Voice of America (Washington, DC)

Guinea Bissau: Ecowas Raises Funds for Guinea Bissau Elections

An official of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) says the regional bloc is raising funds to help Guinea Bissau organize elections scheduled for November 24.

Sonny Ugoh, ECOWAS communication director, says Guinea Bissau needs about $19.4 million for the balloting.

"Apart from working with international partners ECOWAS member states are also setting the pace [by] putting together some $12 million to support that process," said Ugoh. "A determination has been made to the effect that the ECOWAS commission gave $ 3 million, the EU gave $4 million and the UN Development Program $1.5 million."

Guinea Bissau urged ECOWAS to help finance its elections, saying it lacked the money to organize, and administer, the vote.

"We are being driven by the sense of solidarity with Guinea Bissau because we want to make sure [the country returns] to constitutionalism; and has an election that will enable them to have a president, [and] members of the legislature," said Ugoh.

At their recent summit, regional heads of state and government agreed that Guinea Bissau's interim government should hand over power to an elected administration by the end of this year. Ugoh says the agreement is aimed at ensuring Guinea Bissau citizens can choose their own leaders.

"This is to ensure that there is election and member states also want to promote democracy and good governance in the region," said Ugoh.

He says the team of ECOWAS officials was recently in Guinea Bissau to assess the political and the security situation there ahead of the November balloting.

"We have fielded a pre-election finding mission, and this fact finding mission held discussions with all the stakeholders," said Ugoh. "Two issues were flagged: one was the issue of funding, which has now been resolved with this enthusiastic international support, and the second issue has to do with the timetable for the elections."

Ugoh says regional leaders have pledged to support to Guinea Bissau's embrace of democracy and return to constitutional rule.

"ECOWAS wants to make sure that it accompanies them in this process to ensure that the election takes place," said Ugoh. "We think that the election is key to restoring the democratic process in that country considering that we are also engaged in defense and security sector reform, which we hope will address all the key challenges, associated with the military and security services so that we can a stable and durable democracy."

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