 between the government, opposition, civil society and international partners in Guinea.
But since then, despite opposition demonstrations demanding President Alpha Conde respect the agreement, the election timetable has repeatedly slipped.
Opposition parties were angered when Conde was returned to power in 2015 but promised local polls did not go ahead.
Conde became Guinea’s first democratically elected president in 2010, taking over a nation run by a succession of strongmen following independence from France.
Political distrust is high in Guinea, a mineral-rich but deeply poor country where ethnic tensions often turn deadly around election time.
The coalition of seven political parties that produced President-elect of The Gambia, Adama Barrow, earnestly looks up to Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, to deploy his vast experience, alongside other African leaders, to resolve the political logjam in the tiny West African country.
This was revealed on Wednesday, in a statement by the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the President, Femi Adesina.
Speaking with the media during the high-level ECOWAS /AU/UN Joint Mission to The Gambia on Tuesday, Hamad Bah, one of the coalition members, declared:
“We need the experience of President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria in many ways. Like President Jammeh, he is a former military officer, so he knows how the military thinks, and would be able to talk to him appropriately.
“Again, President Buhari was in the opposition in Nigeria for about 12 years, before he won election in 2015. So, he also knows how the opposition thinks. He can feel what we feel. We are quite glad that President Buhari is here, it gives us a lot of hope.”
The high-level team, in series of meetings that lasted the whole of Tuesday, met with President Yahya Jammeh, twice, conferred with Barrow, consulted with security chiefs, members of the diplomatic community, leadership of the electoral commission, and many other interest groups.
The consensus was that President Jammeh needed to respect the result of the December 1 election, which he had earlier accepted and congratulated the winner, only to recant a week later, calling for fresh polls “to be conducted by a God-fearing electoral commission”.
The Joint ECOWAS-AU-UN team, made of President Buhari, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia (current Chairperson of ECOWAS), President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, outgoing President John Mahama of Ghana, and Dr Mohammed Ibn Chambas, (UN Special Representative for West Africa), encouraged Jammeh to reconsider his rejection of the election results citing “tallying errors” and his call for new elections.
Jammeh was also urged to hand over power “within constitutional deadlines, and in accordance with electoral laws of The Gambia”.
President Johnson-Sirleaf said discussions on The Gambian impasse would continue, as ECOWAS leaders meet in Abuja this Saturday.
The Gambia’s security forces have taken over the headquarters of the electoral commission.
Chairman of the commission, Alieu Momar Njai, who raised the alarm on Tuesday, said that staff of the agency were barred from entering.
This incidence is as a result of President Yahya Jammeh’s refusal to accept his loss in recent elections.
President Jammeh had earlier conceded defeat in the election, after a 22-year rule, but recanted a week later, asking for fresh polls to be conducted by a “god-fearing and independent electoral commission”.
They were received on Tuesday at the airport in Banjul by Gambia’s Vice-President, Isatou Njie-Saidy.
The ECOWAS leaders would discuss the ensuing impasse in the Gambia with President Jammeh, and insist on the sanctity of the electoral process as well as respect for the wishes of the people.
They would also ask their host to respect the Constitution of his own country and maintain the inviolability of an electoral process that had been concluded, in which he had admitted defeat and congratulated his main challenger.
The leaders are also scheduled to meet the President-elect, Adama Barrow.
Ahead of the December 10 new date for the conclusion of the legislative election in Rivers state, an ex-militant leader, Ateke Tom has called for peaceful elections.
In a meeting with journalists in Okrika, he advised the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to ensure that the polls are transparent.
“I want Rivers people to go out for a peaceful election so that there will be peace in the state. Whether you are APC or PDP, go out on that day and vote peacefully.
“Any party that wants to do rally can do their rally anywhere, nobody should disturb them. If they want to use my bedroom for their rally, I will give them my bedroom key after all before APC or PDP, there was Rivers state.
“No one should use my name to cover their failure if they have failed before, you are free to do your rally anywhere,” he said.
There are fears that the tension that is already building up to the December 10 new date for the conclusion of the legislative rerun does not show good signs.
This is in view of the violence that greeted the 2015 general elections in the state and the March 19 legislative rerun in Rivers state which led to the cancellation of the exercise in some local government areas.
Ateke Tom’s community in Okrika also experienced some violence during a political rally in the 2015 polls.
The Electoral Institute is planning to develop an election violence mitigation tool to aid the prevention of electoral violence across the country, instead of intervening at the points of violence.
The Director General of the Institute, Professor Abubakar Momoh, said that militarization, which is usually government’s response to election violence, is not a solution but rather development of mitigation strategies and standard instruments that will predict risk factors and triggers and nip violence in the bud.
The Acting Executive Director of the Cleen Foundation, Benson Olugbuo, also recommended two to three years early preparation for elections, saying it is a key tool to mitigation against electoral violence.
From Kogi State, to Bayelsa State and then to Rivers, there have been series of election violence that have resulted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declaring elections in those states inconclusive.
There have also been losses of lives and property resulting from these cases of violence and a constant deployment of the Police and the military to the trouble spots.
Another challenge to stopping electoral violence is the failure to try and sentence perpetrators and instigators of electoral violence in a law court.
This has been blamed for the increasing spate of cases of violence which heightens with every election as there is as yet, no form of deterrence for sponsors and perpetrators.
A High Court sitting in Ado-Ekiti on Monday dismissed the case filed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) to stop the conduct of the Saturday local government election.
The Ekiti State APC, challenging the composition of the State Independent Electoral Commission (SIEC), stated that the Chairman of the SIEC is a card carrying member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
There was jubilation around the court premises immediately after the court judgment in favor of the PDP as Justice Dele Omotoso ruled that the APC’S case was baseless and lacked merit.
Following the victory, Governor Ayo Fayose proceeded to the party secretariat to present the party flags to the chairmanship candidates for the Saturday local government election.
The Governor said that he was totally in support of the local government election in the state.
Meanwhile, the counsel to APC, Tajudeen Akingbolu, has said that they would appeal the judgment, while the counsel to PDP, Samuel Oladoyin, insisted that the APC has no case to present.
There was a huge presence of security operatives in the court premises to ensure law and order during and after the judgment.
Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, in a meeting with all candidates, has declared that the PDP is well prepared for the local government election scheduled for December 19, 2015.
Governor Fayose has therefore charged all candidates to be fully prepared and avoid electoral violence during and after the polls.
Meanwhile, the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ekiti State have filed a court injunction over the composition of the members of the State Independent Electoral Commission, SIEC.
The Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Taiwo Olatubosun, alleged that the members of the SIEC are card carrying members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Governor Ayodele Fayose has, however, said that the reason why the APC seems not interested in the forthcoming local government election is because they are not on ground, vowing that they would continue to suffer defeats in Ekiti State.
He added that it is only the court that can stop the local government election. All parties would have to wait for Monday, December 14 for the court to decide whether the election would hold or not.
Meanwhile, one of the councillorship candidates, Owen Chigozie Ewenike, has commended the Governor for giving him the platform to contest.
The Senate Committee on Ethics on Thursday said the Department of State Services (DSS) does not have the authority to interfere in electoral disputes.
The Committee on Thursday invited DSS officials over a petition from the Rivers State House of Assembly, accusing the agency of unduly interfering in the Rivers State Election Petition pending before the Election Petition Tribunals.
The DSS described the allegation of undue interference as a blatant lie by the lawmakers.
However, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Senate Caucus had earlier appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to look into allegations of witch-hunting of party members by the DSS.
In a swift reaction, the Chairman of the Senate Adhoc Committee on Media dismissed the allegations of the PDP Senators.
Also, the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mr Lai Mohammed, has assured that the APC will never interfere with anti-graft probe, be it on APC members, its past governors, officials or others, asking the members of PDP who might have erred, to face consequences of their actions.
The Committee is expected to present its report after investigating the matter to the Senate.