- Guinea and Niger, two West African countries currently under military rule, are preparing for elections and a transition towards democracy. According to the UN, the military juntas are doing their transition job well.
The UN was "fully behind the electoral process in Guinea" and confident that the elections set for 27 June would proceed smoothly, and it was "equally engaged" in the first round of elections in Niger, planned for the end of the year by the new leadership there in an effort to make the post-coup transition a short one, the Head of the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA) said today.
"The time had come for peace in Guinea," declared UNOWA chief Said Djinnit at a press conference in New York today, and "nothing should be done to disturb the electoral process now in motion" and expected to culminate in the 27 June presidential poll.
He said he looked forward to the period beyond the elections when "real transition" would start for that long-ravaged West African nation, "being so wealthy, so rich in terms of resources but at the same time, so poor both in terms of economically and governance-wise." The opportunity presented by the forthcoming elections was "great for the nation to build its own capacity and promote progress throughout the territory."
Recent developments in Guinea had been particularly encouraging, Mr Djinnit said. The UN, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU) had been actively involved in efforts to help the stakeholders there return to constitutional order as soon as possible through the holding of elections in June, he added.
While there had been attempts by some Guinean stakeholders to delay the elections, the UN, AU and ECOWAS had recently "succeeded in ensuring that the necessary legislative and other key documents needed to hold the election were in place." Thus, he was confident that the elections would go ahead as scheduled.
"It is a matter of pride for all of us that we have been able to work together and to overcome that tension which prevailed and which could jeopardise the whole transition," Mr Djinnit stated, indirectly praising the Guinean junta for implementing the international community's recommendations.
As most of the elections in the West African region had been "an opportunity for tension," the UN was doing everything to help Guinea conduct peaceful elections, he said, highlighting two upcoming meetings with that in mind. The first was on the security environment during the elections, and the second would be a women's forum, aimed at mobilising women to play a positive role during the electoral process, especially in appealing for a peaceful poll.
Developments in Niger also encouraging
Mr Djinnit noted that the UN was equally engaged in Niger. The military leadership that had come in following the Niger coup had "committed itself to a short transition" and had now decreed that the first round of elections would be held towards the end of this year and would continue into the first part of next year, the UN Niger said, praising the ruling military junta.
In all, the transition would "not last more than one year," Mr Djinnit was confident. The schedule had been the result of several interventions by the UN, ECOWAS and the AU, which had urged the leadership to return to constitutional order and stability.
"Having known more than 10 years of stability, Niger had become a source of pride in the region," Mr Djinnit noted. The UN leader was confident Niger soon would play that role in West Africa again.
The UN fully supported all efforts to alleviate the effects of the food crisis that had affected not just Niger, but the entire Sahel region. He urged Niger's military leadership to "recognise the magnitude of the crisis and to be transparent about it" and cooperate with the international community. Mr Djinnit added he was pleased at the junta's cooperation thus far.
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