The Minister-designate for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Ms Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, last Thursday led a team of ECOWAS officials to Benin ahead of the presidential election in that country. It is scheduled for April.
The aim of the two-day pre-election mission was to exchange views with the main Beninois electoral stakeholders to assess the level of preparation of the institutions and socio-political actors to ensure the conduct of an inclusive, free, fair, transparent, credible and peaceful presidential election.
The mission was in line with ECOWAS’ Additional Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance to promote peace, stability and the consolidation of democracy in ECOWAS states.
Ms Botchwey, who is also the Chairperson of the ECOWAS Council of Ministers, was accompanied by the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Mr Jean-Claude Kassi Brou; the Commissioner in charge of Finance at the ECOWAS Commission, Mrs Halima Ahmed; the Resident Representative of the ECOWAS Commission in the Republic of Benin, Ambassador Blaise Diplo-Djomand, as well as ECOWAS technical staff.
A communique issued by the ECOWAS Mission last Friday said the mission paid a courtesy call on the President of Benin, Mr Patrice Guillaume Athanase Talon, who expressed his appreciation for the initiative and explained the rationale for the implementation of the electoral reforms.
He assured the mission of the government’s commitment to continue to work with the relevant stakeholders for the effective conduct of an inclusive, free, fair, credible, transparent and peaceful election.
The communique said the mission also met with key stakeholders, including the President of the Constitutional Court, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, the Minister of Interior and Security, the Chairman of the Electoral Commission (CENA) and the Chairman of COS-LEPI (The Supervision and Orientation Council for the Permanent Electronic Voting List).
"The mission also met a delegation of the ruling party and its affiliates, a delegation of the political parties from the opposition and representatives of civil society," it said.
It noted that the mission further met members of the Diplomatic Corps and representatives of the international community accredited to Benin.
It said the mission took note of the political reforms undertaken by the government to facilitate the electoral process and welcomed the overall progress made in that regard.
"These included, in particular, the publication of the electoral calendar, the registration of candidates, the transmission of the electoral list to the COS-LEPI by the electoral commission (CENA) and the publication in the coming days of the provisional shortlist of candidates at CENA level.
"The mission also took note of the security measures undertaken by the authorities to ensure a secure electoral process, including security of candidates, security of electoral materials and observers, as well as all stakeholders involved in the electoral process," it said.
The communique pointed out that the mission was informed of the attempted assassination of one of the presumed candidates in the presidential election and also about the ongoing investigations.”
The mission encouraged the authorities to continue with the investigation in order to shed light on the conditions of the attack and sanction the perpetrators, the communique said.
“The mission calls on all parties to avoid hate speech that incites violence and creates a climate of tension,” it said.
It urged all socio-political actors to engage in dialogue in order to create conducive conditions for the conduct of a credible and inclusive election, and thus strengthen the climate of peace in the country.
"Finally, the mission renewed the support of ECOWAS to the people and authorities of the Republic of Benin, and announced the deployment of an electoral observation mission for the presidential election on April 11, 2021," it added.