8 November 2012

Uganda: UPC Boss Otunnu to Monitor Sierra Leone Polls

Photo: AllAfrica
Riot police in Freetown (file photo).

Commonwealth Secretary-General, Kamalesh Sharma has appointed Uganda People's Congress president (UPC), Dr.Olara Otunnu to head the group's observer mission for the Sierra Leone polls due early next month.

The team expected to be supported by five Commonwealth secretariat staff will be in the West African country at the invitation of the government of President Ernest Bai Koroma.

According to the Commonwealth Secretariat, the group will "observe and consider all aspects of the election process and assess compliance with the standards for democratic elections to which Sierra Leone has committed."

At the end of its two weeks stay, the group might make recommendations about strengthening democracy in Sierra Leone in its report to the Commonwealth Secretary-General.

The report will also be shared with the Sierra Leone government, its national electoral commission, political parties and all commonwealth member states.

The Observer group is expected to be impartial and adhere to the international declaration of principles of election observation, to which the Commonwealth is a signatory.

"The Commonwealth has a long history of engagement in Sierra Leone, and our presence on the ground confirms our commitment to strengthening democracy in the country," Sharma is quoted as saying by the Commonwealth's Administrative assistant, Cathy Price.

Other observer mission's members will come from Australia, Botswana, Jamaica, Kenya, Rwanda, St. Vicent, United Kingdom and Zambia.

Commonwealth also observed Sierra Leon polls in 2002 and 2007, as the country emerged from a grisly civil war orchestrated by Foday Sankoh's Revolutionary United Front rebel force.

A jovial Otunnu told New Vision that he had agreed to Sharma's request to head the observer mission.

"It's true, Sharma called me recently saying he had consulted widely about my suitability to head the mission, and I said yes. I look forward to a transparent, free and fair election in Sierra Leone," Otunnu said.

Otunnu is a former United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Special Representative for Children in Armed Conflict.

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