7 October 2004
|Joe Clark (centre) with fellow election observers in Cameroon.|
Secretary-General Don McKinnon said that the Observer Group has been established in response to an invitation from the Government of Cameroon. It consists of 16 eminent Commonwealth citizens, supported by 10 Commonwealth Secretariat staff. The full Observer Group started work on 4 October 2004.
The other Observers are as follows: Hannington Alatoa, former Ombudsman of Vanuatu; Dayananda Dissanayake, Commissioner of Elections of Sri Lanka; Sheila Holder, Member of Parliament, Guyana; Helen Kijo-Bisimba, Director of the Legal and Human Rights Centre, United Republic of Tanzania; Samuel Kivuitu, Chairman of the Electoral Commission of Kenya; Nicholas Kotch, former Africa Bureau Chief of Reuters, UK; Helene Maiché, former Secretary of the Liaison Unit for Non-Governmental Organisations, Seychelles; Dr Nomsa Masuku, Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa; Fagafagamanualii McCarthy, Member of Parliament, Samoa; Patricia Nawa, Member of Parliament, Zambia; Festus Okoye, Chair of the Transition Monitoring Group, Nigeria; Judith Pestaina, former Special Adviser to the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Dominica; Fateh Chand Pars Ram, Member of the Election Commission of Malaysia; Dev Sindhu, Chairperson of the Pan-Commonwealth Youth Caucus, India; and Leshele Thoahlane, Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission of Lesotho.
The Staff Support Team is led by Matthew Neuhaus, the Director of the Secretariat's Political Affairs Division.
Over the first few days, the Observer Group will meet with the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Decentralisation, the National Election Observatory, political parties, civil society groups, other observers, Commonwealth diplomats and others. They will deploy around the country on 7 October to observe the pre-election period, including campaigning, rallies and media coverage. On election day, the Observers will witness the polling, counting of votes and collation of results.
The Commonwealth Observers have been invited in their individual capacities and the views they express regarding the election will be their own and not those either of their respective governments or of the Secretariat.
Under their terms of reference, the Observers have to consider the various factors impinging on the credibility of the electoral process as a whole; determine whether the conditions exist for a free expression of will by the electors; and determine if the results of the election reflect the wishes of the people.
Commonwealth observers were also in Cameroon in September 2004 to witness the voter registration process.
This is the 45th Observer Group to have been constituted by Commonwealth Secretaries-General since October 1990.