Head of Commonwealth Observer Team Briefs the Press

By Amin Kef (Ranger)

Journalists were briefed by the Chair of the Commonwealth Observer Group (COG) HE Prof Yemi Osinbajo,former Vice President of Nigeria

at Radisson Blu Mammy Yoko Hotel in Freetown on Monday 19th June, 2023 that  they are in the country to monitor Sierra Leone’s June 24, 2023 multi-tier elections.

In his briefing he also mentioned that the COG was constituted by the Commonwealth Secretary-General, The Rt. Hon Patricia Scotland KC, following an invitation from the Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone to observe the poll.

He added that COG members were drawn from across the entire Commonwealth, adding that they have a wealth of experience, which include experts in law, politics, election administration, human rights, media and civil society and that the group is supported by a staff team from the Commonwealth Secretariat led by Linford Andrews, Head of Electoral Support.

HE Prof Yemi Osinbajo further noted that the Commonwealth Secretariat has had a long-standing engagement with Sierra Leone dating back to its independence, when the country became an independent state within the Commonwealth in 1961.

He recalled how  the Commonwealth has observed every election in Sierra Leone since the end of the civil war in 2002, as well as the General Elections of 1996.

“In other words, the Commonwealth has been an enduring companion of the nation on this extraordinary journey, witnessing the country’s evolution into what it is today,” HE Prof Yemi Osinbajo said.

He ,however, cautioned  that the Commonwealth Observer Group has no executive role; and that its function is not to interfere, but to observe the process as a whole and to make recommendations accordingly.

“We will observe the pre-election environment, polling day activities and the post-election period, In particular we will consider whether the conditions exist for credible elections, including a fair election environment; whether public media has been impartial; the transparency of the entire process; whether voters are free to express their will; and whether the counting and results process is transparent. We will then report on whether the elections have been conducted in accordance with the standards to which Sierra Leone has committed itself, including its national law, and regional and international commitments.

In conducting our duties, we will be guided by the principles of neutrality, impartiality, objectivity and independence. As we are here in our individual capacities as responsible and experienced Commonwealth citizens, our assessment will be our own, and not that of any member government .That said, we have a very active period ahead of us,” he said.

He went on to state that over the coming days “we will be meeting stakeholders including the Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone, Government representatives, political parties, security agencies, civil society groups, citizen and international observer groups, diplomats, and the media.”

According to him, from the 22 of June, COG will deploy in small teams across various parts of the country to observe the voting, counting and results process, as well as meet with other stakeholders in respective locations.

The COG Chair maintained that on Election Day, “we will observe the opening, voting, closing, counting and the results management processes,” adding that they will issue an interim statement on their  preliminary findings on the 26th of June, before members of the Group depart Sierra Leone on the 30th of June.

He stated that a final report will then be prepared and submitted to the Commonwealth Secretary-General, and subsequently shared with relevant stakeholders and made publicly available.


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