Briefing Paper

In Defense of Democracy: Lessons from ECOWAS’ Management of The Gambia’s 2016 Post-Election Impasse

“The years 2015 and 2016 were of great importance for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), through supporting the conduct of peaceful elections and the orderly transfer of power. A total of 10 of its 15 member states held elections in 2015 and 2016. ECOWAS has a rich history of managing political transitions and elections in the past 18 years, following the adoption of the 1999 Protocol Relating to the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peace-keeping and Security (referred to as “the mechanism”), as well as the 2001 Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance. This Policy and Practice Brief (PPB) examines ECOWAS’ interventions around the electoral processes of its member states. The focus is particularly on its management of the 2016 post-election impasse in The Gambia. This highlights how effective a mediation process can be when mandates are grounded within institutions’ normative and legal instruments, and when international actors work in partnership with regional organizations with respect to the principles of subsidiarity, complementarity and comparative advantages. The lessons from this intervention might therefore be relevant to other regional economic communities (RECs), the African Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN) in avoiding the pitfalls of working in silos or engaging in a multiplicity of interventions, which are often at cross-purposes.”