By Paul Ejime
At the request of the Guinea Bissau government and facilitation by the ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC), the Nigerian government is to provide crucial logistics and voter registration support to facilitate the holding of Guinea Bissau’s November legislative elections.
With less than four months to the polls, voter registration is yet to commence in the country due to disagreements among the main political actors, and lack of positive response from countries and development partners approached by the Bissau government for assistance.
But a consensus has emerged with a sigh of relief following Nigeria’s positive response. This followed separate meetings between the delegation led by Prof Mahmood Yakubu, President of ECONEC governing board and Chair of Nigeria’s National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Guinea Bissau’s key stakeholders, including Prime Minister Aristides Gomes, his deputy Agnelo Regala, National Assembly Speaker Cipriano Cassama, two Ministers, and representatives of civil society and the ruling and opposition parties.
Thanking Nigeria for its continued assistance to Guinea Bissau, Speaker Cassama, who is also president of the African Parliamentary Union, said: “of all the countries and partners approached to assist us with the registration of voters, only Nigeria has responded with a concrete and positive proposal.”
Prime Minister Gomes expressed the same sentiments after witnessing a demonstration of the functioning of the voter registration kit by an INEC IT expert, Mr Paul Omokore on the Yakubu-led ECONEC delegation, which is on a Needs Assessment Mission to Guinea Bissau.
He expressed government’s appreciation to Nigeria for always assisting Guinea Bissau in times of need, including during the 2014 elections, and for contributing troops to the ECOWAS Mission in Guinea Bissau (ECOMIB).
The Prime Minister also praised ECONEC, which responded to the request by the Guinea Bissau National Electoral Commission, CNE, to facilitate the delivery of the assistance.
Also, during meetings with the ECONEC delegation, civil society groups, officials of the ruling Guinea Bissau PAIGC and the opposition parties PND and PRS, also agreed that what the country required now was a registration kit that can deliver a voter’s card at the point of registration.
The logistics support requested by Guinea Bissau from Nigeria, include vehicles and motorcycles.
Prof Yakubu explained that details on the delivery of the logistics and voter registration assistance would be worked out between the governments of both countries, adding that ECONEC was only playing an advocacy and facilitation role in line with the Network’s mandate.
“Peace in Guinea Bissau means is peace in the ECOWAS region, that is why ECONEC is supporting the conduct of peaceful and credible elections in this country and in all our member States,” he added.
His delegation has also met with the UNDP office in Bissau, the President of the Supreme Court, Justice Paulo Sanha, the Minister of Interior Mutaro Djalo and his counterpart Ester Fernandes of the Ministry of Territorial Administration, which is in charge of voter registration.
The delegation, which includes other ECONEC board members, Ahmed Barry Newton, Chair of the national electoral commission of Burkina Faso, his counterpart from Cabo Verde Maria Rosario Goncalves, and some senior INEC officials, has also met with representatives of Guinea Bissau’s Women’s network for peace and security, REMSECAO.