by Kizito Sikuka – SANF 09 No 31
The first group of election observers from southern Africa has arrived in Botswana to observe the general elections set for 16 October.
At least 40 observers from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Election Observer Mission (SEOM) had arrived in Gaborone by 8 October and the Botswana Independent Electoral Commission has begun dispatching them to different provinces.
More than 80 observers from all the 15 SADC Member States are expected to monitor the polls.
Head of the observer mission, Mozambican Minister of Diplomatic Affairs in the Office of the President, Francisco Madeira said the first group is made up of observers from Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia.
Observers from other SADC countries will arrive in groups to monitor the electoral process in three phases, namely, the pre-election, the election itself and the post-elections.
Ambassador Madeira said the observer team will among other things monitor the access to media by all the political parties as well as closely follow rallies and campaigns held before the Election Day.
“We will support Batswana as they go through their electoral process,” he said, adding that the voters must emerge as the winner in the election process.
SEOM will release a draft report on how Botswana conducted its poll. The is in line with the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections, which encourages Member States to promote common political values and systems.
SADC Executive Secretary Tomaz Salomão said it is important for Botswana and the entire southern Africa region to continue setting an example of political maturity and best practices in elections.
He added that SADC has deployed its mission to Botswana to strengthen peace and security, and to consolidate political stability in the country and the region.
“We came here to support electoral development,” he said, “and we encourage Batswana to continue to demonstrate maturity by respecting the outcome of results.”
Dr Salomão said the mission has come with an open mind not only to passively witness the electoral process, but also to support it as it leads to the socio-economic development of Botswana.
The SADC observer mission is expected to interact with other regional and international missions invited by the Batswana government to monitor the elections.
The conduct of the different observer missions will be guided by the Constitution and electoral laws of Botswana.
Botswana is holding its general elections to choose new parliamentarians. The Parliament will then act as an electoral college to choose the President.
The ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) led by President Seretse Khama Ian Khama, which has never lost an election since independence in 1966, will face a challenge from the main opposition, the Botswana Congress Party that has formed a coalition with the Botswana Alliance Movement.
About 725,000 people have registered to take part in the polls, according to the Independent Electoral Commission. Botswana has a population of about 1.8 million.
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